My entire life, I’ve tangled with perfectionism. Two things happen for me: I put off doing something at all because I know I can’t do it perfectly or I feel like a failure when I do something to less than my vision of perfection.
Recently I’ve been working on being softer with the idea of perfection. I’m no longer sure that I want anything to be perfect and am discovering that often less-than-perfect is more enjoyable. I’m not missing out on a darned thing because I’m doing the things that interest me, even though I know they won’t be perfect or I won’t do whatever it is perfectly.
I’ve worked in the special event business for almost 18 years now. I’ve been to thousands of parties and soirees, everything from living room birthday parties to gala events with thousands of people in attendance. I know a little bit about planning parties and I’ve always got more ideas that I would like to include in hosting a party than I can actually implement. I have great visions, but limited time since I still have to make money creating wonderful events for my clients. This has sometimes stopped me from inviting friends over, from having a dinner party or a solstice celebration or an It’s-Wednesday-Let’s-Have-Dessert-Together party.
In my recent softer approach to my perfectionist ways, I decided I had to stop waiting for the perfect timing to have friends over. I needed to do it anyway, even if my baseboards weren’t scrubbed and the attic wasn’t organized. (Seriously. Who is gonna see my attic anyway?) So I planned a BBQ. And by planned, I mean I sent out e-vites, no fancy paper, custom designed invitations as I’ve been known to do. I cooked a few of my favorite dishes. And by few, I mean two salads and two desserts. No dessert buffet, no elaborate offerings. I even served up veggie burgers that I bought in the freezer section at the grocery store and veggie baked beans from a can. I took friends up on their offers to bring food to share. I didn’t even try to do it all.
Guess what happened? It was a great time anyway! No one commented on my baseboards, the beans were eaten as heartily as the homemade version I usually make, the meat eaters brought their own BBQ grill and did their thing. The kiddos found ways to entertain themselves, someone thoughtfully brought bubbles from home. My friend Christina rounded up some of my craft supplies to share fun string tricks with lots of the girls.
My favorite fella made a few balloons hats for adults and kids. Nothing planned, it happened organically. We even managed to celebrate a friend’s birthday with a cake that was far from perfect visually, but was eaten anyway. It was made thoughtfully and with love, but didn’t quite achieve the Pinterest, picture-perfect vision I often pursue.
Well after dark, the bike blender got loaded up with ingredients to make Shirley’s Chocolate Shake. Someone pulled a flashlight out so they could see what they were doing. Milkshakes were shared all around in plastic cups, no fancy glasses were unpacked for this gathering. I didn’t hear a single person say, “This wasn’t well planned. What would have made this night perfect was…” Or if they did say it, I didn’t hear it. I’d like to keep it that way, because right now I’m thinking this new softer approach to perfect is working for me. I still had a good time and was more able to enjoy my guests not being concerned with everything being perfect.
After the last guests left, I realized I didn’t take any photos of the food with my fancy camera. In fact, I didn’t get my camera out at all. I had only photos taken with my phone. Looking at them made me smile. I had a great time visiting with friends, being silly, having a 90’s music sing along well past bedtime.
My point is, go on, do it. Whatever that thing is you are waiting to do until everything is perfect, do it. Don’t wait until your house is perfect to have friends over. Your friends won’t judge you…or if they do, maybe you need to invite different friends. Perfect may never happen anyway. For me, when it does, it comes with a lot of stress and exhaustion, something that more resembles work than fun. I’m working on letting it go, being softer in my approach to perfect. And so far it’s turned out to be a whole lot of fun.
About Soften Saturdays: Soften Saturdays features posts from me and others I admire on the topics of healthy body image, healthy living, being kind to ourselves and more. I hope you’ll join us and be kind to yourself. Saturday is an especially great day to think about being soft with ourselves!