I spent several years unraveling my motherhood knot—the jumble of questions, fears, desires, and beliefs I had about having a child. As you can imagine (or perhaps relate) this tangle had many layers but one in particular, while perhaps obvious, surprised me. Perfectionism. Or, as I’ve come to think of it: Perfection Coins.
Perfection Coins are what we amass the more in control and ‘perfect’ our life is. If our life somehow reflects a greater percentage of our personal preferences, with minimal compromise or vulnerability we are very rich in Perfection Coins. When we want something that requires risk, or change, or giving up control we have to trade in our Perfection Coins.
And why would anyone trade them in?
Because the payoff is often living a life in greater alignment with yourself, deeper intimacy with other people, more meaning, and more happiness. When we become a mother we have to trade in a lot of our Perfection Coins. For some women the cost is too high. For some women, the giving up of control, of order, of predictability is not worth it. And yet most mothers would tell you that what they trade in Perfection Coins (sleep, a clean house, clothes without stains, etc.) is paid back ten times over in love, connection, and intangible magic. And as I began to think about this in the context of motherhood it struck me that the same is true about the choice I made to give up my eating disorder and become a body-respecting intuitive eater. I traded in compliments from strangers who idealized by anorexic body, an ego high from eating ‘clean’, and so much more.
Tons of Perfection Coins given away and in return I’ve received freedom, sanity, well being, joy, ease and pleasure.
Had I known ahead of time things would work out, I wouldn’t have hesitated. But we can’t know. When we make the trade it’s done on faith. It’s always a bet taken because something else becomes more valuable than Perfection Coins. With each run of Feast my students arrive at this crossroads too. Which would they rather have: Thighs that don’t touch or sanity around food? The (false) sense of order delivered by a diet or feeling good in their own skin? The approval of judgemental family members or freedom to take up space? Being numb to life’s pain (but also numb to joy) or feeling joy, and all the other emotions too?
We can’t have both.
We can’t hold life white-knuckled, gripping to the safety of what we know and also receive the good stuff.
There are simply times when we have to make a choice, or rather, we get to make a choice. Times when we choose to stay in or leave the relationship. Times when we choose to quit or take the job. Times when we choose to tell the truth or bite our tongue.
Increasingly I choose to trade in my Perfection Coins for the messy, unknown, not-in-my-control, but deeply connected, vibrant life that calls to me. And truthfully, at the end of life I imagine that Perfection Coins aren’t worth very much.