A few months ago, I potty trained my 2-year-old son. We decided to use the method where you completely ditch the diapers and don’t use any pull-ups, so it was a little daunting. I was completely stressed and anxious about the process, but I put on a brave face for my little one, my husband, and my friends, just like I always do.
The first day was a huge success. He had two small accidents in the morning, but after that, he was running to his little potty anytime he needed to go. When my friends asked me how he did, I told them that he did wonderfully and that I was so proud of him. It was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth. They all were extremely sweet and supportive of my little guy and completely unaware of the overwhelming stress and struggle I internalized.
However, one of my friends reached out that first night and asked, “How did potty training go for you? How are you feeling?” It felt like a lifeline, but I was so accustomed to keeping my struggles to myself, so I simply replied, “It was pretty stressful, but he did well!” My sweet, sweet friend was able to read between the lines and said, “No matter how well potty training goes for our little one, it’s SO tough on us! Tell me more about how you’re doing.”
It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed to hear. I opened up and told her that even though he was doing so well, I was so drained and so stressed. I told her that deep down, I was so afraid to fail. Instead of brushing away my feelings or dismissing them with a quick “you’ll be ok!” text, she swooped in with empathy and support. Most importantly, she said, “You’re so great at telling your kids it’s okay to make mistakes; don’t you think you should give yourself the same grace?”
Her words resonated so deeply with me. I’m not sure she even realized how quickly she cut through my emotions and hit the biggest aspect of my life I struggle with: trying to be perfect.
My whole life, I’ve struggled with perfectionist tendencies. I put so much pressure on myself to do everything well and to never make a mistake. I always knew that was an impossible goal, but that almost made me push myself even harder to try to achieve it. When you live your life like that, it can be extremely difficult to be vulnerable with people. Everyone is so accustomed to seeing you “have it all together,” and they assume you don’t need any additional help or support.
Even though you know you should talk about your struggles, you just let them believe you don’t need the support because you already think you aren’t good enough. And therein lies the biggest fear of us perfectionists: if they see our vulnerabilities, they’ll think we aren’t good enough either.
It’s so overwhelming and draining to live life that way, to never feel like you can make a mistake and to always think you could have done something better. I knew I never wanted my children to feel that way, so I’ve worked diligently to make sure they know I love them as they are, help them embrace their accidents and mistakes, and apologize to them when I don’t respond to them the way I should.
I’m not sure what made my friend dig deeper, but I’m so thankful she did. She made me realize that the best thing I could do for my children is to lead by example. It didn’t matter how much grace and forgiveness I gave them if I didn’t give any to myself.
Since that night, I’ve worked to be more patient with myself, and I’ve slowly opened up more to my close friends. Honestly, I wish I had done it sooner. I’d be lying if I said all of my perfectionist tendencies have disappeared, but I have learned to be more patient and more forgiving with myself.
So please, check on your friends who seem to have it all together. It may not seem like it at first glance, but we could really use some support, too.