No one is Perfect…It’s time for some grace

July 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

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My mother grew up very poor

She had a very traumatic childhood

She wanted nothing more than to leave all that behind

And become someone else

And she did

My mother was kind and friendly and compassionate towards anyone who met her

But like many people, she had another side that no one knew about

And that was the side I got

My mother was disappointed in me

ALL THE TIME

She wanted me to grow up and go to medical school or become a lawyer

And all I wanted to do was major in English and read

That wasn’t acceptable

Nor was it enough

So I had to double major

I chose Psychology….no surprise there

It gave me a window into why some people are the way they are

But in the end it didn’t change things

I still could not find a way to please my mother

Nor could I find a way to STOP TRYING

And that’s what killed me

The “trying” to please

The “trying” to live up to her standards

Sometimes I would quit trying

Because I just couldn’t take it anymore

But then I would be punished

If I did something Mom did not want me to do

She would remove her love for awhile

Refuse to speak to me

Freeze me out

If she really wanted me to do something and I refused

She’d threaten to cut me out of the will

My grandmother would always threaten my mother with money

So my mother learned this behavior from her

I can remember after my dad moved out, my Mom and I struggled to pay the mortgage

But we could not move out of THAT neighborhood

We had to continue living there pretending as if we could afford it

No matter how many nights we ate cornbread and beans just to keep afloat

But the outside was what mattered

What the WORLD thought

Right??

As long as you look perfect and act perfect

NO ONE WILL KNOW

No one will know that your mother comes home and cries for hours at a time

Because she suffers from depression

No one will know that she locks herself in the closet with a bottle of wine because she’s so sad

But at work and at church

She’s perfect

She’s the one everyone goes to for advice

They don’t know her pain

They only know what she allows them to see

My mother pressured herself to be perfect

Maybe because she was abandoned by both of her parents growing up

Maybe because her husband left her

Maybe because she grew up poor and felt people looked down on her

Probably all of the above

But that was my mother

And I loved her

I miss her

But our relationship was often toxic

And now that she’s gone, I’m left wondering

WHAT NOW?

You see, I spent my entire life trying to please my mother

OR trying to deal with the fact that I never could

 

My grandmother was the same way

Cut from the same cloth

If they didn’t like something I did

They would turn cruel

Because words hurt more than anything else

If they could convince me that I was an embarassment

Then maybe I would get back in my “place”

And do what they wanted

 

I was always getting in trouble

Once in college, I had this boyfriend

Really nice guy

A pastor’s son

Sweet and kind

But he wasn’t rich

My mother told me to break up with him immediately

Or she would take my car and stop paying my college tuition

I broke up with him

I didn’t stand my ground

Because I had to do what Mother said

 

I lived in fear of losing my mother’s approval

Which is ironic

Because I rarely had it anyway

I was always trying so hard

But in the end I knew

It was a losing game

Kind of like the one my ex-husband used to play with me

Where I had to wash the glasses repeatedly

He’d inspect them but they would never get clean

It’s no wonder I was drawn to someone like that

It was the only thing I knew

Being controlled

Being told what to do

Playing my role in life

Being subordinate

That’s what I did

 

But it was hard

Because sometimes I had independent ideas and thoughts

And if they didn’t match up with others expectations of me

Then I had to just swallow them and shut up

So that’s what I did

I swallowed them inside a big bowl of Rocky Road

I swallowed them wrapped in a burrito with a case of Pepsi

That’s what I did

Because food doesn’t tell you what to do

It doesn’t tell you you’re a failure

It doesn’t try to control you

 

Only it does….

So how do you like that?

Because in the end….food OWNED me too

And there I was all over again

Chained and imprisoned

Being a servant once again to something else

 

It’s hard being perfect

And when you internalize that

When you expect yourself to be perfect

It can kill you

You’ve heard that phrase

“If you can’t do it right then don’t do it at all!”

