I am a perfectionist. I know this about myself, and while it aids me greatly in many things, I also know that it is a hindrance that I must overcome. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do well, but one cannot realize one’s full worth when always expecting excellent results in all one does. This is not to say that I do not recognize my shortcomings and limitations, I do. However, I tend to set what might be termed “unrealistic goals” for myself in many of my endeavors.
Last year I was sitting at my computer on New Year’s Eve and began writing about my journey toward my 2019 goal. I had been seriously considering what goals I wanted to set for myself for the New Year. What do I want to do? What do I want to learn? What changes in my life do I want to focus on for the upcoming year? There is always the standard lose weight and get healthier, which I had been actively pursuing for several months, and making some good progress on as well, but I had been reflecting on how I could be a better me. I wanted to see some deep spiritual transformation in my life in the next year. I knew this meant continuing to study and mediate on the scriptures, and developing a deeper prayer life, but I did not just want to set some general pray more and study more goal, I wanted to address a specific area of my life that needed to be immersed in the transforming love of Christ so that I could experience new life in a deeper way. I wanted see myself in a more Christ-like way, and think in a more Christ-like way, so that I would experience more of the abundant life (Jn 10:10).
I am sure that I am not the only woman who suffers from “Superwoman Syndrome.” Yes, that cape that we have permanently donned upon our shoulders to decry to the world that we can handle anything that comes our way. If we are being completely honest, we probably even sleep in it so that we can mentally prepare our super feats for the next day as we doze off to sleep, that is if our superhero planning does not keep us from getting some much needed sleep. Of course, our ability to tackle all life’s problems with little sleep is just another one of our super powers that we proudly proclaim to a tired and weary world.
Cognitively, I know that I am not “Superwoman,” but I dare say that a part of me seeks to be her. I enthusiastically sing along (albeit off-key) when I hear Alicia Keys on the radio singing, “I am a Superwoman. Yes I am. Yes she is. Even when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest, with an S on my chest. Oh yes, I’m a Superwoman.” Oh, how I enjoy to rejoice in my super feats that demonstrate my ability to overcome and succeed, to be seen as a master of juggling all the different aspects of my life: motherhood, teaching, organizing, and still managing to get caught up on the laundry. It is surely a day to rejoice when all the clothes hampers are empty of dirty clothes, even if it just lasts for a mere few hours until the boys come home from school and change their clothes, then the once empty hampers are only a brief memory.
So, I have to ask myself, “How can I learn to be alright when I have done the best that I can do, even if that means accepting some things that are done are far from being done well?” A well-known Bible verse states, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13 NASB). While this may not be true for others, I believe I often distort the meaning of this in my mind, causing me to believe that because I am a Christ follower that I should be able to do all things. Specifically, in my perfectionist frame of mind, I wrongly assume that I will be given the strength to do all things perfectly. I have come to the realization, that I do not have the strength to do all things that I want to do, or think that I need to do. I have been learning to accept that some things will get done but not to the degree that I might prefer them, and I have been learning to be okay with this. In addition, I have learned that it is okay to admit that I cannot do it all, and ask for help. Sometimes the strength that I need comes from others assisting me in various ways.
So, why did I see a need to accept that I’m not Superwoman as my goal for 2019? In November of 2018 my husband went into the hospital and then nursing home and I was suddenly responsible for everything: caring for our sons, taking care of the house, becoming the sole financial supporter, and now also caring for my husband, who is now home, but will always require 24 hour care. This was daunting and overwhelming to me. Bob had always done all of the grocery shopping, he was the major income earner, he did all the yard work, he was responsible for the maintenance of our vehicles and any home repairs, took care of the garbage, and he also did at least half of the school drop-offs and pick-ups. All of this immediately became my responsibility while I was also dealing with the stress and worry about his medical condition.
For my own health, I knew I needed to let go of this self-imposed desire to be seen as Superwoman, because I could not measure up to it, and I did not need any additional stress in my life, especially stress that I was creating for myself. It was necessary for me to be okay with my inability to stay on top of everything. My house is no longer spotless, in fact, I don’t even expect it to be spotless. I keep up with the laundry, but my furniture rarely gets dusted, and the vacuum is not run nearly enough. More nights than not, there are dishes left unwashed in the sink because I am just too tired to do one more thing, and you know what, I’ve learned to be okay with it. I don’t beat myself up, I focus on all the things I did get done and pat myself on the back. I am doing all that I can do, and while some things are done well, some not so much so, but that is fine. I don’t have to be perfect in all I do. I am providing for my family, parenting my boys, carting them to school and work, getting the bills paid, caring for my husband, fixing their meals—even if that means occasionally calling for pizza delivery! I do the things that are required and try to get as much else that I can done. However, I devote time to take care of me too, and this means not placing impossible demands upon myself because I am not Superwoman.