For a lot of years, I worked really hard at being the mom who had it all together.
I tried to be the mom who had her kids in outfits that all matched for every holiday and/or photo op, the mom who decorated the house perfectly for every season, for every holiday. The mom who made homemade cupcakes with cute little decorations for all of the class parties, the mom who actually signed up to be the class mom every year, for each kid's classroom.
I did all of those things because it helped me feel like a "good mom." Looking around and comparing myself to other mom's who seemed to have it all together, all of the time, put a ton of pressure on me.
What's funny is, more than likely, nobody was judging me but me. In looking back, I have to imagine that the majority of the other moms were far more concerned with their own little families than mine. I put the pressure on me, because I always felt judged. I felt like other people actually cared if my kids were mis-matched in a family picture. But why?
Where does that come from, that feeling of being judged? Where does that feeling that everything needs to be perfect to the outside world, that you need to project this picture of perfection in order to be considered "good," or "worthy," come from?
For me, most of this came before the explosion of social media, where people became professionals at making their reality look like an elaborate photograph of sheer perfection that is the composition of their life.
It's always been difficult for me to neglect the inclination to compare and criticize myself and my own life to falsified images that others create. It took me many years to comprehend that the reality is, REAL LIFE IS MESSY SOMETIMES. And that's OK.
There came a point when I recognized that the pressure of projecting perfection was crushing me.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't make (or attempt to make) cute cupcakes for your kid's class party. I'm not saying don't dress your kids in coordinating outfits for your annual family picture. I'm just saying that chances are, if you show up with store bought cupcakes to the class party, nobody will go home snickering about your shitty store bought cupcakes. They'll just be happy that you brought cupcakes. If you don't get around to taking a perfectly coordinated family photo for the annual holiday cards, chances are, nobody is going to discuss how awful it is that one daughter had a red dress on, and the other was wearing a brown skirt. They're just going to be happy that you sent a card, and that they get the opportunity to see how much everyone has changed and grown since last year's picture.
Something that my oldest daughter and I laugh about every year is the fact that every single birthday cake I make for her has a sunken middle. No matter how hard I try, I can not get her cakes to cook perfectly. It used to make me crazy, but it's turned into something really funny between us. I actually think if I presented her with a perfectly baked cake, she wouldn't know what to do with it.
When we look at family pictures from past holidays, one of my favorites is from a Christmas when Megan was a few years old, and she just had the worst smile on. Every picture looks worse than the previous one. I did not get a perfect holiday picture that year, but we always laugh when we look at those pictures. They're so funny, and they are so Megan. I wouldn't trade those pictures for "perfect" ones!
Looking back at your past, your real lived lives, however embarrassing or uncomfortable, can actually be really healthy and enjoyable.
The reality is, perfection is unattainable. Perfection doesn't exist. Wanting to put your best face forward is entirely understandable, but the dark side of attempting to achieve this is deeply losing yourself, and negating your own authenticity to the degree that you no longer recognize yourself or your life, or your life experiences.
I think that until we realize this, we can't be the best versions of our true, authentic selves. I wish I realized this sooner!