When my parents first mentioned they’d be getting divorced my over-achieving tendencies surfaced.
I was in third grade then, and I knew learned to cope with my sadness by keeping myself busy and getting all the accolades. I was president of student council in 6th grade, but I was also a crossing guard, a clarinet player, in the choir, and playing softball. Basically, I did whatever it took to outwardly look successful while distracting myself from hard emotions.
That’s what we perfectionists do.
Except we’re also our own worst critics, and when the mighty fall we really do beat ourselves up over it.
I think everyone has their own reason for needing or wanting to be perfect, but mine was pretty simple: it helped me control the amount of heartbreak happening around me. This tendency became an absolute addiction after leaving my abuser. Because if I could be perfect, I’d never be at risk for being hurt by another man again.
Every time I failed I berated myself for it, believing I should have known better or could have done more. Every time something unexpected or uncontrollable happened I told myself I should’ve been three doors down on the issue.
Today, I’m an anticipation expert: sniffing out issues before they arise. It’s part intuition, part memory, part prediction.
But it’s all exhausting.
Because the truth is, I know I’m not perfect.
My second truth is, trying to control everything didn’t stop the hard stuff from happening. Our infertility struggle started long after I learned to be three doors down, and while it pushed me to get testing sooner than I would’ve if I could chill, it definitely didn’t cause or change our outcome (on the surface).
And yet, I sure made a habit of degrading myself for my imperfections.
On last week’s LIVE, Tia looked at me on the screen and said, “How are you?” and all I could muster was, “I’m okay.” I’d been solo parenting for three days, with no help, no break, and no time to get much-needed work done. Working from home and being the primary care giver for my kids means that they have to come first no matter what, and - if I’m honest - sometimes that’s really complicated and hard. I love this company, our mission, and the infertility community, and so having to watch deadlines pass or feeling like I could’ve done more to help out really just makes me feel like I’m failing.
When I love what I do but can’t give it everything I want to give, it’s tough, no matter the reason or how great it is. That’s when I realized:
I expect myself to be the super-mom, the super-infertile-advocate, and the super-wife.
Simply because I don’t like to deal with the hard emotions of being less than everything.
Plus, talking about being a parent in infertility automatically sets you up for judgement. People think you don’t remember how hard it is to be TTC, or they think you no longer care, or you should just shut up and move on. You lose friends, you lose great connections, and then you feel guilty because you want to talk about how hard it can be to parent after infertility, but you don’t want to piss anyone off.
So you become Suzy Homemaker and act happy all of the time. A Stepford wife via circumstance. Because you fear being seen as unappreciative or as totally unaware of the awesomeness that my life is.
That’s why the mindset and belief work I do on a regular basis is so important. Some days and weeks I don’t have to commit to it so constantly, and sometimes - when life feels unmanageable - I have to show up and do the hard work over and over again.
Which is why (in my opinion) a lot of people don’t heal from hard shit. They don’t want to put the effort in over and over. Once? Sure, I can do a hard thing. Twice next year? Oof. That sounds like failure.
If you’re a perfectionist too, I see you. I know there are countless reasons you choose to try to do everything so well, and some might not be the same as mine, but the basis of this disease is pretty simple:
If you’re perfect so is your life. The hurt is gone. Your heart is protected.
I’m afraid to be an imperfect mom because I thought infertility would help me be better than what I feel I am. I’m afraid to be an imperfect mom because sometimes I look across the room at my kids and think, “Is this the moment they look at me and their perception changes? Like, is this THE day they’ll talk about in therapy?”
I’m afraid to be an imperfect mom because it makes me feel unworthy of the gift I received, and brings up a lot of complicated feelings about why I got pregnant on transfer one while others struggle so much longer and harder.
I wish we could all get there, but the truth of it is, we’re all just fucked up people trying to do our best on a daily basis, wishing and hoping things were different, no matter the circumstance we face. We want to be happy but we’re afraid the fall from grace will hurt. And once we hurt we don’t trust ourselves to not re-injure ourselves.
But there is a better way.
It’s hard work, yes, but the beauty of it is that it makes life easier. Once you no longer expect yourself to be and do and say and appear like you’re ALL, you are set free.
Last week I reread The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. In it, she talks about why we are afraid to be anything but perfect and how we can turn that desire into something so much more authentic and beautiful than the worry we constantly carry while trying to be perfect.
I don’t know if this blog is way too stream-of-consciousness or not, but it’s what I needed to dump tonight, to rip open the hurt I’m currently feeling so I can process it and move through it. I want to give myself the grace to figure this out and if I continue hiding it, I’m only hurting myself and doing the exact opposite of what I tell everyone will change their lives: telling their truth.
Thank you for being here with us and for sharing your hearts in our space.
Thank you for trusting us to share ourselves with you in an attempt to make this world a little easier to navigate.
Join us tonight, and every Wednesday night, on Instagram (@infertileAFcommunity). Lindsay and Tia go live and discuss the weekly theme, which Lindsay blogs about on Wednesday and Tia wraps up on Thursday. 6:30 p.m. CST.
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