A Recovering Perfectionist

Michelle Lee Diasinos is a Conscious Parent advocate, coach, author, and co-host of The Mothers’ Roundtable podcast with two children of her own. Read her chapter in the #1 International Best Selling Change Makers Volume 4, where she shares her personal transformation that led her into this place of service to parents navigating their unique path. A recovering perfectionist, Michelle delves into the challenges parents face when perfection becomes a problem. One of the many exciting projects she’s initiated is “Heal My Story,” a platform for people to anonymously write about their healing journey. Join our chat and hear what moved me to tears in what she said.

Podcast: Conscious Parenting with Michelle Diasinos

I chatted with Michelle about:

  • Motherhood was the first time she truly met herself.
  • She spent a lot of time doing work on her own, making peace with her past, releasing anger, frustration, and sadness. She was able to get to a place where she could be comfortable with the fact that her parents did the best they could at the time and did what they did with love.
  • Prior to parenthood, Michelle was a Special Education Teacher and worked in occupational therapy. She was a very calm person and thought she would be a patient mother. But being a parent is nothing like what you think it’s going to be like!
  • Michelle put immense on herself to be the best parent ever! She then realized that she was also pressuring her son to meet her perfectionist tendencies. As many parents did, she took her son’s behaviour to be a reflection of her (bad) parenting. This kind of situation made her realize she had a lot of work to do.
  • Even as a trained professional who was calm and using all the ‘right’ tools and techniques, she discovered she was capable of raging anger, explosions, and subsequent guilt. She’s come to realize that the anger is just an invitation to look deeper. All it meant was that she had a need that wasn’t being met.
  • Perfection is insidious! Most of us don’t even know we are perfectionists. Listen to the language you are using when speaking to yourself. For example when parents go to bed at night, they’re often thinking, “Did I do a good enough job?” This question might be driving their every action!
  • Children’s behaviour is an expression of their unmet needs. We as parents can do everything possible to meet their every need. How do we help them gain the tools to deal with not having their needs met?
  • Her “Heal My Story” project is a platform where anyone can share aspects of their healing story. I highly recommend you try it out if you are thinking about processing your trauma through writing. It is for anything that has surfaced during your healing journey that you want to put out there in the world.

Michelle’s message to Sandwich Parents is: “I acknowledge you. I know how tough this can be. I want to remind you that compassion is the salve. When you mess something up, and you inevitably will, because you are human, give compassion to yourself. Because each time that you do that, you are showing yourself unconditional love. You are showing your kids how to do the same, so that they can go out into the world and they can show it to others. This is sacred work. I see you. I thank you for doing this work.”

Join her on Instagram and Facebook, where you can learn more about how to live a truly Conscious Parenthood. And listen to her podcast, The Mother’s Roundtable, where every week she and her co-host Jessica Crescenzi  examine a topic related to parenting and give advice based on their expertise as parent coaches and their perspectives as mothers.


Doing “More with Less” Does Not Work!

I would like to flip the Do More with Less mentality to more a Reflect and Rest approach, which ironically allows us to do more with less in the longer run.

Today, A2 and I had a wonderful conversation when he asked me about the “use it or lose it” phrase, which he found to be very confusing. I explained that when someone was in charge of a small budget that rolled up into a big budget, the two levels had very differing priorities and it caused them to have to figure out how to manage things. Like, the people handling bigger budgets had to figure out how to spend money wisely overall and the people managing little budgets had to figure out how to address their own needs. He pointed out that the people managing the bigger budgets once upon a time managed smaller budgets, so at least they would understand the perspective of the people managing the smaller budgets. You’d like to think so, my son, you’d like to think so. I explained that everyone wants to do more with less; we talked about how if you don’t use the budget you said you were going to use, then the higher ups think that you don’t need the money, even though you may actually be saving it for something in the longer run.

On my walk home by myself, the thoughts about how our world keeps trying to do more with less: more work with less people, more projects with less money, more tasks with less time, etc. etc. We keep trying to ‘save’ our resources by doing more with less. But in the longer run, this obsession with efficiency has caused so much burnout and health issues that the cost of doing ‘more with less’ far outweighs the savings we make, which really just ends up being profit for the higher ups in a capitalistic world. (Sorry, my lefty socialist side is coming out.)

More isn’t just about short-term quantity, it is about long-term quality and sustainability.

For example, buying clothes or shoes. By buying cheaply made or trendy fashionable wearables, we are just ensuring that we have to keep buying. Buying more isn’t going to solve our problems… buying LESS but APPROPRIATE will. That may involve buying things that are a bit more expensive in the short-run but longer lasting, maybe classy and sturdier.

Another example is the way so many of us want to avoid confrontation, because it takes us off track and it’s pretty painful in the moment. However, by facing confrontation head on and slowly turning it into a conversation or a collaboration, we can create a better longer term solution for everyone. Saving more time by avoiding annoying issues isn’t going to solve our problems… spending the time to think about and addressing it can help us save a lot more time in the long run, even if it may feeling more painful in the short-run.

And when kids are taking standardized tests to ‘prove’ that they know what they need to know at a certain level, we are just encouraging them to study to do well on a test and then promptly forget about it. Instead, we need to take the time to get to know them, their strengths and areas of interest to help them build the skills they need and want to accomplish the goals they aspire to meet. Saving time through standardizing everything may help us measure things that we we need to understand from a big picture level, but misusing those test to measure our individual worth becomes counterproductive.

