My Challenge: Dana

I want to introduce you to one of the cool kids on the block, Dana from Kiss My List. Dana, a beautiful writer, an avid reader and mom to two pretty terrific kids. Oh and she is unafraid to take on DIY projects. Plus she is freaking gorgeous. This is why I was surprised when she sent me her Challenge.

I am a perfectionist. I have been since I was a little girl. In fifth grade, I stood at the chalkboard struggling with a long division problem. I couldn’t get it, and the unwelcome tears slid down my face as I stared at the numbers. Miss Warnken put her arm around me and steered me back to my seat. I learned long division eventually, but it took time, and I had no patience for that. On my final report card, Miss Warnken wrote, “Remember to go easy on yourself if you have an occasional set-back. Just look at yourself and say ‘I won’t look back. I’ll just go forward.’ Then go for it!”


Wise words, but words that I still have difficulty following. I am rarely easy on myself, and set-backs upset the order and balance that make me secure and comfortable. 

Dana & Ms. Warnken

I don’t expect perfectionism from others. My daughter used to have a kids’ CD with a song called “Perfectly Imperfect,” and I would sing the lyrics along with the catchy tune. It was a wonderful message for children; no one is perfect, and your imperfection is what makes you unique and wonderful. I embrace the message for my own children, and for my friends and family. I tend to reject it for myself, as if I somehow must be held to a higher standard than everyone else in my life.

I know that’s ridiculous; I know that I am the only person who demands that I strive for perfection. Perfection means having no flaws, and having no flaws is an impossibility for a human being. Yet I keep trying, and I keep driving myself crazy as I inevitably fail to achieve it.

I have made progress since fifth grade, however. Over the years, I have found myself saying, “It’s good enough,” more often. I am able to realize when “good enough” is the best I can do, and that’s okay. Cooking. Loving. DIY-ing. Friending. Living.

But there are still many times when I continue to be challenged. The perfectionist may have mellowed over time, but she still has the power to control the reins. The writing isn’t good enough. The parenting isn’t good enough. The project isn’t good enough. 

The perfectionist is my insecurity personified. She is that ten year old girl standing at the chalkboard, feeling humiliated because she can’t do the math that has always come easy to her. What if she isn’t good enough? 

That girl needed to be patient with herself, and give herself a break. I still need to do that, and that is my challenge. I demand of myself what I do not expect from others, and my perfectionism simply adds stress to my life. It is my defense against not being good enough, but it only serves to feed the insecurity. Setting an unattainable goal for myself is futile, and I’m working at changing my mindset and loosening the hold it has over me. 

 
Maybe one day I’ll get there; practice makes perfect.
 
****************
When Dana sent me her challenge, I replied: I am that kid at the chalkboard. Even at 40+ years old I still struggle with that feeling of not being good enough. Like Dana, I am working on that skill. I also had a Scott Baio t-shirt and a Shaun Cassidy pink sateen jacket. Thankfully for me I was born before the IPhone and there is no evidence.

Dana is the creator and writer behind the blog Kiss my List. She traded a lucrative career in school counseling to stay at home and raise two brilliant and well adjusted children. Now that they are a teens, she has time to write in between the sports practices and homework drama.Her tag line, “Wake up, Be Amazing, Repeat Daily,” sums up her outlook on life. Whether she achieves that amazing-ness on a daily basis is another matter entirely. To me, she achieves it every time she writes, but I’m biased! 

What's your challenge is a series that was inspired by a program I created at Abby's school. I am amazed at how honest and hopeful the challenges have been. Thank you to all who have contributed. They are written by real people from all over the world. You do not have to be a writer to have a Challenge, just a desire to share for others. To submit your challenge, please e-mail me at firebailey@gmail.com
 
 

46 thoughts on “My Challenge: Dana

  1. Bev

    This is something I can definitely identify with! I have been a perfectionist for the longest time, but sometimes (as I have learned also) you just have to let it go and be good enough.

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    1. Dana

      You and I have chatted about the perfectionism bug we both have, Bev. But I think we are both doing a pretty good job at learning to let it go. As a mom, you have to if you want to keep your sanity!

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  2. Kimberly M (@momgosomething)

    I struggle…oh sweet baby Jesus I struggle with this constantly and I cannot let it go. No matter how hard I try to tell myself that I only need to be just good enough, there is that little voice that tells me “but it is good enough, but why not make it just a bit better…and better than that….well you’re this far…keep going…well now it’s just stupid.” it is torturous. I guess it’s part and parcel with my illness too.
    I was always told by some ass shat in my life this quote “Good better best, never let it rest until your good is your better and your better is your best.”
    I get you Dana. I’ll keep trying and you keep trying xo

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  3. Autism Mom

    What is it with the need for perfectionism? I see it in me, I see it in my son. It is worrisome sometimes.

    P.S. I was more of a Parker Stevenson gal myself! 😉

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  4. K

    Dana,
    Thank you for this. I needed this today. Do you ever feel like sometimes you come across the posts that you need *exactly* at the time that you need them? I just got a chemistry exam back that I had spent hours preparing for, and I didn’t do nearly as well as I would have liked. This whole day, I’ve been beating myself up over it, and then I came and read this, and it just feels good to know that I’m not alone.

    You are enough. I am enough. We are enough. xo Thanks again for sharing your words, and Kerri, I love this series!

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      1. Dana

        I’m so glad this was what you needed today. I’m sorry about your chem exam; it sucks to not do as well as you expected. But yes, you are enough!