Well, I believed that

And so I quit

I just quit

I gave up

And I sat back in my recliner and watched Netflix and ate pizza

Because I was done trying

 

No one likes being told what to do

No one likes being told they’re wrong constantly

No one likes to be bossed around.

And it wears you down.

If you’ve been put down all your life, I know how you feel.

It’s hard to be put down by someone you love because then you feel guilty for being angry at them

So now you’re angry AND feeling guilt

A combination that leads you to Golden Corral and Burger King

Even after I’ve lost 240 pounds, I have been told by many that I’m doing it all wrong

I wrote a post, for example,  about how I was going to get started with Clean Eating

And to be honest I was very hesitant to write that post

Because when you talk about how you eat with other people

You open the door to letting them tell you it’s all wrong

And people LOVE to do that

If you’ve been in the weight loss community long enough, you’ll see this pattern

Everyone has it figured out

And their way is the ONLY way

Instead of supporting each other, we criticize each other

And tell them you’re eating too many calories

You’re not eating enough calories

You need to eat more fruit

You need to eat less fruit

You need to eat clean or low carb or vegan

And now a million voices are telling you what you NEED to do

And it all leads back to Wendy’s because you can’t live up to a million people’s expectations

So why try??

 

People often ask me what I have done to successfully lose 240 pounds

Here is my #1 tip

DO IT YOUR WAY

And don’t let ANYONE tell you how to exercise or what to eat

Should you do your own research?

Should you listen to what other people say?

SURE

But then YOU decide

And not anyone else

 

I tried a million diets over the course of my life

And I could not stick to any of them perfectly

When I tried to follow a PERFECT plan

I failed

And then I quit

Because I’m not perfect

And I never will be

 

I discovered something kind of amazing

I don’t need to be perfect

As a matter of fact

I’ve lost 240 pounds by NOT being perfect

By not following any one specific diet

By taking what works for me and combining it  into MY Plan

 

When I said I was going to try clean eating

I said I was not going to change all at once

I said I was going to just start with my salad dressing!

That’s EXACTLY what I said

You see that all or nothing thinking is what screws me up

Thinking I have to get it all right in one day

But wouldn’t you know

Someone came along and told me a few days later

That because I’m still eating a certain kind of food

That I have failed on my plan to eat clean

And what am I thinking????

How can I even pretend to be eating clean when I’m using THIS product???

 

Let me quote myself when I said I was going to start learning about clean eating

This is what I said

For me, freedom was found

When I stopped letting other people tell me what to eat

And gave myself permission to do what works for me

I also said this

So I’m embarking on an adventure

I’m not going to try and change everything all at once

That would be like tackling 5 miles at 417 pounds

So I’m just going to try this

Adding new things a little bit at a time

And I think I’m going to start with my salad dressing

From that quote above

I think it’s clear

I said SMALL changes

One thing at a time

And I still got criticized for not being perfect

 

Well I’m used to that

It’s the story of my life

Always being criticized for not being perfect

And I know I’m not alone

How many of us out there were given a standard of perfection

By our parents, friends, spouses, society

Or even ourselves?

Is it any surprise we have eating disorders and suffer from depression

Is it any surprise that panic seizes me at various times of the day

The other day I was driving home from Sam’s Club

When very suddenly the thought came over me that I’m a terrible mother

That my mother died unhappy because of me

That my grandmother died because I was an imperfect granddaughter who left the hospital

And went back to the condo to take a nap because I was so exhausted

And she died when I was not there

That I was a terrible wife so my husband left me

And then panic suddenly seized me at how completely and totally IMperfect I am

And I had to pull the car over

Because that feeling overwhelmed me

 

Is it any surprise so many of us feel unworthy?

We don’t feel worthy to live in peace.

We don’t feel worthy to enjoy ourselves

To relax

We don’t even feel worthy to be loved!

