Perfectionism is an enemy I have to watch continually. Just this morning I received this testimonial:

Dear FlyLady,

After reading your latest testimonial on perfectionism, I had to write in and tell you one of my new favorite sayings.

I had been whining (sorry) to my counselor about how I was getting so discouraged in my tennis lessons. I'm not an athletic person, but my husband and I started taking lessons for fun. We did have fun, but I was not improving as quickly as I would have liked. He asked me why I had to be great at everything, why couldn't I just be average? Wasn't the point of my taking lessons to do something fun with my husband? Did I have to be great at tennis to have fun?

Well, that was an interesting thought. He laughed at me and said, "Dare to be average!"

Now, whenever I start criticizing myself for not being good at something, I remind myself to dare to be average.

Flybaby D.

Why do we put ourselves through this? I have done this from cleaning my tub to writing a book. We push ourselves to the point that the little task at hand is not fun anymore. Why does everything have to be blown out of proportion? Just now I had to stop myself from obsessing over spilled milk.

We had a milk carton that had a little pinhole, and it was seeping milk on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator. I noticed this when I opened the cheese drawer to get a snack and there was this white stuff all over the single serving cheese portions. So the "do it now" principle kicked in and I grabbed a rag to wipe up the milk. I finally wiped all the milk up and washed down the shelf and the drawer with a hot soapy rag, but I wanted to clean out everything in the refrigerator. Grab a garbage bag and just toss it all out. I was so proud of myself for just cleaning up the milk and not piling on to my already busy day. I had this essay that I was working on and I was trying to stay focused.

It had been one of those timer days: work 15 minutes, take 15 minutes doing something else. (I am always amazed at how much I accomplish when my timer dictates.)

A friend saw this Russian proverb the other day and shared it with me: "Perfectionism is the enemy of good enough."

Perfectionism steals our life. It keeps us from being able to have fun. It pushes us to the point of exhaustion and alienates us from our family. I have fought this demon for more than 15 years. I realized my perfectionist tendencies when I was a stained-glass artist. I could not just take my time to do a piece; it had to be the best! I would spend every waking hour designing, cutting glass and putting together my glass jigsaw puzzles. I would forget to eat or sleep. I would obsess till the project was completed.

As a result, I would collapse in exhaustion and end up with a terrible respiratory infection. I would work for three weeks and then end up sick in bed for three weeks. I had to look hard at these traits. I decided that I had to make a mistake in each piece that I created. That one mistake became my celebration that I didn't have to be perfect.

A few years ago Robert and I started bowling on date night. He had asked me if I wanted to go, and I told him that I was not a good bowler. He tried to explain to me that it was just about getting out of the house to do something to rustle our stumps (southern for move your fanny). Finally one year for Valentine's Day, I gave him a gift certificate for bowling and we have been going every week since then.

I am still not a great bowler, but there is no one at the bowling alley having more fun than I am. The fun part is being there and doing something with my sweet darling.

I love the Russian proverb. I may have to let go of my perfectionism and put it on a mug so that I can see it on those mornings when the enemy is keeping me stuck.

For the most part most, everything is just spilled milk. All we really need to do is clean it up and get on with living and having fun and not get bogged down by the enemy.

I have three rules: Don't sweat the small stuff, because what doesn't matter just doesn't matter. Laugh every day, even if it is at yourself! Love like there is no tomorrow!


Marla Cilley, aka FlyLady, is the author of Sink Reflections (Bantam Books Trade Paperback). For more help, please go to her Web site: www.FlyLady.net. © 2005