Today’s article is brought to you by one of our Uncommon Chicks, Dianna Lee. Enjoy!
The Illusion of Perfection
My first wedding was held Saturday, June 15th, 2002; when leafing through photos from that day, everything looked perfect, though I swear my smile seems a little strained. I’m sure my tired eyes are only obvious to me, I can’t help but to remember the anxiety and stress of the days leading up to the big event as I had felt like the weight of hundreds of people’s expectations (and my own) were being carried on my frail shoulders.
So when I got married to my second husband on April 16th, 2011, I made sure to circumvent the mistakes of my misguided youth. The results? I was able to laugh, dance and get swept up in the beauty of the moment instead of sweating all those tiny details, a lesson that I continue to apply to many of the aspects of my life today.
When I was in my early-twenties, I graduated from college with a stellar GPA, the title of President from the French club, a healthy amount of volunteer work under my belt and a job at my dream company awaiting me.
Perfectionism had been the fuel that fired my engine.
So when my college sweetheart proposed two months after graduation, I jumped headfirst into the planning process and, like everything else, was willing to accept nothing less than perfection. When I recall these times, I feel compelled to time travel back to give my younger self a hug and tell her to “lighten up.”
Instead of rolling with the punches, I tried to micromanage everything and could not accept when things did not go as I envisioned. The more wedding magazines I flipped through, the more I felt the pressure to compete with the glossy, airbrushed photographs that sprawled in front of me, which made me frenzied and frazzled.
On the day of my wedding, I was focusing on what had “gone wrong” in my perfectionist’s eye instead of truly feeling the romance. Conversely, when I got married in my thirties, I kept my focus on the love my fiancé and I shared and demonstrated flexibility when coordinating the details.
In order to be happy, I had to let go of the illusion of perfection.
And isn’t this true for all of us, whether it is our wedding day or not? How often do we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough because we don’t resemble the retouched models in advertisements? Or that our smartphone is suddenly insufficient because a newer addition has just hit the shelves?
And yes, ladies and gentleman, you can trust this former believer when I declare that perfection is impossible.
The Lessons Dianna Learned
Often going hand-in-hand with perfectionism is the inability to accept our own limitations, which causes frustration and, occasionally, disaster. During college and my early career, I would often sacrifice sleep to accomplish big projects and, as a result, I would become physically ill. My unwillingness to recognize that there are only so many hours in the day made life much harder, my nuptials being no exception.
A fan of the “do-it-yourself” wedding concept, I watched a quick online video about how to put together a bridal bouquet and thought to myself “that looks easy! I can knock out a few of those bad boys in three hours tops!”
The day before my wedding though, I spent hours and hours snipping, tying and growing increasingly frustrated as my creations looked nothing like what I had envisioned. While I had saved money by buying the flowers wholesale and not from a florist, I did so at the cost of my sanity and my friendships as I held my two best friends hostage from morning until night.
Learning from my first trip down the aisle, for my second wedding I personally made items that were not overly ambitious or time-sensitive. While the floral centerpieces were required to be made soon before the wedding in order to stay fresh, elements like wedding favors as well as printed items like the invitations and menus were made months in advance, allowing me to take my time. Additionally, as my first attempt at arts and crafts verified, I am not a professional, so I chose to personally make the components that the perfectionist side of me wouldn’t get distraught over. The takeaway I had from the two experiences is that, by being humbly honest about my capabilities, I can save myself grief.
In my early-twenties, I am ashamed to say that I had the mentality that my wedding would be the social affair of the year for everyone I knew. I felt that my friends should feel honored to stand next to me in bridesmaid dresses and should be grateful to have been selected for such a prestigious privilege. As my girlfriends and I like to laugh about now, I was a bit of a tyrannical witch for the few months leading up to the actual ceremony. I expected them to drop everything in their lives to assist me with the planning process, and was moody when rebuffed; I took it personally when a few of them couldn’t attend the shower and the bachelorette party; and when my older sister asked me if she could wear a bridesmaid dress that was altered to accommodate her larger frame, I gave her quite the stink eye.
After the wedding, the dust died down and I had to face the music and the uphill battle of apologizing to my favorite ladies. Having been a bridesmaid twice since my wedding, I entered my second wedding with the attitude that it was I who was privileged enough to have my beautiful, caring friends stand by my side on my big day. I went out of my way to be more accommodating to their schedules, budgets and body types, as well as to show my gratitude. As a result, my wedding not only brought my husband and I closer together, but was a bonding experience for my bridesmaids and myself as well. I learned that thinking only of myself will get me nowhere; thinking of others will bring true happiness.
Big days, like our weddings, have a way of bringing our true character to light. They also present us with opportunities for self-discovery and lessons we can learn from. I don’t regret a single blunder I made during my first time down the aisle, as I needed to experience things the wrong way so I could ascertain how to do them the right way. Today, I have learned to embrace my mistakes as they help me to grow to be the best woman that I can be.
Over to you…
How has trying to be perfect helped or hurt you? What lessons have you learned from being a perfectionist?