Pressure to be Perfect

“While it’s commendable to want to do a good job, aiming for perfection is more about proving your own worth than about the work you produce.”


The pressure to be perfect in my youth consumed me.  I was conditioned to believe that I had to be perfect in order to earn my mother’s love.  Trouble was, no matter how perfect I tried to be, it was just never enough – her love and affection were always out of reach.  If it was shown – it was purely for show, for in private I was rejected.

The ways I tried to be perfect was almost in every aspect of my life.  I tried to be the perfect version of who she expected me to be – trouble was, as hard as I tried, I really had no idea what she wanted.  As a teen I was very compliant, subservient even – I did the supper dishes every night.  I kept my room clean.  I cleaned her house and did family laundry every Saturday as she wished (except for the Saturdays that followed my father’s return from work – which was only about 6 Saturdays a year that I had off.)  I followed her rules up until I realized that all my striving to earn her affections had failed and would never be enough.  I gave up.

She ridiculed the way I wanted to dress and wasn’t allowed to dress the way I wanted as a teen because she said I’d look ridiculous and yet my siblings got to wear what they wanted, which I thought was equally ridiculous.  She tried to dress me in clothes that fit her idea of me.  I hated them.  They always felt like ‘old lady’ clothes to me.  And some items she bought me were just … well, ugly and they were not a reflection of who I was – even though I wasn’t all that sure who that was, but I did know what I liked and what I didn’t.  I always felt that being the real me was not okay – that if people knew who I really was, they wouldn’t like me, approve of me.

She often humiliated and degraded me too which had me believing I was a major screw-up, a huge disappointment, even mentally fractured in some way – but it didn’t matter how much I tried, the effort was just never enough.  I was always trying to prove my worth and abilities to her – to prove to her that I was worthy of her love and affection – but its like she never noticed.  It was evident she just didn’t care.  She didn’t see.

She never noticed my efforts and the truth of it was, she never saw me either.

It took me having children of my own to realize that there was nothing I could ever do or say that would or could ever make her love me.  Nothing.  Ever.  I finally realized (when God took my blinders off) that it wasn’t me that was unloveable or unworthy – but she who made me feel this way – and those feelings were a lie.  I thought I was the reason for the abuse – that I somehow deserved it, but I wasn’t and didn’t deserve it.  It was her.  She was unable to love me.  Her very last words to me were, “You were always so hard to love.”  And that is when I knew that she never had it in her – the ability to love me.

It took a long time for me to drop the need to be perfect – even after she was in my life, I still felt in other relationships that I had to prove my worth.  It took years for me to believe that someone could actually like me, and or love me, for me.  It took me years to realize that those who did actually love me, loved me for me and not for what I could do for them.  For the longest time, I felt that if I wasn’t valued for what I could do for someone or be a someone they wanted me to be, I felt utterly worthless and that it also meant that I would be discarded if I didn’t measure up – and its no wonder, you see, because she did it to me.  When I didn’t measure up, she rejected me, discarded me.

She conditioned me to believe that my worth was hinged on what I could do for her and how I could make her look good and wonderful no matter what. It’s a hard core lie – and a lie that is very hard to unlearn, to undo.

When I realized I could be loved for simply being me, I felt like I had the biggest epiphany of my life!!  WoW!  To think that! … That I could be loved … for just. being. me?!  What a mind-blow!!

Coming to this realization is when the need for perfection started to wane.  The perfection chains started to fall off and I started to feel free to be authentically me.  The pressure to be perfect started to break away and it felt good even though I had to keep pounding this truth into my head each and every day for many, many days.

I still struggle with it from time to time, but it no longer rules me or my life anymore.  And you know what?  I am happier and so is my husband and our children.

Truth is an amazing thing … it destroys lies, it restores life.  Truth is light that exposes the darkness.  Truth sets us free!

~ Saoirse Quill


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