Liz Lemon: Listen up, everyone. I have an announcement to make. As you may have heard, Carol and I broke up last week.
Jenna: Hang on. Why do you have a cat? And a fanny pack? And your ponytail! It’s being held up by a chip clip!
Liz Lemon: …I am making my graceful transition into spinsterhood. I have adopted this cat. Named her Emily Dickinson…
Jack: Lemon, a word. Hang on. Recent break-up, fanny pack, cat . . . Quick! Who is the lead character on NCIS?
Liz Lemon: Special Agent Jethro Gibbs.
Jack: In your office now.
When I watched the “It’s Never Too Late for Now” episode of 30 Rock, one of the storylines really hit home. Though I am highly entertained by every episode of this show (“I want to go to there.”), it typically falls solidly into the category of ridiculous rather than the inspirational.
But though I laughed at Liz Lemon’s fanny pack and chip hair clip, I couldn’t help but notice the parallel with what I’ve been thinking about a lot: Giving up on perfect is not the same as giving up.
(And being an NCIS fan is not the same as being a spinster, but – as you know – that’s another post for another time.)
The idea of giving up on perfect began as a reminder – no, an appeal – to give myself a break.
I remember being just five years old, sitting in the bathroom asking my mom, “Did you or dad ever flunk a grade? No? But what if I do???”
Even at that young age, I was putting pressure on myself to be the best. I was terrified of failing, of letting anyone down, of learning that I wasn’t good enough. And so, a perfectionist was born.
In the past few years, my husband’s decidedly Type B personality and pretty clear evidence that aiming for perfection wasn’t working began convincing me, finally, that maybe being a perfectionist wasn’t such a desirable trait. Since then, I’ve been stumbling along, trying to figure out what, exactly, giving up on perfect really means for my life.
I’m still on that journey, but recently I’ve been thinking about what giving up on perfect doesn’t mean for me.
Giving up on perfect is not deciding that if I can’t get my house white-glove clean, I’m not going to bother with even the most basic of bathroom sanitation. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)
Giving up on perfect is not ending a day of diet missteps with a bag of chips, because I might as well.
Giving up on perfect is not resorting to yelling and harsh punishments after a long day of preschooler tantrums, because clearly I’m incapable of implementing even one of the tips I heard from that speaker at MOPS. (Again, just an example.)
And giving up on perfect is most definitely not buying Christmas presents and a winter wardrobe with my “plastic money” because it’s not like my credit could get any worse at this point, could it? (Sadly, a real-life story.)
Giving up on perfect isn’t about giving up, not even trying if you can’t be the absolute best. It’s about being and doing my best and letting the rest of it go.
Before I turn into Spinster Liz (because, let’s face it: with the cats and NCIS already in the picture, I’m basically just one fanny pack away), I’m going to really dive into this distinction. I hope you’ll join me in figuring out not just what giving up on perfect isn’t, but what it IS.
What does giving up on perfect mean to you?
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“Before I turn into Spinster Liz (because, let’s face it: with the cats and NCIS already in the picture, I’m basically just one fanny pack away), I’m going to really dive into this distinction. I hope you’ll join me in figuring out not just what giving up on perfect isn’t, but what it IS.”
Seriously, the best quote ever! You should be a t.v. show writer! Friend, I love everything about you! But, you already knew that. (At least I hope!) I love your posts, they are so encouraging and real. ‘Deep thoughts by Mar’ are once again settling in my soul! :)
Yep, this is a great post! I have never been a perfectionist but I believe strongly in encouraging other women to give up being one. Sometimes though, that translates to some people as being a lazy mom. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have a major work ethic and I believe in living very intentionally, but I know that perfect isn’t possible and isn’t real and trying to get there causes a tremendous amount of unnecessary and unhealthy stress.
Living intentionally is a great way to put it!! Perfectionism says I am never enough at the end of the day.
Having kids taught me a big lesson. It helped me begin to understand unconditional love. Western culture is: You are what you do. But we all know that we will love our kids no matter what they do, just because. So giving up on perfect for me is giving myself permission to just be a girl, and get my value from who I am rather than what I do. Of course we are daughters of the Most High God, and He loves us just because He is our Dad. So the pressure is off!! Now we can blossom rather than being a perpetually bruised rose petal, crushed under the heal of perfectionism. I screw up all the time, and guess what, so does everyone else. I get to say no to a lot of things…baking that extra cake for church, working a festival, babysitting my friends kids. Sure I say yes sometimes, still more often than my husband would like–but I don’t walk around feeling guilty that I am not doing everything nobody else wants to do, LOL!!! The ball can drop.
I loved that episode, and even more now. Yes.
I love NCIS.
I loved this post more. :)
Giving up on perfect for me means I stop comparing myself to other moms, and create a routine that works for me, rather than using someone elses routine to make myself and my life fit it. Great post!
Love this post. I need to let go of the idea that when things are really humming for me, nothing bad will happen. Ever. No crying kids, no sick dog, no little-girl-drama. This is real life, after all!
I’m a recovering perfectionist here, and giving up on perfect allows me to accept that my best is enough…without comparing it to others. God didn’t make me the most creative, stay-at-home, patient engaging mother – but I’m fun, consistent and think M&M bribery is totally okay. AND God will make THAT enough to mother mother the children he gave me. I’m trusting HIM to fill the gaps where my lacking and failures fall short – in life, in parenting, in relationships, etc.
