The other morning my 3-year-old was helping me make breakfast. She rapped an egg on the counter, but instead of producing the desired crack in the shell, the egg went splat.
I said “Caroline” with thinly veiled annoyance, then stopped myself. Yes, the small mess required clean-up, but the child is brand-new to kitcheneering and still has plenty of learning ahead of her. As with so many situations that arise at this stage of parenting, it was: Think fast! Is this really a huge deal? Do I care all that much—how will this maybe affect her future desire to do anything in the kitchen—too much thinking—react faster—OKAY THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL. MOVE ON.
So I did, and we did, and she still likes helping in the kitchen. Mountain thankfully eroded back down into a molehill.
How often do we all do that, though? With ourselves and with other people? Small mistake = nightmare! Absence of obvious early talent and/or enjoyment = forget it! Been at it for a while and still not great but still doing it? Seriously?
Perfectionism has rightfully gotten a lot of negative press lately, but I’m realizing that perfectionism goes way beyond coordinating the cutest outfit or striving for a spotless home. It tinges the way we look at our efforts and the way we look at our learning, too. And that, especially when we consider what we want to model for our kids — or dare I say how we live for ourselves— can be just as toxic as the superficial stuff.
We need to give ourselves and everyone around us permission to not be fast learners. To not be great, or even good, at something right away. To not be great, or even good, at something…EVER.
And on top of that, how about giving permission to keep doing that thing, without “greatness,” if it brings joy? Does that sound ludicrous or naive? It’s not.
For me, that thing is yoga. I’m not great at it; I doubt I ever will be, but I keep going because I love it and so does this 40-year-old runner’s body. With motherhood and running and plenty of other things, I expect a lot from myself. But yoga? Nope. I show up and let the practice happen. It’s a big old metaphorical exhale, and I need it.
Do you have something in your life like this?
If not, I encourage you, with loud cheering and cowbells and a slightly uneven, smudged poster message, to give it a try.
Maybe you’re afraid of an egg splat, or a crash-and-burn of awe-inspiring proportions during a race, or being the only person in a yoga class who can’t do a certain pose. I know I have been, and I am, and I will be.
But what if we do it anyway? What if we encourage others to do it anyway?
Don’t we all need a big old metaphorical exhale?