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    1. firebailey Post author

      I like the idea of rechannelling our thoughts of perfection! I will use that this weekend when I tackle my first 5 mile race. My first without obstacles, it should be easier, right?

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  5. Lisa @ The Golden Spoons

    I am definitely a perfectionist with some things, but not with others. And, over the years, I have learned to loosen up quite a bit!

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  6. Dana

    Kerri. Thank you for such a lovely intro (and closing), and for sharing your space with me. This is such an important series, and I’m honored to be a part of it. You’re the best!! And you are perfectly imperfect, just like me.

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  7. Brittnei

    I loved reading this, Dana! I do this to myself as well. I often get frustrated and just say oh well, but deep down inside I still sometimes will think about how I feel like I shoulda coulda woulda. My fault is also unfortunately that sometimes I do put that on others as well….what I think they should be doing to do the right thing by me or in general. Ridiculous I know. I come from a very judgmental upbringing. I have had to face this unfortunately about myself and as I grow and learn, the chains have been falling off and when I go there, I check myself! It might be an ongoing thing for myself and for how I see others sometimes, but I’m facing the challenge head on!

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    1. firebailey Post author

      I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you are right. We tend to then judge others by our own version of perfection. Then we feel let down when they do not measure up. Thanks for the reminder that not only do we need to give ourselves slack, but others as well.

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  8. Kristine @ MumRevised

    Unfortunately, I passed on the perfectionist gene to our daughter. I see her struggles as mine. My first anxiety attack happened in grade 5 when the teacher told us we were being graded on how neat our binders were. I had to be at home from school for three days secretly working on that binder. It sucks to feel you have so much at stake in little things. I am still not good at letting go and will forever struggle. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. firebailey Post author

      A friend of mine has that same thought. That she has passed the anxiety/perfection gene down to her daughter. While I wish mine would have a tad of that wanting to be perfect, I would never wish for her to have the anxiety that comes along with it.

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    2. Dana

      That pressure does suck, especially when we know that we are putting it on ourselves. I know that I just ignored any adult who told me to relax – I just couldn’t do it! I see that in my daughter sometimes too.

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  9. Nina Badzin

    I totally get this, Dana, about the high standards and how it can also be debilitating rather than motivating or productive.

    This site and series is an inspiration by the way. Thanks for introducing me!

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    1. Dana

      I’m so glad you visited, Nina. I love Kerri, and her My Challenge series is amazing. And did I mention that her older daughter Abby is coming to live with me when she is a teenager? 😉

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  10. Kelly L Mckenzie

    Dana your post got me thinking. When I was little and not so little I wasn’t a perfectionist. At all. Now though I tend to fixate on “getting it right.” Especially when it comes to writing and hosting dinner parties! Spend far too long fussing and tweaking both I suspect.
    This realization makes me wonder what role birth order plays into perfectionism. May seem like a bit of a stretch but bear with me.
    Both my mom and brother are first borns and hard core perfectionists. I’m the youngest of three and very much a late bloomer in the perfection department. Hmmm. Of course if you’re the youngest Dana you’ve just blown apart my theory!

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  11. Kristi Campbell - findingninee

    I get this too. When I was in first grade, my mom caught me throwing away a math assignment because I missed one problem out of 20. She tried to talk to me telling me that missing one was okay but I can still remember how angry at myself I was. I’ve tried to lighten up on myself over the years but still struggle with it every single day. Great challenge, Dana!!

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    1. Dana

      Thanks, Kristi. Throwing away an assignment that wasn’t perfect was something I would do too. When I see my kids being so hard on themselves, it breaks my heart.

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  12. The Dose of Reality

    Oh, Dana, I am right there with you. I have always been a perfectionist. I don’t expect that of others, just myself. I will tell you that when I read this sentence, it hit me like a brick: “The perfectionist is my insecurity personified”. THAT IS TRUTH. I really do think that’s what’s at the base of it all when you really examine it. I find as I have gotten older my perfectionism has decreased, probably as my insecurities have and I’ve become more comfortable and accepting of myself. Very thought provoking post! –Lisa

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    1. Dana

      Lisa, I think you are right. As I have become more secure in myself, my need for perfectionism has lessened. Great point! I think we should co-write an article about this for Psychology Today…

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  13. tamaralikecamera

    I met Dana in person for a whole weekend. She is gorgeous!
    And Ms. Warnken might be my favorite person in the world. I hope you sent her your post, Dana! I wish I had internalized those words then, and I wish I could now. I’m working on it.

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  14. marisab04

    This is a campaign I love and have used it often in my own home – my daughter struggles with reading she is behind her age group, yet with every step she needs to to take to move forward she takes it and succeeds but she has a long way to go…I find it amazing how she tries..and when she is crying and frustrated I have given her the challenge talk – she is not trying to be perfect she is trying to remember a word or pronounce it and both my husband and i have told her that we all struggle with something – I’m impatient, hubby stubborn, and her brother..well his feet smell – she laughs and we move forward- always going to the next…TY 🙂

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    1. firebailey Post author

      Thank you for stopping in, Marisa. I’m cracking up that you encourage her by saying her brother’s feet smell! I think the best tool possible is setting smaller goals so she feels that sense of accomplishment even as she struggles.

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    2. Dana

      This is a wonderful series, isn’t it? I wish your daughter success in her reading goals; I’m sure with your guidance she will do her best. That’s all we can ask of our kids!

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