When Did Perfectionism Become so Trendy?

The other day at breakfast my husband reminded me of these simple words:

Baby, he said, a good plan for today is better than a perfect plan for tomorrow.

Those words really hit home for me, and I thought about all I share here on RE. I know many of us struggle with perfectionism when it comes to entertaining, but I wonder just when did the “P” word become so trendy?

What generation or era started this horrible (almost) disease, to ruin so many of us?

I wrote in my RE book how I met a lady on the plane who shared with me how she’d never have people into her home for dinner, because she didn’t feel her house was good enough. She got tears in her eyes as she told me she was worried that her son never learned about hospitality. It was a pain point for her, and I felt badly for her. The pain went deeper for her as she shared that her mom had done the same thing.

Things were never good enough.

So they missed out on deeper connections and making memories in their own 4 walls with people they cared about.

I wonder when perfectionism became so necessary …

-Was it in the 50s or 60s when America started watching more TV?

-Was it when we started airbrushing models in homes and staging beautiful kitchens and dining rooms?

-Was it later, when magazines and TV shows resonating “perfect” showed us we were “less” if we didn’t have our homes look a certain way?

(Canning jar idea, here.)

Baby, a plan for today is better than a perfect plan for tomorrow.

I meditated on those words for days, lest I teach my children this awful “trend.”

A plan for today …

-If I decide to invite last minute guests over for dinner, my messy house will just have to do.

-The menu that I decide to cook will be sufficient for the purpose of entertaining. Soul connection.

-I won’t need to run to the store to make “one more thing,” because I have to serve 5 courses.

-My table, simple as it may be, won’t be impressive, but it won’t be distracting, either.

It won’t be trendy.

It won’t be perfect.

But it will be tasty and meaningful.

When do you think perfectionism became “trendy” in our society?

23 comments on “When Did Perfectionism Become so Trendy?”

  1. I think perfectionism is “trendy” in any one person’s life when the focus is on self and not on the Lord first and then on serving others. It’s a prideful reaction that spans cultures and time but has the same effect- it destroys relationships and in general, makes us and those around us pretty miserable.

  2. P.S. I love the chalkboard tags on the soho cups!! That’s so brilliant!! My Granny would have loved that!!!

  3. One of my May goals is genuine authenticity. This is a great reminder why. Thank you for sharing.

    Btw, LOVE the chalkboard paint solo cups. ;)

  4. Honestly I think it all started in the early 90’s with Martha Stewart. She raised the bar a lot in the mainstream’s eye. Perfectionism was always there, she just brought it to the forefront. We went from fondue parties to matching place settings and napkins folded a certain way in a matter of a few years because of her influences. At least that’s how I see it.

  5. Sandy, you are right on target here. I think today we are bombarded by “perfect” images of “perfect” homes with “perfect” rooms hosting “perfect” parties. It’s just plain intimidating. Though I love to look and ooh and aah at all those pretty pictures, attaining them is unrealistic. Instead I try to pick up an element here or there that catches my eye and use it as inspiration. The most loved hostess is not the one with the prettiest table setting, or prettiest house. It’s the one that truly makes you feel welcome.

  6. It’s terrible to say but the competition to be perfect is often spurred on by women and the “ideals” we are bombarded with (Desperate Housewives, Martha Stewart etc).

    With a certain group I know, it was always an (unsaid) competition to see who could make the most perfect birthday cake, who could make the perfect nibbles for a party, who could host the perfect party, who has the most perfectly decorated house….

    I opted out of being “perfect” a long time ago – it’s amazing how as soon as you do that you feel free and empowered – plus you know that someone who comes to your house when it’s not perfect, doesn’t make any comments and then returns a couple of weeks later is a true friend!!

