Giving up perfection is all about releasing control. The idea of not pursuing a particular objective seems completely at odds with everything we have learned about life. I have found that breaking the habit of perfectionism is liberating. I stop muscling myself, or my environment, towards a specific outcome and just allow things to be.
This makes it possible for me to be free of judgment. I am no longer rigid or convinced that I am right. This resonates especially in the relationships with my family, where I often run interference to avoid pain. The complexity of parenthood stumps all of us at some point, and I frequently think that if only I or the other person could just behave a certain way, then nobody gets hurt.
I used to have a difficult relationship with my son. He seemed to behave inappropriately all the time, although in reality he was just behaving like a child. My outsize expectations of us both made me feel constantly aggravated, which convinced me that I was a bad mother. I was incessantly trying to solve him -- as if he were a problem. Most of all, I was angry with myself for not being able to respond constructively or to de-escalate tense situations. Every day, I looked myself in the mirror and saw the type of parent that I did not want to be. Staring down the potential reality of a life-long toxic future with my son, I determined to learn better parenting skills. I learned that I set the tone. I let go of my expectations that my child manifest as a perfectly behaved human who was always doing exactly the right thing at the right time, in other words: a robot.
Embracing imperfection enabled me to catch the good in him and all the things he already did right. I began to see who my son really is: a sweet and curious child. Further, I started relating to the struggle of growing up in today's society. So much is demanded of him between learning his school subjects and engaging in all of his extracurricular activities. His life is filled with large and small challenges, ranging from learning to be a loyal friend and a good brother, to practicing piano daily and mastering geometry. He needs me to be his life guide, giving him loving-kindness and steadfast support, instead of a stern talking-to about how he cannot sit still in his chair. In this role, I choose to chuck the checklist and go for love, fun, and joy. A strong sense of release and relief, ease and elegance, replace the crazy slog to accomplish what I think a parent should be doing. Our relationship blossomed into something filled with peace and harmony. We were transformed.
Abandoning perfection allows me to step into the flow with my son. The essence of who he is comes through because his authentic self is accepted exactly as it is. Through the practice of seeing the best in him, we healed and reaffirmed our bond. Unexpectedly, the healing stills my heart and the depth of our love is revealed.
Mila Atmos is a columnist whose work has been featured by The Huffington Post, Quartz, and Medium.
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