Self-Care 101: When Things Aren’t Perfect

If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice it’s knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.–Matthew Fox

If you are a regular reader, you know that I publish twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, often even if I’m out of town.  My regular writing is one of my favorite weekly jobs.  It is a way that I can play around with expressing myself and also offer a resource to anyone who can access my site online, regardless of their ability to get to therapy.  I take my schedule seriously, and I see regular publishing as a promise that I make to my readers and to myself.

I love how this broken sunflower still radiates beauty and light.
I love how this broken sunflower still radiates beauty and light.

And if you are a regular reader, you know that I haven’t put out a Friday post in the past two weeks, and I’ve managed two Wednesday posts out of the last four weeks.  My writing schedule has been seriously thrown for a loop by illness, first for my family and then for me.  And I noticed that I was starting to get pretty upset with myself about it.  I have made a commitment to this blog, and to providing good resources to my readers.  And I felt like I was letting myself and others down when I didn’t meet my writing deadlines.

In the past, I might have just backed away from the blog entirely.  In fact, when I was feeling the most worn out by illness, I did have a narrative that went kind of like this: “Maybe I should only publish once a week.  I’m not sure I have the time to do that second post. This is just a lot of pressure and a lot of time.”  I might have continued to tell myself that it was all too much.  I might have fallen into the trap of deciding that if I can’t do it perfectly, exactly the way I want, then it’s not worth doing.

That might sound familiar to you.

Maybe you have also had that self-talk story.  The one that says that if you can’t get to the gym four times a week, then it isn’t even worth exercising.  Or if you can’t write every week, then you don’t have stories worth sharing.  Or if you can’t be in a relationship without conflict, maybe you should be alone.  Or if you can’t connect in the same ways that you did before you got sick, maybe you shouldn’t connect at all.

I have written about this a bit in the past.  I think that many of us expect that we have to get our self-care “just right.”  Or we have to get our relationships “just right.” Or we have to get our work “just right.”  You get the picture.  And if we aren’t doing it “just right,” the temptation is to just chuck the whole thing.

But the truth is, life throws us curveballs.  Illness, car accidents, broken relationships, losses, you name it.  Each of us is going to face some setbacks, some times when we just can’t make it to “just right.”  But at the end of the day, you still deserve to do the best self-care you can.  Your voice still matters.

I’m back in the saddle–you’ll be seeing posts on a regular basis again.  It feels wonderful to be writing again–I’d miss it if I stopped. And my invitation to you is to re-engage with something that you’ve let slip.  From my own imperfect place, I hope that you let yourself wave goodbye to “just right” and instead try “just go for it!”

I’d love to hear your stories of how you re-connected when things were less than perfect.


Image Credit: “Eric’s Imperfect Sunflower” photo by Eric Vanderpool via Flickr under Creative Commons License

14 thoughts on “Self-Care 101: When Things Aren’t Perfect

  1. One of the thing cancer taught me was the necessity of giving up perfectionism. Nothing can scrape the joy from life faster. It’s one thing to set and accomplish goals. But they need to be reasonable.

    For years I didn’t realize how unrealistic my own expectations were. Not surprisingly, it was difficult to relax. There was always something else “to do.”

    I keep my “MUST DO” list reasonable now – or try to, anyway.

    A friend gave this advice to a fellow cyclist who wondered about how to get back into biking again. He told her to take a 15-minute ride three times a week, knowing full well that there’s really no such thing as a 15-minute bike ride. But by making something realistic, it’s much more likely to be accomplished.

    Just a few thoughts….thank you.


    1. Jody,

      So lovely to hear your voice! I often talk to folks about that “one smallest thing” that they can’t talk themselves out of: just putting on your sneakers, or just walking to the end of the driveway, etc. I love the idea of the 15 minute ride. 🙂 And those small easy actions often open the door for more. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Perfectionism is one of my biggest gremlins. For the longest time, I wouldn’t have said that was true since when I was struggling I just collapsed and didn’t do anything. I understand now those are two sides of the same coin.

    I also have a tendency to get discouraged by self care when it “doesn’t work.” It’s the same good girl mentality; I’m doing all this self care stuff I was told: writing, exercising, resting. I should feel better already. Why don’t I feel better already? I’m being so good, I should feel better!

    I’ve had to rewrite the script. I have to remind myself constantly that I’m doing these things because I like them, and that I deserve that, not because I have to meet some external goal or fix some problem. That I may not immediately feel better for doing them but that I AM better for doing them. It’s a hard thing to believe, but I’m working on it.

    1. Rewriting the script is such a huge step. Our stories about how we cope have a big effect on our coping. Thank you for sharing–I am very familiar with that “good girl mentality”–it can really get in the way, right? I appreciate your willingness to let your struggles help others find the way through their own difficulties.


  3. I love this post and I love how you walk your walk. Like most busy moms I find it a constant struggle to prioritize my own self-care and professional needs but I keep at it. It’s not perfect but still very important and allows me to be there for others. Thank you!

    1. Allison,

      I think that our commitment to keep trying, and to keep being less than perfect, is one of the ways that we can really demonstrate healthy coping. It is a challenge to juggle mom work and professional work, but I have good role models!


  4. Thanks for the great reminder. It is so easy to quit when a plan isn’t going well. But I like your advice about just picking up and doing what you can.
    I have some of the same challenges with my blogging. I set goals and when I fail I think ‘what’s the point?’ (a typical depression response).
    Because fatigue is one of the biggest triggers for my depression, I simply can’t ‘do it all’ or I will get sick.
    And so my goals have to be smaller and my expectations have to be flexible and I need to forgive myself continually.
    I get especially down on myself if I read some of those ‘how to blog’ blogs and I get all excited about trying all sorts of neat tricks to improve my blog, and then I say ‘who am I kidding, I can’t do all of that stuff?’
    So, one of the things on my list of ‘doing’ is ‘nothing’. That’s right. If I have been particularly busy for a couple of days my husband (my caregiver) says ‘and so, what are you doing to do for the rest of the day?’
    ‘Nothing’ I answer. My ‘nothing’ goal is just as important as my other goals.
    Does that make any sense to anyone but me?

    1. A “nothing” goal is a good idea! I often try to have blocks of time on the weekend where I deliberately choose not to schedule or plan anything, just doing what I feel like doing in the moment (within reason – I still have a child to supervise). It’s nice to table those goals for a while.

    2. Wendy,

      The “nothing” goal makes perfect sense to me! In fact, it seems like a wise response to the pressure that we can put on ourselves to do it all. That kind of pressure, particularly when you are dealing with physical or mental health challenges, is really in opposition to our goal of good self-care. Thanks for sharing your strategies. Maybe we all need a “nothing” goal sometimes.


  5. Perfection has a positive and negative side. Sometimes it creates an extra push of energy that moves us to another level. At other times, it makes us feel like failures. The challenge is knowing what it is we need to embrace in this place with this issue.

    Being open to failure can be powerful. Reminding ourselves of those who used failure to move themselves forward or to create something new can be very freeing.

    And, in the mix, learning to listen to our body and our heart of what it is we need to nourish us – perfection or failure. Life is in the living. Life is in the loving. Life is in the experiencing.

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

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