    • Right on Cherry…I often steer clear of any kind of unsaid competition like that : ) My best friends are those that have seen my house in whatever shape or form…and it’s usually been during a spontaneous get together that was the most fun and meaningful! :)

  7. I love this post Sandy. It got me thinking. I never feel like things have to be perfect when I’m with my immediate family. I show up to Mother’s day in yoga pants and no make up with a bowl of cut up fruit in tupperware and a couple of bottles of wine. I am welcomed with big voices, hugs, laughter and just happiness that we are all together. My family reminds me of the true spirit of entertaining and hospitality, being together, no judgement…just being real and loving one another’s company.
    On the other hand…I have felt the tug of “perfectionism” at other times. For whatever reason. I don’t like it and if I’ll be honest, it steals me joy when it comes to entertaining.

    So, I guess I have to always remember how it feels when I’m with my family…and try to exude that whenever I have ANYONE in my home…make them feel as comfortable as my Mom has always made anyone who comes to her home feel, this is something I’ve always seen my mother do and I have learned from her. My mom doesn’t get caught up in perfectionism and I admire that.

    Thanks for writing this post…it made me think!!!

  8. I’m not sure when it became trendy, but I know it’s become a bigger temptation for many with so many blogs being published that show a seemingly perfect life of crafts, cooking, decorating and all that. That’s why blogs like YOURS – giving us permission to live among the messy and the REAL – are so important! :)

  9. It helps to have friends who want to be with us for US and not for our things. My best girlfriends are the ones who answer, “so?” when I say, “but I’m in sweats/I didn’t do the dishes/the clothes are on the floor.”

    And honestly, when I see them – I don’t care what their houses look like either. For me, the impromptu moments are often the best. However, I will say that when I plan a party – while I don’t demand perfection from myself – I definitely put forth a concerted effort towards making the event memorable.

  10. I love this post, Sandy. It is so hard to let go of the perfect sometimes and you always come to mind when I drag my feet at asking people over. The relationships are so much more important than the staging, the perfection, and the stress!

  11. Gosh Sandy, I hadn’t thought about perfect being a new trend. I think Martha Stewart, truly a creative inspiration, seems to do it all, perfectly, and has been inspiring for 20 or more years. She makes everything look beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to aspire to that? Oh, and then we forget all the people she has in her employ.
    Years ago, I had an epiphany. I was knocking myself out, making everything from scratch, doing whatever because it was a ‘good thing.’ And then I woke up one day and realized that those brownies that come from a box. They might even taste better than my own made with melted chocolate in a double boiler. And faster too. That was a bit of a change from me. Some of us struggle with perfectionism without seeing it in the media – TV, magazines, blogs, Pinterest, etc. The Nester has helped me sooo much with her phrase, “It doesn’t need to be perfect to be beautiful.” It’s freeing me and changing my life.
    And…for all the world to know…I used to say, “It’s a good thing.” all the time. Then I tuned in to Martha…and she was saying it. Do you think she had a bug in my house? Hahaha!
    Thanks for a great post, Sandy. We should work as unto the Lord…doing everything with excellence….with the end in mind….blessing others.

  12. I agree with the idea of this post. The important things are people and relationships, not things (or how great the tablescape looks or doesn’t look).
    However, perfectionism has always been with us. June Cleaver? Never a speck of dust in her house. In the past hundreds of years the super rich with there super mansions and an army of servants to keep everything perfect.
    The advances in mass communication and the rise of the middle class has made the quest, or the idea of the need for the quest, for perfectionism accessible to millions.

  13. Perfect? Heaven yes, here on Earth no.
    My wife and I like to set up for parties and get togethers and enjoy the planning. But you can’t plan everything. Having people in our home feeling comfortable and welcome is most important.
    We have a construction zone at top of our stairs. Wall removed no carpet hole in ceiling. It’s OK . It’s a work in progress. The only ones that see the mess are the ones that use upstairs bathroom if downstairs one is in use. Sometimes they come down with a funny face and i say people can’t wait, houses can. If I wait until it is done we will go 2 years before I am done.

