This morning I was cleaning the kitchen but my mind was on my working day and all the things I wanted to achieve today. I begrudge the time it takes to do the repetitive mundane tasks that running a household demands. It got me thinking about how we all have different standards for areas of our lives. My half an hour kitchen clean was ‘good enough’ for me but it would have fallen short for those with more exacting ideals. When my work involved regularly creating presentations I was always striving for perfection and would never let a typo or a slide with poor alignment through.
Why do we strive for perfection in some areas and not others?
It all comes down to priorities. It would be too exhausting to be perfect all the time – even Mary Poppins was only “practically” perfect in every way!
And yet we try.
We look around at what other people are doing, at what society tells us is important, at what our families value. Social media, the media and advertising industries have created a whole new “reality” which is filtered and censored and far from real yet we believe it. All these expectations weigh heavy on us and particularly on our children. Time and time again we compare ourselves to unhelpful ideals and we miss the mark. We blame ourselves and continually search for ways of making ourselves more productive, fitter, younger, smarter, more attractive. Whole industries spring up around ‘needs’ which are dictated by this shiny, plastic, inhuman new reality. A hundred years ago women were not expected to shave their legs – now we are encouraged to dye our hair, pluck some parts of our eyebrows and draw in other parts, remove pretty much all our body hair and it seems that soon it will be ‘normal’ to steam our vaginas and bleach our anuses…..! So much for feminism – where will it stop?
What can we do about turning this tide?
How can we become comfortable in our own skin, and proud to be our own person under the weight of all this expectation?
I believe it comes back down to examining our priorities and taking a good look at what you truly value in life. This is not a task for the faint-hearted. It is hard because so many of these expectations are so deeply ingrained that you cannot see for yourself. You have to keep questioning.
Who am I doing this for?
Why is this important to me?
If I was on a desert island with those I care about would this matter?
When you do this properly many of your “shoulds” fall away. You have a new freedom to follow the path that YOU desire.
The realisation that comes with this is that everyone has different priorities. Just because I value a sense of adventure in life it doesn’t make me right and others wrong.
I had a conversation with my mother about holidays this week. Rather than looking forward to the holiday in Crete she and my stepfather have booked, she was worrying about many details of it. “I don’t like airports or flying”, “I don’t know what to pack”, “I worry about what the other holiday makers think of me”. She was also disapproving of people who take lots of holidays and I was curious as to where that came from. Her parents ran a butcher’s shop and couldn’t afford to close it so she never went away on holiday with her family. Later in life, household finances were very tight and a private education for her children ranked higher in the priorities than trips away, so our one annual holiday revolved around visiting family in the West Country, occasionally extended with a stay in a caravan or holiday cottage. In her mind, holidays abroad are an unnecessary expense, a frittering of hard-earned money and a cause of stress rather than the much anticipated release of stress which is how many of us view them. I pointed out to her that her view is not “right” and others “wrong” – we just see things differently.
When you start to embrace this way of looking at things the stress of not living up to others’ expectations eases. I don’t have to feel bad that my garden does not look as beautifully manicured as next door’s – it’s just that it’s not top of my priorities at the moment. I don’t feel I have to wear make-up every day because the people I care about know me and love me the way I am.
Gaining a new outlook on life is transformative. That’s the transformation that can be achieved through coaching. It involves talking through and examining what is truly important to you in your life, being prepared to be challenged, giving up your need to be right and then looking forward to what YOU want to get out of life and working out the steps you need to take to achieve this.
I’d love to help you get started on your journey. Contact me to find out more.