any woman what she’d like to improve about her life and she’ll
probably respond with a laundry list of things she’d thinks she
needs to improve about herself. Each and every one of us is
convinced somewhere, somebody else out there is managing it
“better.” Her life must be bliss, right? We don’t know her, but
we’re sure she’s out there. Well, she’s not. And you know why I
think the rest of us feel like we don’t measure up?
I think we’ve been sold a bill of
goods. The world has us all convinced that being perfect and
doing more are the keys to a great life. Somewhere along the line,
we bought into the notion that all the happiness and good things in
life are reserved for the perfect people and until we become one of
them, well then, all our problems are our own damn fault!
Surely any unhappiness we’re
experiencing stems from the fact that we aren’t organized, don’t
read enough, aren’t good enough mothers, don’t work hard enough, eat
too much refined sugar, don’t exhibit good enough listening skills
or whatever the hell else was in this month’s Cosmo Quiz.
And then, as if we don’t make
things bad enough by comparing ourselves to the most perfect people
we can find, there’s an entire industry of books, tapes, and what
not out there highlighting every possible aspect of our
inadequacies. Combine that with unsolicited advice from strangers
and your own relatives (don’t get me going on the whole family
thing) and it’s a wonder any of us have the strength to face another
day as our oh so unperfect selves.
We could, of course, all be
perfect if we could only muster up the energy to complete the list
of “shoulds.” Let’s see, where did it start? I should work more, I
should work less, I should spend more time with the kids, I should
be making a financial contribution, I should be able to get more
done since I’m home all day, I should be better organized, I should
keep a neater house, I should spend more time with my parents, I
should be doing community volunteer work, I really should do better
with my family’s diet, I should be thinner, and on and on and on.
Oh, and the should list
doesn’t just include things we “should” be doing right now, a lot of
us expand it to include all the things we “should” have done in the
past. I found out I’m not the only one that likes to go back and
beat herself up about how I “should” have done something
differently. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, you know the mantra.
The list is a mile long and
we’re convinced that true happiness will descend upon us when it’s
all checked off.
The perfect thing isn’t the key to
happiness; it’s in the way of happiness.
You know what? I’ve talked with
real women about when they were the happiest and not a single one
ever even mentioned the “perfect thing”. Nowhere did I hear, “I was
happier when my house was cleaner, when I worked harder, was more
organized, or any other version of doing it nicer, prettier, or
better.” So it appears, that in addition to annoying the rest of us,
perfection isn’t very memorable in terms of life experiences and
doesn’t make the perfectee any happier either.
What did? It wasn’t feeding the
hungry or winning the lottery. It was just a few simple things:
Women are the happiest when they
know they matter, when they know that what they’re doing with their
time counts for something. It doesn’t have to be about changing the
world. It doesn’t even have to be fun, easy, or highly paid; it just
has to make a difference to someone.
The other times they cite as the
happiest are when they’re a part of something, when they’re
“connected” to other people. Their fondest memories are about being
part of a group that was just as interested and excited about
whatever it was as they were.
And lastly, when women talk about
the best times of their lives it wasn’t when they were doing
everything. It was when could they put all that pressure aside and
just enjoy doing one thing for a moment.
We’ve put ourselves last on our own
priority lists. And we deserve better than that.