Because we were told all our lives we had to be perfect

And the second we were NOT perfect

Someone pointed it out

 

One of my biggest issues in life is perfectionism

I didn’t realize it though

It’s hard to think you’re a perfectionist when you weigh 400 pounds and your house is a mess

But the truth is this

I was a perfectionist

I thought I had to be perfect or give up

Well I didn’t gain 300 pounds in one day

And I wasn’t going to lose it one day either

Baby steps

30 Seconds at a time

Small changes

That’s what works

 

We don’t have to be perfect

We don’t have to eat the way someone else tells us to

Yes I would love to wake up tomorrow and eat every meal of the day

In the most clean and perfectly organic way possible

But that’s not going to happen

Because I didn’t lose 240 pounds in a day

But 2 years later,  I’m getting there

 

I’m not the healthiest person alive

I don’t eat a perfect food plan

I don’t exercise perfectly

I’m completely and totally NOT perfect

And you know what??

I AM PERFECTLY HAPPY BEING IMPERFECT

For the first time in my life

I feel FREE to be me

 

All my life I’ve been told what to do by other people.

I love my mother and grandmother and I miss them both dearly.

But they were very controlling people.

In my family, there were roles.

My Nana was in charge of my mother

My mother was in charge of me.

And I was in charge of no one.

Not even myself

 

There were certain expectations that I had to fulfill

As a child, I was put in an exclusive all girls private school

In the 3rd grade, I was doing 5 hours of homework a night

I wrote the toughest research paper of my life in the 5th grade

Nothing ever compared to that paper

Not even when I went to graduate school to get a Masters degree

In the 5th grade, I had to write a 40 page research paper

Complete with references and footnotes

It had to have an appendix with hand drawn maps, charts and graphs

We went to the local college to do all the research

I read “Great Expectations” that same year and wrote a literary analysis

But if I didn’t get an A+  I was in trouble

In my house, getting a B was considered unacceptable

If you got a B, you were grounded

If you got an A MINUS…you had some explaining to do and could consider it a warning

 

I still remember a speech that one of the girls gave when running for class President

“My pearls are real”

That’s what she said

That was her reason for why we should vote for her

AND SHE WON

I never forgot that

It was about how you looked

What car you drove

How perfect you could present yourself to the world

 

Being perfect was exhausting

ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTING

It was almost a relief when my parents got divorced

And I was put in public school

Because everyone was wearing jeans and t-shirts

Whatever they wanted

At least you had a choice on who you wanted to be

SORT OF

Because my family still had expectations of me

All my life I was told that my goal was to work hard, get straight A’s and get into a good college

I was expected to get a perfect score on the SAT

Go to Harvard, Yale or Princeton

Become a doctor or lawyer

And not get married until AT LEAST 30

If I did get married, it was to be to someone with the “correct resume”

And even then we should have not have more than 2 children

Those were the rules

And as you can see

I broke them

 

In high school, I did not have a lot of friends because there wasn’t time

I was too busy trying to be perfect

But I tried to be friends with the “right” people

I knew who they were

The people who were track stars and Class President

I knew they were the ones I was supposed to emulate

But I wasn’t like them

I wasn’t athletic

I didn’t have the personality to get elected class President

I was a bookworm and kind of shy

But I did my best to hang out with the people in the “right” crowd

So I could be hopefully considered good enough

I felt extremely lucky that they liked me at all

When I felt I had nothing to offer

I never told them I felt that way

But it was mostly an act

 

I love my Mother but she had expectations of me

Expectations I could never fulfill

I’ve been in counseling for awhile

Trying to unravel how I gained 300 pounds

And one of the things I’ve realized

Is that I need to be honest

Even when it hurts

You see I love my mother

And I want to protect her

I want everyone to believe that my mother was perfect

Because my mother needed for people to believe that she was perfect

She needed for people to believe I was perfect

Because “everything you do is a reflection on me, Holly”

 

If I wore the wrong outfit

Or got a bad grade

Or gained weight

It was a reflection on HER

She took it personally

Because what will people think, Holly???

If they see you so overweight they’ll assume it’s my fault!

My mother took my weight issues very personally

She would often spend an hour reminding me

Of how much effort she had put into feeding me healthy food as a child

Remember when I did this?

Remember when I did that?

She was always defending herself

Even though I never blamed her

But she blamed herself

Because that’s what she did

My mother truly believed that everything I ever did

Was a direct reflection on her

That means if I did something great–she could breathe a sigh of relief

If I did something bad—it was her fault

My mother took responsibility for everything

Even the things that had nothing to do with her

That’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?

 

So Mom needed me to be perfect

Just like Nana needed my mom to be perfect

I can remember when my Mom went to visit my Nana in the nursing home

She said it really depressed her

Because all Nana could do was complain about my Mom’s hair

“Why can’t you color it? Why can’t you wear it in a different style?”, Nana would say

Everyone knows you’re my daughter and you come here looking like that?

She would even tell my mother that she tied her shoelaces wrong!!!

Why do you tie your shoelaces like that??? Everyone is going to think I was a terrible mother!

 

You see that’s what we did in our family

We walked around under this heavy requirement to be perfect

Because everything we did was a reflection on our mother

So if we screwed up…it was like we didn’t love our mother

It was like we shot an arrow through her heart

Ever heard that phrase?

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back?

My life was like that

And everything I ever did that was not perfect

Was another crack I had stepped on

An intentional effort to hurt her she believed

A shot to the heart

 

Trying to be perfect SUCKS

It’s like walking through a minefield knowing you’ll step on one

And get blown up

It drives you into a big bag of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups

Because the pressure is killing you

And you need some relief

But you’re too young to get alcohol

And no one is prescribing you drugs to take the edge off

So you reach for the only thing you can at that age

Frosted Flakes and Twinkies

Most of my life I have felt overwhelmed

Defeated

Depressed

Beaten Down

And a failure

But no more

This is MY life

Just like this is YOUR life

And what you do with it really is your choice

 

I’ll admit this is tough

Because the people in my life who were the most controlling

The most manipulative

The most demanding

Are now all gone

I turned 41 years old on the 24th of this month

And for the first time in my entire life

I get to make my own decisions

Without a committee of voices telling me what to do

 

It’s a little disconcerting and scary

But you know what?

I can do this

And so can you

We don’t have to let people tell us what to do

Because none of those people are perfect either

The person telling you what to do

Has their own issues

But it’s easier to criticize someone else

Than look in the mirror

 

There is no right or wrong way to be YOU

There is no right or wrong way to lose weight

There is no right or wrong way to eat

There is no right or wrong way to exercise

Do what works for you

And be happy knowing that you’re the one in charge of your own life

 

Not even GOD expects you to be perfect

We are saved by GRACE

You know what grace is??

Unmerited favor

UNEARNED

Nothing you do and nothing you ever will do will make God love you any more or any less

“It’s by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:15).

I’m not perfect but “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:32)

I may fail and be weak

But He said to me`My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God gives us grace

That’s what He does

So when will we start giving a little grace to ourselves?

IT’S TIME

 

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

annamarie July 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm

You are so right Holly. Funny how many of us, or at least for myself, that we put such high expectations of what we should and shouldn’t do only because of others. So many of us base our lives on the thought of what others may think of us. I do try hard to do what I feel is right but I will admit I still get back into that vicious cycle again.

And as always, I was just thinking today, plus last night of how I don’t exercise, like I should do what so and so does, they say I should….and the list goes on and on. I should do what is right for me. The hard part is trying to figure what is good for me.

Thank you for sharing this thought.

Many hugs.
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Kim July 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Such a wonderful post. In so many ways we had the same mother. I also struggle with perfectionism. I’ve gotten better but I still struggle. What makes me sad is that I see my daughter struggle with it as well, even though I never enforced those thoughts upon her I could not protect her from my mother. I often feel like I failed her. So I work each day to undo the damage. That makes me sad. I encourage failure, if you don’t fail, you never learn, you don’t get that life experience, you don’t know how to deal with life.

I haven’t see my mother in five years. I can barely have a conversation with her. She only points out what is wrong with my life (like I don’t know), but I feel obligated. She gave me life. In fact the better I do on my own the more distant she gets. I consider that my success. She can’t stand the fact that I am a capable, she always told me I would fail if I didn’t do it “her” way. How sad is that? She wants me to fail, just so she can be right.

As always I think you are wonderful, you put yourself out there. You are so brave. I could not do what you have done, be so open. Thank you.

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Darlene July 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Holly, I don’t know what to say except, amen! I’m so proud of you for “Keep on keeping on”! You continue to inspire me and help me set myself free.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your life.

Grace and hugs to you,
Darlene

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Mary July 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Wow, this post is so close to my experience it had me crying real tears. My mother also put the same kind of pressure on me and I was never good enough either. She’s also gone now but the pain is still there. Thanks for sharing. Lots of things to think about . . .

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Steelers6 July 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm

So very sad. Hearing about these women in your life in this detail is always so difficult for me. I guess it also makes me proud/impressed that you seem to work very hard to break that awful cycle. I don’t think you have mentioned struggling with treating your own children this way. Thank God.

My fave lines — ” I discovered something kind of amazing.
I don’t need to be perfect.
I am perfectly happy being imperfect.
For the first time in my life I feel free to be me.”

I am so glad you are able to be YOU. That is so wonderful. I like who “YOU” is from where I sit. 🙂
Keep being you. Sorry about the anxiety attack. satan thought he had a good in. Wrong.
Chrissy

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C July 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

It took a long time to understand that my mother didn’t register separateness. She didn’t know, from her own broken beginnings, that her children were separate, were not extensions of her, were not there to make her feel whole and important and okay about herself.

It is interesting that she feels the most “close” to her 40-year-old “child” who has never been able to get out on his own. He “needs” her, and she “needs” him – and the other (former) children who grew up and became separate, stable adults are…threats.

I used to think that there was enough water, if I poured and poured and poured down the black hole, eventually it would be full.

But it was never my responsibility to fill the hole. It is not a child’s job to make up for anything, to fix anything, to bolster the image of the parent. Not when they are a child – and not when they become an adult, either.

As to questions from readers…

if growing up in a vice grip of perfectionism isn’t prison enough,

keeping an ocean of nameless, faceless strangers

“satisfied” (…speaking of black holes)

with the truth of your story

(or your willingness to share details that don’t belong to them)

(or your ability to provide enough proof/pictures/background in defense)

will certainly create a trap that leaves the former one
looking like a vacation.

You’re right. You’re allowed to be separate. And real. And make your own decisions. And be private when you want to be.

I hope you won’t feel the need to defend that. To anyone. Not even here.

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Steph July 9, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. You just nailed so many of my feelings. It’s almost scary how similar we really were. Losing my mom was tough but I have to say it was also freeing and downright liberating. I no longer need to hide when I go on vacation for fear my mom is going to say “it must be nice to have money to burn” or lie when I have my in-laws in town or go to see them because she claimed to have “disliked” them but really was scared they would offer me a window to a normal life and she would be left alone.
It has only been in the last year or so I have really opened up to people about my life and it has helped them to understand me more and it has released me from the prison of guilt and misery I lived in for years dealing with my mother and her controlling ways.
Big Hugs to you girlfriend…thanks for the awesome post and here’s to not being perfect!!!!

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Heather C. July 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

(((big hugs))) Figuring it all out is really what life is about, isn’t it Holly? You are doing a fantastic job! 30 seconds at a time, 1 minute at a time, 1 hour at a time, 1 day at a time, etc.

I’m wondering if your mom and/or Nana placed the same burdeons on your older brother? Was it different because he was male?

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Pam July 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I have been pretty close-mouthed on my own blog about my eating and exercise too. Because there are so many experts out there who think that THEIR way is the ONLY way, and they are not hesitant about letting you know that you are doing it “WRONG” are they? You and I both know that is not true. We have to do what works for us. I am so far from perfect it’s not funny. I occasionally have a piece of pie or cake. I go for a week or two and never go for a walk at all. (Walking is my only exercise). And yet following this perfectly imperfect plan, I lost 170 pounds and have kept it off for over two years. It works for me.
Perfection is highly over-rated. My dad was a little bit like your Mom. I never remember him telling me he was proud of me. I wanted that so much. I know both my parents were embarrassed at what I had done to my body, but my mom always let me know she was proud of the other things I had done with my life and that was nice. And my dad was not nearly as demanding as your mom. Grades of B or even an occasional C were fine, and whatever I wanted to pursue in college or whoever I wanted to date/marry was okay by them. But the thing about telling me he was proud of me continues to bug me. Even now, six years after he passed away, I hope he can see me and be proud of my weight loss. We never stop wanting their acceptance and approval, do we???
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Jen July 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

You say that your mother took responsibility for a lot of things.I say that your mother never took responsibility for her own feelings,her own love and joy-she lived in a perpetual state of self abandonment.

You,Holly are a shining example of what it is to look inside,to take this responsibility,over and over,you do,when it is so painful and hard.You inspire me so much..every article..I am learning so much from you.Thank you can hardly express how I feel..but Thank you anyway..:)))

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Tess July 9, 2013 at 4:56 pm

You are a butterfly, Holly!! Spread those wings and fly your own way! <3

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Faith July 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Im glad you broke the cycle, Holly. Your kids are very fortunate to have a mom like you and while I wish that you could have experienced unconditional love from your mother and grandmother, I think the pain you went through molded you into the amazing person you are today.

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Paula July 9, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I am just like what you talked about.. if I can’t do it right, then I won’t do it. I have lost 100 pounds on three different occasions, but, if I went back to “real life” eating, I just slid down the slippery slope.

Here I am, half way back up again, and I admire you. One way we are different, however, (and I know it is because I had very supportive parents and a very supportive husband,) is that if someone doesn’t like what I am doing I don’t have a problem telling them to butt out…

Now, if I could only get the perfectionism thing to butt out of my life…

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Sheryl C. July 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Holly, I identify with so much of what you said. Thank goodness my parents were not that way, so much, but my husband was. He told me constantly that I made him look bad, that he was ashamed of me, that I was disgusting. I am on my own journey to healing. And I think I am my own worst critic. But I hear you and I support you. Congratulations on your progress. You are a great inspiration. Sheryl

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Natalie July 9, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Keep doing what works for you! Try not to listen to the insecure people who can’t handle the idea that their “perfect” plan might not be the only way.

My mum isn’t nearly as controlling as yours was but she still hurts my feelings sometimes. And she talks about how she used to hate doing the washing up with her own mother because that is when she would get the third degree. I guess we all just do the best we can as parents and as people.
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jay July 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm

excellent!

Well said! You are perfectly you!

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thinathart July 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Holly, you are so inspirational. I have a similar relationship with my mother. I was always afraid of having children, for fear I would become my mother and make my children feel the way I had felt. You have broken the cycle! Your children know and feel a great love from you!

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Julie July 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

You are wonderful, strong, amazing woman and perfect the way you are, as you were made in the image of God.

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Zach July 13, 2013 at 1:37 am

Holly,

Your approach to change is so perfect! One SMALL change at a time, and you see this in nature over and over again. A small drop of water falls and strikes a strong slab of stone. You see no perceptible change, and yet in 100 years you come back only to see a big gaping hole in the middle of that stone.

Keep on going, one small manageable change at a time! We can already see the result of a multitude of small changes over time, over 200 pounds, a closer relationship with your children, and a whole new world of friends, pain free movement, and chairs 😀
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