Fighting the Monkey of Perfectionism

I wrote a post on perfectionism awhile back, and how it ruins hospitable moments. My friend, Aggie, happened to comment with words that many of us may relate to:

I too was blessed to grow up in a home that was always hustling and bustling with people over. It has always been such a no-brainer for me to entertain. But, somewhere along the way, I’ve succumbed to some sort of imagery of perfection that really just isn’t me! -Aggie, from Aggie’s Kitchen

So for me, as of late, I’ve brought my notebook back out from the dusty shelf. I’ve encouraged myself to count the heads of who’s coming over, plan the food to be served, decide what I want to delegate, and any other details that come to mind.

Many of us were raised in a home where hospitality mattered.

Entertaining was not complicated.

I don’t think our parents thought about “impressing others,” do you?

I agree with Aggie, that somewhere along the way we have succumbed to some sort of imagery of perfection, and it’s ruining us.

We have to fight off this ugly monkey on our backs with all of our might and do what we are called to do: Invite People Over.

It’s true, the rest will fall into place.

It always does.

Do you struggle with perfectionism, or how have you learned to overcome it?

If you missed the post on perfectionism becoming so trendy, you can read about it, here.

33 comments on “Fighting the Monkey of Perfectionism”

  1. My childhood home was rarely opened up to friends or family, so my struggle at first was not perfectionism but lack of a role model. Now 17 years into housekeeping I would agree sometimes perfectionism does stop me from inviting friends over. I just look at the house and am too tired to think about cleaning it to guest status. Then I think back on how much fun we have when we have families over and I send out a facebook invite and divided up the chores between family members and never look back and regret it. Visiting friends give energy not take it! I need to remember that more often.

  2. Whoo! This really spoke to me; it may be the most important thing I’ve ever read on a blog. I can’t tell you how many times I have pushed down the urge to extend an invitation because I wasn’t feeling energetic enough to put on a big hoo-ha! Would have had the energy for a casual thing, but no, if I couldn’t do it “right” I wouldn’t do it at all. Very foolish. I’m going to work on this.

    • Jean, I struggle with this, too. We all do …

      Thank you for sharing! Keep us posted of your next party!

  3. This recovering perfectionist thanks you for this great wisdom! I’ve always been more a Martha than a Mary, because SOMEBODY has to get the food on the table and do the dishes lol! But I keep telling myself, it’s the doing that matters, not what your friends see or how many dishes they have to choose from.

  4. i grew up in a house where people were always stopping in and my mom seemed to have all the parties at her house. she never seemed to get flustered and always made it look easy. I, on the other hand, want everything to be just so when someone comes over and if someone just stops by unexpectedly, I get upset if everything isn’t just right in the house. I really have to work on this; wish I could be different.

    • Like I said above, it takes work and discipline. Awareness is #1. I have to pray and ask forgiveness to my kids when I let it get in the way … when it doesn’t really matter. My mom was the say way. Never flustered.

  5. I hate admitting it but I’ve struggled with perfectionism for a long time. Growing up, when it came to keeping a clean home or tackling a project I learned to do things with excellence which is a good thing. However, along the way, particularly as it pertains to entertaining I struggle. It’s sad but I never have people over. Our kitchen it super tiny and a table for 4. We’ve made it work before for seating 6 with the leaf and it was immediate family. I cleaned and cleaned to make everything perfect before out of town family came for Christmas. Of course, it was only a matter of hours before luggage would be unpacked and the kitchen would start getting messy and it bugs me. My husband has even said, you care about perfectly folded towels more than me-OUCH! While I don’t feel that way I realized my actions needed to start lining up with the love I have for my family. I think ultimately, I love being around others and going to parties but I don’t enjoy myself when I entertain so I prefer to meet people at a restaurant.

    • I retweeted your husband’s quote. Powerful. Overcoming perfectionism isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes work, prayer, awareness when you can let something go. For me, I had to make sure my actions were not harming my kids. I wanted them to strive toward excellence, but to know at times “good enough” is good enough. :) Thank you for sharing your heart!

  6. I will never forget being in charge of a Children’s program where I had put my wrist on a hot iron and everything was falling apart. Standing at the back of that room listening to all the kids, parents, and grandparents I was in pain but it was perfect, all on its own. Realized that I was the only one not enjoying the event because of myself and the knot I had tied myself into for no good reason. We only have one life time to live we should be enjoying it not worrying if something is out of place.

  7. When did we all get so caught up in being “perfect”? My mother always had a pot of coffee on the stove and our door was always open. People would drop by anytime and what ever she was making for lunch, dinner, or just a snack, my mom could always make it stretch, and no one ever went away hungry! My mom’s sister who is 86 has a favorite saying that I love. If you want to come see my house, make an appointment! If you want to come see me come anytime!!!

    Thanks Sandy for always reminding us to just be ourselves!
    Blessings Curtis & Sherrie!

  8. Sandy, Thanks again for a reminder that I seem to always need. I just reread your post on perfectionism and feel like I should have your “plan for today” engraved on my fridge in large letters.

