There is a trend in my neighborhood of planting fake, silk flowers into outdoor flower beds. Half of our neighborhood is comprised of the original owners of these 1950s cinder block beasts of houses, and therefore on the older side of life, so I can hardly blame them. Fake flowers don’t really require much work. You don’t have to water them, or fertilize them and, with heat as freakishly hot as we have here in Florida, you don’t honestly have to ever step outside again to tend to them. You simply bury them in the ground and forget about them for a few months. And from a distance, they *almost* look real. As someone who appreciates a nicely manicured and well designed landscape (side note: my yard is currently neither of these things), I roll my eyes at these gaudy menaces but I can’t fault my neighbors for taking the easy way out in this.
Yesterday as I was returning home from walking Levi to school, I noticed an older woman bending down low in her front yard near a flower bed that held many of these plastic atrocities, and I held my breath for a minute. This was it! I was going to watch the beautifully inspired moment where someone was going to choose the wild over the tame! I was going to watch her pluck out the plastic and silk version of the real thing and I was ready! All sorts of trumpets and anthems were playing in my mind as I watched her carefully stoop down and pull out….a weed that had started to grow up near her perfect pop of fake color. Womp womp.
And I started laughing, so so so very hard. I chuckled to myself the entire two blocks back to my house. The irony of what I had just witnessed was hammering me over and over again. The woman removed nature, what was naturally meant to grow in her flower bed, because it was distracting from the fake plant she had plopped in the dirt a few weeks earlier. So many metaphors and analogies started popping up in my head over this one. I took a minute and thought through all the areas in my life where I am removing the raw, wild, meant to be there parts of my soul because they are distracting from the pretty, not so real, parts of myself that I want the world to look at instead. Ooooffff. That hurt. I have a lot of work to do on that front. And a lot of weeding out the fake plants in my flower beds.
And then I started to think about perfectionism…again. I think about it a lot these days. One, because I am currently leading a small group of women through a Bible study around Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and so, I am on my third reading of this sucker in one year. I feel like I can almost quote it line by line at this point. But also because, two, I think our world right now is captivated by the idea of perfectionism, or maybe more accurately combatting it. Perhaps Dr. Brown started a revolution a few years ago when she first researched the connections between perfectionism and shame. Regardless of the reason, I feel inundated by people reminding me that perfectionism is no longer the goal. And this is great! But we need to be careful of one slippery slide we can fall down as we abandon our goals of perfection. I’m watching the definition of perfection become a little misunderstood as we march to the beat of a new drummer. Perfectionism isn’t about everything looking, well, perfect all the time. The root of perfectionism and, where it becomes a danger to you and I, is that perfectionism is almost always unattainable and you and I have a tendency to not react well to our inevitable failure.
So the twist I am seeing applied when people start claiming new lives against perfection is this: Let’s start planting more fake flowers! Why? Because I know I will fail at the real ones and since my self worth isn’t wrapped up in whether I can grow flowers or not (because I am now enlightened), I might as well live in the freedom of the fake plants! Look at me not caring what other people think and throwing out the Pinterest baby with the lavender scented bath water! My self worth is not wrapped up in any of this so why even try.
Do you see the flaw in this logic? Do you see what you miss out on with this new found “freedom”? What do you learn from planting fake flowers? Not too much. Maybe you learn how long they can go looking almost real before they start to show their fakeness. What do you learn by failing through trying to to make real ones grow? A whole freaking lot. You learn about sunlight and water levels. You learn about soil density and how temperature affects nature and sometimes you learn that, try as you might, succulents just aren’t as “anyone can do it” as they are advertised to you. (I’m sorry. Let’s all accept it. Succulents are so so so much harder than HGTV would have us believe.) You fail, a lot. And each time you fail, you learn something. You learn something that you can apply to the next time you plant another seedling in the yard. Sure, the ability to grow flowers in your yard doesn’t give you any self-worth or define you. But the desire that you had to put flowers in your yard in the first place speaks volumes about who you are, what you dream about, where your passions lie. Let yourself explore those places. Push through the shame that comes from failure and embrace the true vulnerability of putting some of yourself into the world.
Don’t throw out your to do lists completely just because you didn’t get everything checked off of them the day before. Strive to be better! Edit the list. Improve it. Push yourself but push yourself with self-compassion and gentleness. You are indeed enough whether the boxes get checked or not, but don’t throw the boxes away completely. Learn something! And above all else, don’t ever resort to using the girl shrugging emoticon. Please. Just don’t. That girl drives me bonkers. If there were ever an icon to demonstrate the absolute wrong way to combat perfectionism, it’s her. (This is just my personal soapbox. I will get down now but I feel so much better for having said it. You may now insert the eye roll emoticon here, as it is well deserved and also sadly is my most used emoticon, according to my phone.)
Here’s my point: Throw out the fake flowers. Everyone knows they are fake anyways. Get your hands dirty, fail a few times and keep trying. Pull the weeds away because they are choking out something that is real and alive, not because they are wrecking your fake perfection. Adopt a lifestyle where you combat the shame that swirls around perfectionism with self-compassion, gentleness and the courage and determination to try again! And while you’re at it, my yard could use some serious TLC so if you need a spot to practice your newfound hobby, you just let me know!