Finding the Middle Ground
I grew up in what I would call a “perfect” household.
Stable home, good family, solid upbringing… It was also a world that emphasized how much appearances matter. We were the kids who always wore tights with our neatly pressed dresses. We dusted every Saturday morning and kept very tidy bedrooms. Everything had a place and everything was always in its place. We were taught—both directly and indirectly—that we should always smile, always have our nails cleaned and our shoes shined, and always always always be prim and proper.
It felt like an awful lot to live up to.
Some of it is simply Southern tradition—it’s part of the cultural DNA of the region I was born and raised in. And some of it was simply the desire to present a very put-together and perfect version of ourselves for others to see.
At about 20 years old, I decided I’d had enough. It was more than I could ever live up to, so why was I trying so hard? I was done.
So I started chasing imperfection.
And the pendulum swung the other way.
I went from making my bed every single morning, to not making my bed at all. In fact, I remember high-school me wanting to invent a bed that wouldn’t need to be made. Some way to just roll out of it and the bedding would just automatically look great all on its own. Ha! Well, since I never did come up with a way to make that happen, I just gave up on making my bed altogether.
The unmade bed is maybe a trivial example of the pendulum swing, but I see it so many aspects of my life. I wanted so badly to get away from the “appearances matter” mindset that I started just putting my hair in a ponytail and not wearing makeup and not caring at all what people think.
To this day, if you were to walk into my house, you’d have to step over some kids’ shoes. You’d probably see some dishes in the sink. There would likely be dust bunnies taking up residence in a corner or two. I’d welcome you in (in yoga pants), tell you to pardon the mess, and offer you a glass of wine.
And there are elements of that which are really good. There’s something freeing and mature and wise about getting off the treadmill of striving for others’ approval or trying to have it all together all the time.
But I also see some ways that the pendulum swung too far.
When it gets all the way to “Well, who cares!”, it’s gone too far.
(I recently shared with y’all how not caring is one of the red flags that’s something is amiss in my life. So be sure to read that other post if you haven’t already.)
There’s gotta be a happy medium between perfection and an unhealthy (dare I say rebellious) I-don’t-care-a-lick attitude. Right?
Where’s the middle ground where I put care into my personal appearance to communicate care to others (AKA, I consider them important enough to me to warrant putting on jeans instead of yoga pants and slapping some mascara on)? I find that it’s a blurry line there, between caring too much about what people think of me and not caring at all about what people think of me. (I hope that makes sense outside my head. Especially since I haven’t landed at a final and clear thought on this…)
I don’t want to paralyzed by perfection, but embrace my imperfection in a healthy and balanced way. I think there’s a selfishness in perfection. It says: I’m consumed with what others are thinking of me. Chasing imperfection says: I don’t care what anyone thinks about me. Maybe the middle ground is simply: I care enough to let people know I’m putting effort in and doing the best I can.
But also not half-heartedness. Not inauthentic or careless or haphazard.
Simply being intentional to show up and communicate that the people around me matter.
Maybe the middle ground is simply doing the best I can.
What do you think is the middle ground between perfection and carelessness? In what ways do you see a pendulum swing in your own life?
I think everyone cares at least a little about what others think. I think it becomes a problem when it consumes you to the point that your are making decisions based on what other people think instead of what may be good for you. You also have to take into consideration who the people are that you worry about what they think. Are they important to you? Do they have your best interests in mind? It’s not easy to do, but you have to learn to sometimes ignore the negativity or gossip so it does not consume you.
For me, it’s not about what other people think of me at all. That’s none of my business. I have to live up (or down) to my own expectations. That means I take a shower before leaving the house. I wear a bra. I brush my teeth. If I don’t do these things, I feel icky, but it’s my icky, based on my standards.
I guess I’m in a “oh, who cares!” place which I feel IS healthy for me. My opinion about myself is the one which really matters.