In a recent keynote speaker address, famed feminist Gloria Steinem said that “Perfectionism attaches to what is valued in the culture.” Â In our culture, thinness is valued. Beauty is valued. Looking “together” and “fashionable” is valued. Â Psychologist Beth Weinstock articulates the many ways perfectionism works on women in today’s culture:
“Perfectionism is a contemporary menace for women on many fronts. In the midst of our confusing world, the perfect woman is supposed to attain it all — have a career, look good on the job, be available to their kids by 6 p.m., make healthy, homemade meals, have connecting family conversation at dinner, and pay attention to adult intimate relationships. This is tremendous pressure. In my clinical office I hear how many women think they “should” not have gone to work so early and “should” have stayed home with their kids, and then from the ones who stayed home, I hear how they regret not having had a career. The pressure is topped off by the requirement that having it all goes with attaining the thin body ideal. For too many women, whatever success they can claim is wiped out by their inner critic if they are not “thin enough.”
These kinds of standards leave many women struggling with feelings of inadequacy, low self esteem, and exhaustion in the quest to be the perfect mother, wife, friend, career woman, etc.
Orange County: Perfectionism’s Playground
If Perfectionism were an evil villain, its’ playground would be Orange County. Southern California seems to have more of a particular emphasis on looks and status than other areas of the country. Â In my practice in Newport Beach, I hear endless stories from women about the pressures to be thin, beautiful, accomplished, “Supermom”, and socialize in the “right” circles. Â I think mothers in particular suffer from the wrath of Perfectionism, as they try to be not only all those things but also an attuned, amazing mother who throws fabulous birthday parties, volunteers in the classrooms, and disciplines her children in correct and appropriate ways. Â It’s no wonder that in women’s efforts to “be it all”, they end up losing themselves.
Embrace Your “Good Enough”
It’s a new year, and as always, we have all made our lists of goals and in some cases, states of perfectionism, we all hope to achieve. Maybe this year, however, your goal should be to embrace your “good enough”. Â Be a “good enough” parent- maybe forgo stress induced birthday party and just focus on giving your children more one on one. Â Be Â a Â “good enough” body weight- maybe with a little squish to the tummy but with less intensity and time focused on staying toned and trim. Be a “good enough” person- carefully pick the things that mean the most to you and let all the excess “shoulds” fall by the wayside.
If we as women could all lower our standards a little about how “perfect” we need to be, chances we will come to find that even on our worst day, our “good enough” is more than enough.