  9. Goodness girl…I struggle ALL. The. Time.
    Some of it I learned growing up. Some of it came from being an ‘only.’ And unfortunately my parents did care about appearances. A lot.
    So what’s a girl to do? Listen to what the Nester says, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” In all of blogland, next to counting gifts with Ann Voskamp, the Nester’s statement has been life-changing for me. I’ve come to realize that I create a lot of beautiful moments. They may or may not be magazine/blog worthy. Does it matter? No!!! But, I still wrestle. And I might even be winning.
    All that being said, I am much better at dismissing that ‘monkey.’
    Sandy, your blog has been helpful to me as well. Hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts. And yet, so often the monster of perfectionism rears his ugly head and makes me feel totally inadequate in so many ways. You have been a terrific encouragement to serve with my heart. Thanks!!

    • “I’ve come to realize that I create a lot of beautiful moments.”
      So true — some of life’s most beautiful and precious moments are far from “perfect” and orchestrated.

  10. Funny how we even try to top ourselves. I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I think it’s not so much about impressing as not wanting to disappoint. Once you’ve set the bar, it’s easy to feel you have a standard to maintain. It’s what people come to expect, some of which I think is in our heads, but some of which is real.

    I do find it helpful, as you said, to think about how I react as a guest. Even if the party isn’t as grand as the last, what makes it most enjoyable is the company and the sense of being welcomed.

    • Honestly, girls, I’ve learned to lower the bar a bit. When I have the time, I might set it high. When I don’t, I give myself a pep talk that what I’m doing is “good enough” and I remind myself why people are coming over.

      They are not coming to grade us, inspect our home, spy into our lives. If they are our friends, they are coming to see us, and we’re wanting to get to know them more.

      Hospitality is really beautiful when we keep a healthy approach. :)

  11. Sandy….oh gosh. This really speaks to me. In this day of Martha and Pinterest (and I LOVE both BTW), I feel like everything has to be perfect before I have people over. It’s so silly, but it really does stop me. I need to go back and re-read your book. :)

  12. I just came across your post on perfectionism and I feel as if you wrote it for me. I used to always entertain and loved it. The ironic thing is the more creative and fun I had doing parties that people really enjoyed, the more I felt like I had to do better the next time they came. I would make a dessert that everyone complimented me on and all I would see is where the frosting wasn’t even.It was so stressful that I just stopped. I do think a lot of why we feel we need to be perfect is because of the media and airbrushing. As I started to watch cooking shows, I couldn’t believe how perfect the food turned out and how clean their kitchen was while doing it. When I was younger and learning to cook, I thought I had to be like that. I finally realized they have a kitchen staff the size of an army and many swap outs. I know when I am invited over to someones home, half the time I don’t even notice any of the imperfections, I am just glad to spend time with them. I hope to learn from your words and learn to enjoy entertaining again. Thank you,

    • Marsha, I was actually trying to respond to your comment. See my response below.

    • Marsha. You nailed it, girl. I agree with what you’ve said.

      It’s really a “fight” to push those thoughts aside and still practice hospitality, because we’re called to do it.

      BTW, I love the last page of Ree Drumond’s new cookbook. It shows her messy kitchen and she says her next book will be on “how to write a cook book.” ha ha. Not afraid to be real.

      I hope you get back in to entertaining! xo

  13. Oh wow.. so relevant in today’s world. I am a perfectionist. I can’t really help that so I have to learn to live with it. I use a tool called xmind (xmind.com) and create a map of everything that has to be done. I start out 5 or 6 days before the event and just make a list per day of things to do.. This way on the last day, I’m not harried and everything is done.
    However, as you well know, not everything gets done. So I list things with a priority of 1,2,3. If the threes don’t get done.. not problem.
    For those invitations on the fly.. well they are on the fly so I tend to not stress over anything but the guest bathroom. Here’s a kitchen towel, make yourself at home.
    Love reading your blog, it’s made me a better hostess!

    • Aw, thanks Marlis! I agree, not everything gets done on my list. I’ve learned to be okay with that at the end of the day. It used to make me feel unproductive if I didn’t get it all done – how foolish. What do we think we are? Super women? HA HA. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Yes, entertaining should not be complicated! You always inspire me Sandy. Thanks so much for including me in this post!

  15. Sandy, I nominated you for a Reader’s Appreciation Award. It’s small thanks for the many hours of pleasure and inspiration I’ve gotten from your blog!
    You can find it here: http://auntieemsguide.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/im-having-fun-and-an-award/

    Melinda

  16. I do struggle with perfectionism but only in certain aspects of my life. Entertaining is one of them but my husband does not stress over things like that. So when we entertain in our home, he keeps me pretty level-headed about things. It also helps that he is in charge of cleaning!

  17. What a great post, Sandy! I have to admit that I have struggled with perfectionism my whole life. I am trying to overcome it, but it’s not easy. I don’t know where I got it from…certainly my parents didn’t strive to be perfect all the time. With each passing year I feel a little less need for everything to be perfect and find myself letting myself off the hook and not sweating the small stuff. Reading your blog every morning gives me inspiration and motivation to entertain more and enjoy my friends and family without feeling that everything has to be perfect! Thanks, Sandy!

    • Hi, Kim. I think we get it from too much internet, TV, magazines … it’s right in our face, all the time! Thanks girl!

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