Confessions of a recovering perfectionist 3: the child becomes the teacher
I have been working on taking #imperfectactions in my business for over a year now. And, I’ll be honest with you, it is still a daily struggle. I still am letting myself get caught up in the fear of showing my vulnerability, of being judged for making mistakes. So, as a result, you may have noticed that I haven’t had a new blog post since January. And, if you follow me on FB or twitter, you’ll see that I have been posting inconsistently.
At the end of the day, I am able to step back and consciously be gentle with myself. I give myself permission to nurture my inner child and tell her that it is ok not to be perfect and that, if I keep taking little baby steps, I’ll get there eventually. Rationally, I tell myself that it’s ok not to be the rabbit. The turtle won the race, after all. But, emotionally, I still feel bad that my business isn’t where I had expected it to be.
It is really hard to consciously change your mindset and your patterns.
Back at the end of June, after going through a 3-month program on how to uplevel my online business while still trying to balance my in-person yoga classes, be present for my kids, and honest on social media, I was exhausted! Mentally and physically. And, knowing that we had a 3-week vacation coming up, I gave myself permission to use those weeks to focus on me, my mindset, and I. I decided to unplug, engage with my family, read books, and take notes about what was coming up.
I was going to listen to myself and the experts.
Turns out that, in some instances, the best experts are not where you expect.
In this case, mine are 6 and 9 years old and live in my house.
Here’s what happened…
Recently, we decided to try geocaching in our town. My husband and I had heard about geocaching loads of times over the years but it was a friend who was visiting who showed us an app on his phone, in front of the kids, that really lit the fire under our derrières. So, one afternoon, we downloaded the app and found that there were 5 objects hidden in the park nearby our house. We hopped on our bikes as a family and sped away, full of excitement about trying something new.
Turns out that my kids and husband have a lot of patience looking for things outside of the house. My 9-year old found the first one quite easily. We cheered and, energetically, headed to the 2nd site. That one was a bit harder.
My 6-year old sat down to rest and drink water.
The 9 year old went back and forth between exploring the site and nursing the scratches he kept getting from the prickly plants.
I was staring at the app on my phone as if it was magically going to reveal the answer (while also shaking my phone which kept losing internet connection in the urban forest). But my husband didn’t give up and he made the discovery. We cheered and energetically headed to the 3rd site where a similar pattern emerged. Then the 4th and, finally, the 5th.
By this point it was 5:30pm and we had been at it for almost 2 hours. We had walked a couple of miles and the kids were getting hungry (#parentingfail: we didn’t think it would take that long so we didn’t pack a snack). The 5th site was also in the middle of an old, swampy well so we were searching while simultaneously swatting, literally, hundreds of mosquitos away.
As the church bells in town rang 6pm, my kids were DONE. But we hadn’t found the object. And my husband and I were getting impatient but neither of us was willing to admit defeat.
And then my 9 year old said, “Can we PLEASE go home?! We got 4 of the 5. That’s really good!”
My 6 year old said, “Yeah. Besides, we said we weren’t going to even do all 5 today!”
My husband and I stopped searching and looked at each other. We both had mosquitos on our ankles and had both walked through stinging nettles at some point in the search. And we both knew that our kids were right.
We had started the adventure by saying, “let’s go have fun as a family.” We had seen on the map that it was a couple of miles to do all 5 so we didn’t intend to do all of them from the beginning. So why were we so reluctant to stop? And what message were we sending to our kids? We are always trying to encourage our kids to aim high but we also advocate for finding a balance between work and life. As scientists, we have been trained that “failure is always an option” because failure is just another data point. You can learn from this data and use it to adapt your hypothesis and your experimental plan.
But knowing that rationally and accepting it emotionally are two different things.
We also try to follow Mary Poppins’ advice: “in every job that must be done there is an element of fun.” But, you have to find the fun for the job to feel enjoyable. This adventure had stopped being fun. It had become just plain WORK for our kids. And for ourselves. And that was not what we had signed up for.
By forcing ourselves to continue searching for this final item, we were subconsciously sending ourselves the message that we were somehow failing because we hadn’t found it. And not in the data point kind of failing. The raw, emotional kind. We were contradicting our words with our actions. We were measuring our success on the perfectionist scale and saying 4 out of 5 wasn’t good enough. We were implying that the fun afternoon that we had all together could also be interpreted as “a failure”. And that is not what we want to teach our boys.
Now, I’m not saying that one shouldn’t set high goals. Or that it is wrong to be disappointed if you don’t achieve them. (I’m going to be sharing another blog post about how to cope with this disappointment soon.) But, we hadn’t set the goal of finding all the items for ourselves at the get-go. We subconsciously had changed our goal and then kept raising the bar as we found a new item. And, of course it was normal that we were disappointed. It was judging ourselves by our disappointment that was not ok. Our original goal had been to have fun. And we had achieved that goal and it was time to celebrate!
That was the message our kids shared with us.
The students had become the masters!
Do you have any examples of when you found expert advice where you least expected it? I would love to hear your story! Share it with me by filling out the contact for below or head over to my Facebook page and tell us about it.
ps – the quest isn’t over for that elusive 5th item! We will go back, with the knowledge of where the item ISN’T and use that data to map out a new plan for finding it. The Cat in the Hat calls this Calculatus Eliminatus.
“The way to find a missing something is to find out where it’s not.”