Surviving the Holidays as a Perfectionist

This time of year is a brutal one for perfectionists. I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist. The holidays are a time when expectations and “shoulds” are extra high, making it a stressful season for those of us that like need things “just so.” Perfectionism isn’t just about wanting to do things well or be successful, it’s about performing with the ever-present worry, “What will people think?”.

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

By: Jennifer Alley, LPC

I find that particularly as a woman, there is both a desire and expectation to not only do things really well, but to also make it look effortless. As a full-time mom who has a part-time private practice, a husband and a house, I can tell you, it is never effortless. I feel especially grateful for my messy, adorable 16-month old who reminds me all of the time that not only are spotless floors hard work, they are actually impossible. She (along with my husband and my sanity) is probably the main reason that I am striving to keep better perspective of healthy striving instead of perfectionism this holiday season.

As we prepare for parties, guests and travel, it is my hope and goal this year to stay calm, remembering that the truth is, it won’t be perfect (and that’s okay). My daughter will drag tupperware out of the cabinets moments before guests appear, toilet paper will be strung out from it’s holder, milk will be spilled on the floor, and I may or may not have makeup on and my hair done. We will likely forget at least three things we need when we go to our families’ homes, and we will also forget at least as many things at their houses when we return. And that is real life right now at the Alley household.

My previous self would spend the last half hour before guests arrived tense, getting upset with my husband for wearing his shoes across my spotless floor, and creating a rather not fun environment with my perfectionistic ways. This year, I want the picture at my house to be one where we are laughing, preparing food, enjoying each other’s company and laughing at mishaps like eating two hours late because the turkey was still a little frozen when it was supposed to be served (yes, this actually happened to me this year). With a family, there are plenty of opportunities to practice having self-compassion, grace, and laughter as it generally lends itself to anything but perfect. And I’m finding that this is exactly what makes the holidays memorable and “perfect”.