Perfect Women. One of the topics where I feel most helpless.
We all know there is no such thing as a perfect woman. We all know there is no such thing as a perfect man. Why is it that men seem to accept their lack of perfection, yet women seem tortured by theirs? I’ll tell you right now – I don’t have the answer (Ok, I do, but that’s another post). What I do have is the acknowledgement of the issue and thoughts about it that hopefully cause women to think about their lives and their choices.
I believe I exist at the center of the “Perfect Woman Vortex.” I live in Utah and work in the technology industry. Few things in this world elicit women’s desire for perfection more than the Mormon Church and competing in a male dominated industry. When both of these forces combine, it is a devastating degree of pressure on a woman.
I’m not singling out or picking on the Mormon Church. It’s what I know and provides the examples I observe. I suspect that most religions create some level of pressure to be a perfect woman. I believe that the higher the concentration of same denominational religious people in one geographic area, the greater the pressure to be perfect.
As with religion, I’m not singling out the Tech industry. It’s what I know and provides the examples I observe. The Tech industry is extraordinarily fast paced and competitive. Two traits that add to the pressure to be perfect.
One other point – I’m not singling out women who are religious and work outside the home. ALL women suffer from the pressure to be perfect. I talk about what I know & observe – you can extrapolate it to suit your situation. I guarantee you’ll see the similarities.
My drastically oversimplified description of the Perfect Woman, is someone who is sacrificing every moment, every ounce of energy, every waking thought, and every sense of self, to provide for others. Perfect Women are driven to have the perfectly decorated home, perfect yard, perfectly behaved kids, perfect body, throw perfect parties, be the perfect friend. Basically, whatever they believe they control – should be perfect. Ironically, they won’t hold anyone else to that standard. There are unlimited variances of this woman, but the bottom line is this – they feel compelled to give their all, all the time.
Perfect Women attend any event, “ooh and ahh” over all the new and interesting food and decorations–then proceed to feel one of two things – ashamed they don’t live up to that standard, or motivated to surpass that standard. Putting themselves on the hook either way. Perfect Women are incapable of letting themselves off a hook they create for themselves
Perfect Women typically aren’t overtly competitive with their friends. They praise their friends and fawn over their friends and support their friends. Then they beat themselves up for not being or doing as much as their friends. The same friends who are supporting them, while feeling like they don’t measure up either. It’s a vicious, infuriating circle. Can it change? Certainly. Will it? Not likely. That’s why I feel helpless. I’ve had this conversation with enough women to know that they intellectually “get it”. Getting it and changing it are two vastly different things.
My advice to Perfect Women is simple. Learn to say “No.”
Simple advice to give, extraordinarily difficult advice to implement. Women who can’t say “No,” can never be happy. There aren’t enough hours in the day. There isn’t enough gas in the tank. There isn’t enough… you.
I am a firm believer in the importance of taking care of ourselves first. Anyone who has ever had a conversation of any depth with me has heard me say that. I often use the airline oxygen bag analogy – put your own bag on first, then help those around you. You can’t truly help others if you aren’t healthy. By healthy, I mean physically, mentally and emotionally.
I don’t know if there’s hope for Perfect Women. What hope there is comes from the partners and support systems of Perfect Women. When the Perfect Women in my life wrestle with their overwhelming lives and schedules, I always let them off the hook. There really are, very few things in life, which absolutely must be done, now. Nearly everything is a choice.
Here are some of my suggestions I hope Perfect Women will remember:
- It’s ok to say “No.”
- People are important, not the food (Did you EVER see your Mom on Thanksgiving?).
- Food can be bought, your time can’t (Pizza delivery!).
- Your time is what is valued, not your labor.
- Always schedule less than you think you can accomplish.
- Share the load – delegate, delegate, delegate.
Take care of yourself first.
Partners and supporters of Perfect Women, please help them remember the above ideas and come up with your own to help them let themselves off the hook. That’s the key – only they can let themselves off their hook. Find ways to help them.
Finally, (and this is a big one) all you Perfect Women have my permission to stop. Stop competing. Stop giving. Stop torturing yourselves. You are running a race that can’t be won. You are enough. You do enough. You are, and always have been, close enough to perfect.