The Insecurity of Imperfection–Do you do this too?



I had somewhat of an “out of body” experience last week. On Friday, my husband came home from work and complimented me on how clean the house was. Sweet, right? But then something really strange happened. I knew it was true, that the house looked great. And my brain also knew that I had worked really hard to make it that way. But for some reason, my “yeah, but” syndrome took over. My quick response was, “Thanks, but I didn’t get the laundry finished. I’ll have to fold it tonight.”

My poor husband’s smile froze on his face before I realized what I’d just done. My “yeah, but” had been a compliment-killing reply, something that grabbed hold of a sweet, well-meaning comment and tossed it into the trash. 

Does this sound familiar? When someone gives you a compliment, do you believe it and thank them for their kindness? Or do you instantly think about the ways that compliment isn’t true? I can think of a dozen examples–like when someone said I looked nice that day, and I instantly thought about the giant zit on my cheek. Or the time when my son’s teacher said I was a good mother because I read with him so often. Was it a hint, a sly way to slip in a recommendation? Or had she truly, honestly meant to give a compliment?

For some reason, this has been on my mind a lot today. Perhaps my “yeah, but” syndrome isn’t humility, but insecurity. Maybe it’s the result of being an oldest child, a people-pleaser, or just the fact that I’m a mom and worry about everything.

I remember comparing myself to the top students of my high school classes, wondering how to get better scores next time–forgetting that I was in the top 5% of the class already. There were times when I started things–track, soccer, music lessons, art, and writing–but quit when the road ahead started to look too rocky and difficult. If my performance wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t worth trying. Has some of that insecurity leaked into my adulthood?

Or is the “yeah, but” syndrome something more, a habit so ingrained in my personality that it will take a lifetime to pick apart?

It’s taken motherhood to teach me that, no matter how well-put-together my children look, or how clean their rooms are, there will always be imperfections. If I’m going to overcome the insecurity of imperfection, maybe now is the time–before it leaks into my children’s lives as well. When my friends go out of their way to pay me a compliment, perhaps my response shouldn’t really be about me at all. Perhaps it should really be about them–about making them feel that their kindness was received graciously.

This Friday, I will probably deep clean the house again. And, if I know my husband, he will try to give another compliment. I pledge to believe that, yes, the house does look fantastic. I pledge to forget about the things I couldn’t quite get to, and I also pledge to thank him for his sweet words. 

And if I’m really brave, maybe I’ll save the laundry for another day.

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One response »

  1. I can really relate to this. I never feel like it was enough. But, setting goals for the day that are smaller helps. Like, if I can just get laundry completely done and put away today, that’s all I need to accomplish. Then, anything else is a bonus!

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