One of my favorite quotes is from Barbara Bush. She says, “People who worry about their hair all the time, frankly, are boring.” And yet, I’m guilty of being one of those people who worry about my hair, makeup, clothes, and general outward appearance and inward emotions. Do I feel confident enough to send this article to the editor knowing that it could spark some eye rolls from readers? Do I look and feel in-control, even when my toddler is having a meltdown at Safeway? Not always.
I recently read an article by Mark Manson called Why the Best Things In Life Are All Backwards. If you’re not sensitive to some explicit content, it’s worth a read—especially if you’re like me and so many other people I know who are constantly striving for perfection.
In Manson’s article, he talks about the paradox of so many emotions we face on a daily basis. The more we strive to be happy, feel confident, and be in-control, the further we move away from those things. In motherhood and in business, this paradox is especially relevant, and yet that’s what we, as parents and professionals, feel called to do on a daily basis.
There’s an unspoken rule that you must remain in-control while you confidently make decisions. In many cases, those are life changing, lofty decisions that impact more people than you. For example, choosing to take a job that’ll require you to travel for weeks on end and leave your family behind, but that will put more money in your bank account to feed, clothe, and shelter the people you love. Turn down the job? Or turn down those memories that might not happen without that money? On the flipside, deciding whether or not to put on mascara one morning, you’re probably really going to only impact how you feel (*note to self: no one actually cares about your makeup as much as you might think).
But I’m a perfectionist. I’m also an only child, so Dr. Kevin Leman would argue that because of my birth order, I (along with first-born children) am prone to strive for perfection more so than middle or last-born children. That mascara matters to me.
So what are we to do? How can we walk with our shoulders back and head high every day, even when we feel like nothing we do or create is good enough? How can we remain in-control in the office, despite knowing that our baby is at daycare cutting teeth and suffering without us?
The answer is: we can’t. And so, we shouldn’t. Instead, it’s worthwhile to lean into this paradox and into our own shortcomings. In doing so, we can free ourselves from pressure to be so gosh darn in-control all the time. Hot mess moms, like myself, unite! It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to put your hair in a ponytail and walk out the door with some banana-coated fingerprints on your t-shirt once in awhile.
Like Manson says, in feeling powerless to always have it together, you actually end up feeling more empowered to let yourself be imperfectly human once in awhile. So go ahead and embrace the messy, less-than-perfect feelings. As counterintuitive as it seems, they’ll actually lead you to feel more confident and in-control.