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Family Values

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Perfection is an enemy. It drains the life out of many. It looms over and bubbles under the surface with cries of inadequacy and failure. It brings frustration, discontent, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. It is a grand contributor to conflict in many households. For all the promise and fortune it appears to hold, it is a mirage. It grips us and motivates our actions and emotions. It is a fallacy of our generation. No one or thing is perfect. No amount of money, plastic surgery, success, striving or awards can reach it. Yet many, especially parents seek an image of perfection: high achieving children, perfect house, car, vacation, clothes, hair cut, purse, you name it.

An MSN Lifestyle article entitled Being Imperfect Could Save Your Life reports, "Constantly striving to live a faultless life increases your risk of a very imperfect outcome—early death. Experts at an Association for Psychological Science Convention presented research looking at perfectionism and its effects on health, ranging from loss of self-esteem and resilience to increased stress and risk of death. 'Even though these impossibly high standards are self-imposed, the true perfectionists find it hard to relinquish the high self-expectations of performance, or to settle for more realistic standards, even during times of severe emergencies requiring them to act fast,' explains Prem Fry, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Trinity Western University." At the convention, researchers shared their research from a recent study of older adults and they found a 51 percent reduced life-expectancy rate in perfectionists when compared to non-perfectionists. Other health ailments were also linked to perfectionism such as binge eating, hoarding, anxiety, substance abuse and an increased risk of oxidative and nitrosative stress, which cause cell damage and inflammation leading to a whole host of serious health problems.

First Three Recovery Steps for M.A.P (Mothers Against Perfectionism):
1. Say out loud, "Hi, my name is ________ and I am a mom who can't do it all, without help. I commit to working on being a better friend to myself, to be gentle with myself and to forgiving myself."
2. When someone (from your neighbor to that annoying service clerk) asks, "May I help you?" enthusiastically reply, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and then figure out how.
3. Vow to get the basic mom self care you need, whether this means leaving more dust bunnies to roam under your couch, putting less items on your to do list or simply going to bed a tad earlier.

 Perfection is a detriment to its seekers. So how can homes bombarded by a ?perfectionist society do away with the myth and let the actual imperfection rule? the roost? Here are a few suggestions for living out “imperfection”:

Do Not Compare Your Home, Children, Spouse or Self to the Outside World. ?The world is made up of unique individuals thus making every home and its inhabitants unique. Comparisons only impose outside standards on your home. That brings with it an impossible situation because you are different people and naturally do not have the same perspective on life, children, goals and dreams. Decide what is best and comfortable for your home, children, spouse, and self. Leave room for everyone to have imperfections.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses as parents and individuals. Take time to? evaluate what comes naturally to you and what areas of life take more work. When? operating in a “strength” area, you will naturally excel. When in a “weak” area, don’t? expect near perfection and seek assistance from your spouse and others. Often, life ?is great when the task is in our strength area and life becomes challenging in our ?weak or average areas. Recognizing this can lighten the load. Work on your ?weak areas; seek training and help from others, but you can’t be great at ?everything; no one is.

Don’t Allow Others’ Expectations Determine Yours. Learn to live with ?differing views even among friends and family. We do not all have to think the same,? act the same or be the same. Where there are differences adopt a “good for them” or a?“won’t work for us” attitude. Otherwise, you will incorporate their expectations?into your own, making the “perfection bug” fester and leave you feeling unfulfilled? and failing. Perhaps a specific expectation is in their “strength” area and in your ?“average” area. Trying to adopt the same outcome will lead to frustration and? stress. Stick to what is best for you and yours.

Loosen the Reins Where Possible. Maybe a little mess/disorder is tolerable ?to your family. Perhaps non-gourmet meals are acceptable. Maybe “Johnny” doesn’t? like soccer. Are all “A’s” really realistic? Did you get them as a student? Strive ?for excellence, leaving perfection out of the family vocabulary. Be realistic about? what can be accomplished in a day and prioritize accordingly. A personal soap box:? Don’t see childhood sports as a ticket to a college scholarship! It will likely? never happen. Every sport my children have been in, which has been quite a few,? contained parents insistent that their child was going to college on a sports ?scholarship. It is a rare occurrence. Children who may have even had the? potential burn out or cannot withstand the pressure. Children and parents would be ?far happier viewing sports as a fun venture and health advantage. Give yourself and? children the freedom to let the journey of life play out, not the pressure of living up to a prescribed plan including financial gain.

Give Everyone Some Down Time! Everybody needs some relaxation; some time?where nothing is prescribed or expected. This will mean saying “no” to some things.? Make it an hour every evening or write it on the family calendar. Think of the sheer ?joy of looking at the calendar for next Saturday and seeing “Nothing” or “Down Day”?written across in bold letters. You will have something planned that precludes ?accepting other engagements, but no expectations to live up to.

Tips from the book: Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood by Becky Beaupre Gillespie & Hollee Schwartz Temple
• There are a lot of right ways to be a "good Mom."
• There is nothing wrong with "easy." Just because something is hard doesn't mean it is more valuable.
• There's a difference between being the best and doing your best.
• Be yourself.
• Ignore the "eyes on your back."
• Balance isn't about having perfect harmony every day.
• You can do "anything;" this doesn't mean you have to do "everything."
• Delegate. Say "no."
• One size rarely fits all.
• Determine what you want.
• Are you a "Good Enough" Mom or a "Never Enough" Mom?

Never Fret About Possessions. We are not Pharaohs who take our treasures ?into our tombs when we die. What good would that be? In twenty years, your clothing, jewelry, gold clubs, boats and computers will all be outdated and out of style. There will be new models and styles taking their place. Why not just be content with what you have instead of being obsessed with getting more or something different? Possessions do not determine who you are; they are simply things to be taken care of and paid for.

Focus on Character and Inward Possessions. These are the truly valued attributes of life. Once attained, they cannot be taken away and they drive the “perfection monster” away. Set excellence as the standard, focusing on input and not outcome. Seek joy for your home; a place where everyone is accepted for who they are, not what they accomplish. Live at peace inside and outside of the walls in where you reside. Strive for compassion. Give what can’t be bought; love, time, thoughtfulness, kindness and patience. Be content, accepting your limitations and? expecting mistakes along the way.

A wonderful life awaits the Imperfect. Throw away the Superwoman suit, burn the ?Superman cape; rid your life of super power images scripted by superhuman goals ?and ideals. Their quest robs the most precious gifts of life - time and relationships. Call “perfection” by name and run it out of the neighborhood. Erase it from your thinking, free yourself and those around you from its grip. Take off its facades. Do not tolerate visions of having-it-all-together. Be real and live in the realization that being imperfect makes you perfectly human. What a glorious thing to be!

Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania. You can contact Elaine at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (BACA) exists to create a safer environment for abused children by empowering children to not feel afraid of their world. Imagine how an abused child feels when a group of large bikers rides up to their house, inducts them into their club and then escorts them to court to testify against their abuser.

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