When you were little and you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, what did you say? My answer varied by the day. Sometimes I’d say I wanted to be a missionary who would travel from island to island on a large sailboat. Sometimes I’d say I wanted to be a princess who had really long blonde hair. Nowadays, I just want to be a good teacher and a published writer. One day, my grandmother sat me down and said, “ay sí que bonito, but will you be a married missionary or not, a married princess or not? Because if so, you will have to learn how not to burn the rice”. And so, knowing I wanted to be a married anything, from then on I also began thinking of the kind of wife I’d be. I think for that long, I’ve been dreaming of being a cafecito wife. For equally as long, I think I have been battling perfectionism.
See, every year my family would attend these large conventions which span over three days. While these spiritual retreats were always occasions of joy and companionship, there were moments in the day when the body craved a little caffeine. During the breaks, I’d watch as the married women would bring out their thermoses and in true cafecito culture, they’d share their coffee with anyone who was nearby. I’d walk over to the section where the abuelitas would sit and I’d watch as they’d carefully bring out the plastic baggies filled with sugar packets and stirrers they’d taken from McDonald’s and the napkins that were left over from Dunkin Donuts. As the robust aromas of sweet coffee would permeate the air around us, I’d watch in awe of them. How early did they have to wake up? How did the coffee stay so hot even hours later? How did they know how much sugar to add and how many cups to bring? My mind would fill with so many hows.
Fast forward to married life:
While my levels of anxiety still do tend to spike during convention time, I’ve given up on that dream. It’s just too much to ask of myself, for too many reasons. Either I’m the miserable cafecito wife who can’t enjoy the program because I woke up too early or I’m the happy wife who’s content sharing from someone else’s carafe. See, I realized that chasing after an idealized fantasy that I created in my own mind is just one of the many examples of how I can, at times, make myself sick with perfectionism. Can you relate? Maybe being a cafecito wife wasn’t your exact dream. But, do you ever feel the pressure to be the perfect _______ (fill in the blank with your title of choice)? Maybe you dreamt you’d become a soccer mom only to find that sports aren’t your child’s forte. Or maybe you dreamt of owning that “wife” title in its own right, only to find you’re on a different path and perfectly content staying single. Does the lack of “perfection” eat at you from the inside?
Take in a deep breath, it happens to the best of us! But, being that I’ve already hurt myself enough for all of us, I’ll share my anti-perfectionism tips.
How to avoid the pitfalls of perfectionism:
- Hone in on the thing you are good at. We all have that one thing. I love my fashionista friends whom I know I can count on for advice in the wardrobe department. And they know they can call on me to edit their emails. This is how our ecosystem remains in balance. When you identify what your thing is, not only will you know your worth and be able to barter with your talents, but you’ll find your balance and begin to feel more content with who you are.
- Talk to yourself. No, not in the way that will make people question your sanity, not aloud. But talk yourself out of those destructive, shaming comments.
- Compliment more, criticize less. My best friend, see… SHE’S a cafecito wife. The moment I realized I had someone in my circle who could fill my caffeine needs, I realized I didn’t have to sweat it. This is one of the many reasons I love her. Instead of wishing I could be better, and putting myself down for not fulfilling some unattainable role I dreamt about as a child, I simply compliment her on her coffee skills and ask her to pour out some seconds.
- Find something new. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t condone complacency. Not by any means. If you’ve been feeling a little empty and couldn’t identify your thing in tip #1, then go ahead and start looking for something you can be good at. Or at least something you love. Look in the most remote and unexpected areas of your creativity, because we all have at least one thing that we do better than anything else (usually it’s that thing you’d do for free if money and self-doubt weren’t stopping you).
- Settle for good when the best can’t happen. It’s that simple. I have learned “the best” is subjective, because there will always be someone who can do things differently. And at the core of comparison is self-loathing. It’s destructive to say you have to become “the best”. So if you’re good at something, stop and realize that someone else may be wishing they were too.
To say that I can, at times, have a defeatist attitude can be an understatement. Sometimes I chuck it up to depression, other times I call it realism, but truth be told I think most times I just dream too much and too large. Sometimes my dreams and expectations are so big, they eat at me and hurt too much. That’s when I know it’s time to stop, not because dreaming is unhealthy but because fantasizing can be. The truth is, no I may not ever be a cafecito wife (even though I admit, I may still try) but I am learning to slay this perfectionism thing.
Do you ever feel that being overly critical of yourself can be hurting the way you perceive the adult you’ve become?