I did not like that episode either, hit a little too close to home! I think I’m a little too like Liz, only I don’t have the good things to sort of make up for it (e.g. being in charge of a company!). At least I don’t yet watch NCIS though… ;) (kidding! although I don’t — I also don’t wear a fanny pack or chip clip, so I’m not there yet, right??) I agree with everyone else though, good post. :) And good comments too. Nice to know we’re not alone — and really, I don’t think I notice everyone else’s imperfections, so why are mine such a big deal?? Other than laziness, of course; I should really get on that…
Maybe I could go with this Dumbledore quote: “In fact, being – forgive me – rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.” ;) I do sometimes feel that way! (Huger mistakes at least, and I’m sure I’ve thought myself pretty clever more than once;)
OK, sorry for the HP reference. You know I can’t help it. ;) It’s a good thing Liz didn’t mention Harry Potter….
That part of 30 Rock cracks me up, especially because I’ve gotten sucked into some NCIS marathons the last few weekends. Still, I don’t have a cat and I’ll never own a fanny pack, so I’m not quite a spinster yet!
To me, giving up on perfect means I accept myself for who I am, with all my strengths and weaknesses. I strive to stop comparing myself to others and to simply do my best.
I am so glad to have found your website through incourage today. I love it here! Your posts speak so much of what my mind battles with my heart!
Well said Marry. Giving up on perfect means, to me, just giving myself a break, not beating myself up too hard when I make a mistake, and forgiving others when they make mistakes too.
I was talking to a friend a while ago and she was telling me about how traumatic it was for her when her dentist found two cavities in her previously perfect mouth. She was floored because she brushed and flossed regularly and because, in her words, “I strive for perfection in everything I do”. That sentence bothered me for awhile, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then, I realized it was the word “perfection”. If she would have said, “I strive for excellence”, that would be different. But perfection leaves so much up to chance. Whereas doing your very best or doing an excellent job is completely within your control, perfection not only requires your very best but relies on talent, luck, fate, other people, and a myriad of other variables outside of anyone’s control. So, you’re basically setting yourself up to fail if you strive for perfection. Like, you could sing an excellent solo at church because you worked really hard on it. But, in order for it to be perfect, you would have to have remarkable talent, be lucky enough to get a professional sound person, not be sick that day, have an amazingly receptive audience, and a heart and song perfectly in tune with what God is trying to communicate. That would almost never happen! So, trying to be perfect is really just resigning yourself to failure.
Great post – the giving up is the flip side of perfectionism.
I love the name of your blog! Thanks for stopping my blog during the UBP last week. I’m over here enjoying your posts this afternoon. Tess @ http://circlingthroughthislife.blogspot.com
It means acceptance of who God created me to be and not thinking I know better than He does. It is not hoping and wishing but trying. It is not being trapped by fear of failure. It is being authentic and real. Letting people in to know ME. A true me not just a pretend me with a pretty smile. Feel like I have been on the road my whole life but each day gets easier.
With Joy, Carey
My husband used to call MOPS, “Mothers of Problem Spouses”…. HA! I miss my MOPS days!
Aren’t you glad that God made us so imperfect?
No, me, either. But I have come to understand that there is a lesson in each and every one of my shortcomings, if I’m patient enough to look for and find it.
I’ll be here with you to fight the fanny pack and keep pushing on to be a little better than we were yesterday, and Nony will, too. :)
You are so right! There is a difference between seeking excellence and perfectionism. And giving up on perfectionism is a healthy thing, because I see perfectionism as a possible idol in our hearts. BUT we still strive to be like Christ in all that we do – and that is striving toward excellence. 1 Cor 12:31b. Perfectionism is all about ME and how perfect I am…striving to be like Christ is all about HIM and HIS work in my life.Great thoughts!
Great explanation, Kate. Here’s to excellence!
I missed this the first time around, so am delighted to have an opportunity to catch up! Perfectionism is a killer, disguised as ‘healthy’ ambition. You’ve tackled a huge issue in a charming, infectious way and it was delightful to read! I am also a huge NCIS fan and I haven’t been single in 46 years. Oh, wait. That just makes me old, not a spinster – and I’m guessing ‘old’ would fall into 30 Rock’s orbit of ‘let’s make gentle fun of this group!”
Thanks for reading and commenting, Diana! And no matter what 30 Rock says, I am sure you’re not old at all! :)
Yes, just yes.
So well said and right on with my mantra! “Be who I’m made to be!” I love your blog!
Thank you, Kelly!
This episode of “Graceful transition into spinsterhood” hit home. When Liz walked into her office with a cat & careless hair do, I cried.. Because it described me literarily. Except, unlike Liz Lemon, I’m not surrounded by people who care. So for the past several years, I’ve been giving up more & more, until I’m now jobless (once a social worker), sitting at home, alone with my two cats, eating comfort food & haven’t had a shower in two weeks.
Sorry to be a downer.. But there isn’t a “graceful” transition into spinsterhood.
I’m so sorry to hear that, Hana. I pray you can find something to enjoy and feel passionate about no matter your circumstances.