From the time she was very small, I raised a perfectionist. It takes one to know one, of course, and this is both one of my own greatest weaknesses and greatest strengths. Eyes on perfection can drive you. Can push you. Can motivate you. It doesn't become a weakness until it keeps you from being happy - or keeps you from trying.
When R was little(r) she would quickly get frustrated when challenged; upset by new tasks that required effort. She wanted things to come easily, and because this is life, we often saw tears when she was not "perfect" the first time around. I remember when she was learning cartwheels and hated to even try because she would fall. The same was true of handstands. Today, I can't keep her right-side-up!
In a sport like gymnastics, constantly judged against the PERFECT 10.0, I waited for her to struggle. Competitive gymnastics could have been a psychological disaster for my kid who hates to miss a spelling word. But what I saw wasn't a meltdown, what I saw was someone interested in growth instead of perfection. Is a 10.0 possible? Probably, but its rarity gives us two things:
1. Meaning - a 10 is WORTH something and you have to work HARD for it. Not everybody will get a 10
2. A goal - did she get a 10? No, but that 9.65 on bars at state sure was a long cry from the 7.375 at the very first meet.
Her coaches never asked her to be perfect. They asked her to work toward perfection. They asked her to "better her best."
Recently I found this photo on her Instagram account. She had shared the photo with me previously, but prior to posting it, she added text. "I am this." This isn't hubris, or humor, this is growth. This is reality. This is my daughter, who isn't perfect. Overwhelmed with pride, I continued to share the photo - to my husband, to my mom, to my friends: "Guess what! My daughter isn't perfect, and she's proud." In the age of honor roll bumper stickers I'm considering having these printed up for my family vehicles.
Perfection is a myth.
We strive for better.
We strive for greatness.
We strive for growth.
We strive for learning.
It took me 25+ years to learn what my 8-year-old is publishing for the world to see.
A special thank you: I wish I could take credit for this, and I will take partial credit. Rylee listens to many of my Voxer conversations about the role and necessity of failure in learning, but I also know that her teacher works on a project called The Not Perfect Hat Club, where the kids discuss and uncover the value of being perfectly not perfect. Her coaches at the gym provided the motto, "Better Your Best" - a goal R worked for (and met) at every meet she competed in. Thank you to those people in the lives of our children that help them celebrate their individuality, the learning process, and "perfectly not perfect-ness."