  14. I think it can be much more complicated than some realize Sandy. I grew up in a seriously dysfunctional environment, probably the worst for children. My mother was an alcoholic. The mean, embarrassing, put in hospital type of alcoholic. I was driven to not be like her, and I’m sure somewhat driven to have people like me despite her. I think my entire life of trying to be perfect is much more connected to desperately wanting to be noticed amongst the fray; hoping first my father would notice what a good girl I was, my husband what an excellent wife I was and my children to adore me for being the perfect mom. Sadly…someone so unsure of her own value often works too hard for the wrong people and that has been my life’s history and it’s a hamster wheel for sure. What did I do when my husband became verbally abusive? Why it was simple; it just meant I had to work even harder, right? What I didn’t realize at the time was it would make no difference; his need for control over someone so hard working, so creative, so capable meant the abuse escalated and culminated in his walking out and leaving me with a family to raise, no job and a father who was incapable of supporting me because, well, he never saw that good girl, he just saw someone who was determined to make it on her own and he despised that about me; he expected me to fold and come running to papa.

    Yes, this hit home because it took a great therapist to help me see that it was not my job to be perfect for everyone else and to give myself a break. It was very freeing to find that a tendency towards perfectionism is often related to childhood experiences like mine; quite often with children of alcoholics. We try desperately to bring order to our lives when our childhood was so chaotic. When that drive is so firmly ingrained it’s not a simple fix; a question of just stopping…it really did help me to uncover a reason that made sense and know that the only person who was expecting me to be perfect…was me.

    • Thank you for this insight, Barbara. You saved me a lot of therapy ;).

    • Wow, Barbara. Your comment really hit home with me, and I am sure I have found the root to the monkey on my back called “perfectionism”.

      I spent my entire childhood trying to earn the love of my father. As an adult now, I know he suffered from depression and went through life just barely present. I thought if I was “perfect” he would love me and be happy. He eventually left my mother and our family when I was in my late teens. After he left he didn’t want to have a relationship with me, and that left me feeling like I wasn’t worthy of his love. Luckily, I married an amazing man who loves me unconditionally, especially when I’m not perfect! I know that the only person expecting me to perfect is me, but it’s hard to turn the switch off when it’s been on your entire life. I stil struggle with feeling the need to perfect all the time, but reading this blog definitely makes me feel like I can turn the “perfectionism” switch off sometimes. I read RI every morning for inspiration and motivation to get the “need to be perfect” monkey off of my back. Thanks for sharing your story, Barbara!

  15. Such a precious reminder.

    Thank you!

  16. Hi Sandy, on your blog for the first time today. A link to this post shared on Facebook brought me here.
    Really liked the write up. It’s a good reminder, along with wise words from your husband.
    So many times, in order to achieve that perfect thing one day, I end up wasting what I have today.
    And realizing it just now. Hmmm.

  17. Love this reminder! My mom struggled with hospitality as do I. My daughter is so eager to spend time with friends and I need to remember to stretch out of my comfort zone so that she doesn’t struggle like I do.

  18. Really? That’s Chalkboard tape? How cool is that!!!!!

  19. Pingback: Fighting the Monkey of Perfectionism | reluctantentertainer.com Reluctant Entertainer I Sandy Coughlin - Lifestyle, Entertaining, Food, Recipes, Hospitality and Gardening

  20. Sandy,

    Thanks for a wonderful post. Your blog is in my feed, but I don’t always get to it, because I’m not actively entertaining. And why not? Because we “just” moved (6 months ago) and have 2 little kids, so I don’t feel like we’re ready. This post was a great reminder that hospitality is in the heart – not the perfect presentation. Thanks for the inspiration to open our “imperfect” home to others!

    Also, when we were first married, I used to cringe when I had to use a boxed dessert to save time. And if someone would ask if it was homemade, I’d reply “it came from a box.” To which my husband wisely responded: you made it, it’s homemade. Now I don’t mind the shortcuts, since they save stress – making me a much better hostess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *