Is Your Search for Perfection Stopping You from Being Happy After 60?
I recently wrote an article on how to be fearless in your 60s. To start, I listed some of the most common fears of women over 60. Then, I asked the women in our community to join the discussion. I was completely overwhelmed by everyone’s responses.
Some women in our community shared their fears about not having enough time left. Others said that they worried most about not having enough money. A surprising number of women said that they felt that they were not beautiful enough – yet another reason I hate the anti-aging industry! Perhaps most heartbreaking were the comments from women who said that they didn’t feel good enough.
Throughout the comments, the words “not enough” appeared again and again. These words break my heart every time I hear them, because they go deep below the surface. It’s one thing to worry about money. It’s another thing to question our basic worth as a person.
Each and every one of us wants to be considered worthy and precious.
Unfortunately, we live in a society built on unfair expectations. Every day, we are bombarded by images of people who have more than us or who can do more than us.
On Facebook, we only see the best snippets from our friends’ lives, making us feel inadequate. Is it any wonder that we feel like we are “not enough?”
Is the Quest for Perfection is Killing Us?
Author Brené Brown reminds us that, “The quest for perfection is exhausting and unrelenting, but as hard as we try, we can’t turn off the tapes that fill our heads with messages like ‘Never good enough’ and ‘What will people think?’”
If you haven’t seen her Ted Talk on vulnerability, I highly encourage you to check it out. It has been viewed over 20-million times and is a great example of her work. In addition, her book, “Gifts of Imperfection” is a guide on changing one’s mindset from ““I’m not perfect” to “I’m good enough!”
Is Building Self-Esteem Even More Challenging for Older Women?
As older women, we struggle with our fear of being “not enough” in a unique way. Personally, I have struggled with the “good girl” syndrome for years. Like many women, I believed that, in order to be appreciated, I needed to be perfect in everything that I did. I had to be the perfect wife, mother, friend and worker.
This kind of thinking makes criticism hard to take. It feeds an endless cycle of insecurity. So, why is this such a big deal for older women of our generation?
For starters, many of us were raised in a culture where conformity was rewarded and perfection praised. We defined ourselves in terms of what we meant to others and worried obsessively about what they thought of us. Many of us learned to set goals that reassured us of our worthiness. We said things like, “I will be good enough when I _____________.” We were seldom happy with ourselves in the moment.
Along the way, we were assaulted by beauty messages that told us that we weren’t good enough. Consumer goods companies shows us “perfect” mothers and asked us to keep up by purchasing the latest gadget.
This has changed somewhat in recent generations. One could even argue that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, but, that’s another story.
So, all that said, we are where we are. Where do we go from here? How can we start to move beyond “perfection” so that we can finally be happy with who we are? It all starts with living in the present.
True Perfection Only Exists in the Present
Fear can only harm us when we allow our thoughts to slip into the past or climb into the future. Our concerns about not being good enough are usually rooted in our regrets or predictions.
If we learn to stay in the moment, our fears begin to vanish. You are where you are. You are perfect in this moment. You are good enough.
On a slightly more practical level, gentle yoga or meditation can do wonders for bringing your mind into the moment. If you haven’t tried yoga, I encourage you to check out our own video series. You may also want to watch my interview with Susan Piver, where we talk about the power of meditation to help you get more from life after 60.
Don’t Stay in Your Own Mind – Be Compassionate
Mindfulness and meditation is a great place to start, but, it is not the whole story. Another way to stop seeking perfection in ourselves is to help others.
When you are kind to someone else, you are pulled into the moment. Your complex worries become simple smiles. Your repetitive thoughts become conversations.
Every act of kindness reminds us that we are good enough. You don’t need to think about anyone else in the world. They aren’t there, in the moment. Be kind. You are good enough.
Become a Part of a Community
Feeling like you are part of a community is a great way to accelerate your journey from “I’m not perfect” to “I’m good enough.” You don’t expect the people around you to be perfect. Why should you expect any different of yourself? After all, we are all flawed human beings. When you open your life to others, perfection becomes a relative and unnecessary goal.
Being alone only makes the voice in your head louder. Get out there. Meet people. Learn to appreciate the good in others – and in yourself. You are good enough.
Do you believe that you are “good enough?” Or, do you still struggle with the pursuit of perfection? Why do you think this is? Please join the conversation.