My final example I learned from the Life Decluttered Facebook group: If you have more stuff than you have space for it, you WILL have clutter. So that not only works from a physical perspective, but also from a mental perspective. When we are juggling more tasks than we can manage, we WILL have overwhelming stress. And the way to reduce clutter or stress is to have less and organize better. But it takes time to be able to develop the skills and the motivation to have less and organize better. We must regularly reflect and rest in order to do a few things:

  • Understand your issues
  • Remember your motivations
  • Get into a healthy headspace
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Get support!
  • Prioritize
  • Understand your resources (time, money, energy)
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Develop a plan and maybe a timeline
  • Start somewhere
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Evolve your plan as you learn from where you started
  • Celebrate the wins
  • Know that many things are not a “One and Done”, but an iterative (phase by phase, step by baby step) process
  • Be kind to yourself!!!!!!!!!

Did I mention that I finally started to learn what it means to be kind to myself?

People have always told me that I was a perfectionist and that I was too hard on myself. And I always responded with, uh, no, if I were a perfectionist, I would be doing much better, I would be more effective, I would be smarter, I would be getting more done, I wouldn’t be so lazy… PUH-LEEZ… I am NOT a perfectionist! But now I understand what a perfectionist is. It’s someone who won’t let go when their ideal isn’t met.

Being kind to myself means that I forgive myself when I didn’t do what I didn’t do. Being kind to myself means that if things take longer than I think they should, then they take longer. Being kind to myself means not labeling myself as stupid, forgetful, messy, a ‘bad’ mom, but rather… Oh! I don’t yet have a solid system or routine to make this happen smoothly… YET. So as a recovering perfectionist, instead of getting mad at myself that I haven’t yet gotten around to cleaning out our storage unit, I’m going to celebrate that I’ve gone through the house slowly but surely, learning and developing systems to help us do more with less. And… I’m going to give myself time to reflect and rest.

Won’t you join me on this journey? Less is more!


New Fun Obsession: PRETZELS!

When I first started working with my therapist at the beginning of the year, he asked me what I did for fun.

It’s one of those questions that makes me very uncomfortable.

“For fun~~~?” He pushed me a bit and asked me, what do I do for fun… with NO UTILITARIAN VALUE TO IT. What do I do to just let go and enjoy myself?

“I don’t,” I replied rather abruptly.

“I know,” he responded.

Everything I did was related to “should” or “should not”. As in… I SHOULD do this, because it will help with… or I SHOULD NOT do this because it’s a waste of time. Everything. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything or refrained from doing something without going through that filter. And since everything went through that filter, if I did something I SHOULDN’T, I felt very guilty or if I didn’t do something I SHOULD, I’d feel shame. Exhausting way to live, yes.

“Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to do something frivolous,” he challenged me at the end of our session. I nodded outwardedly, but inside I felt a bit puzzled as to what I was supposed to do.

So I looked up the word frivolous:

friv·o·lous (adj): not having any serious purpose or value

It was an interesting week.

I used to love reading, so I tried reading, but my brain was vibrating too hard for me to sit still and read. I tried picking up my ukulele again, but it felt more like work since I was/am such a beginner and it made me feel more like a loser than a learner, given the frame of mind I was in. I tried watching TV, but it wasn’t ‘fun’ so much as mind numbing. Plus, a lot of it was stressful. I think I was a bit Trumped out . I tried blogging again, which I do love, but it’s also work… some days I have nothing, which made me feel anxious.

I reported back to my therapist that I didn’t quite find anything frivolous, but I would try again. He said, not to worry, don’t feel pressure about this, just think about it.

Months late, my son declared one night that he wanted to make pretzels and that he found a recipe. So after dinner, the two of made pretzels. Well, *I* made pretzels. *He* experimented with the dough in the microwave, with chocolate, with butter, with sugar, with water… you name it, he *experimented* with it. The Tiger Mom in me wanted to yell at him and say FOLLOW THE RECIPE! And so I said “you know, people usually play with the recipe AFTER they’ve mastered it”. And he responded, “Yes, I know, but I just wanted to try this.” I thanked the Tiger Mom in me for making that recommendation and let him go ahead, even tasting some of his experiments. (Not horrible.)

My first pretzels were *okay*. I did get some feedback from my husband. “You may want to make them a bit thinner, so it looks more like a pretzel instead of a big bun.” To me, as long as it tastes good… who cares what it looks like!?

But then I started making pretzels just to make them. And each time I made them, they looked more and more like pretzels you buy at the mall.

This week… I made my first sweet cinnamon pretzel. And they were soooo good. I’m so proud of them. I realize that making something one can eat isn’t entirely frivolous, I suppose. But, then again, pretzels are frivolous! There is no nutritional value. They just taste great. And making them has become fun. I don’t even look at the recipe anymore! And I experiment with different flavours now, like herb and garlic and now this sweet cinnamon one.

(For those of you who cook, bake and are crafty… please understand that I’m no homebody. On the nights I had to cook, my roommates at university ate such “Sherry classics” as cucumber casserole, KD with cream of corn, and instant ramen noodles with frozen peas…. those were the *edible* ones.)

So now, if my therapist asked me what I do for fun, I can say: make and eat pretzels!


Perfect Mama, Exhausted Mama

We hear this cliche all the time, we say it all the time, but how do we actually apply it to our lives as mothers? “No one’s perfect.” No one’s perfect, we say, when someone makes a mistake. No one’s perfect, we remind them, when they complain about a friend at school. No one’s perfect, we reassure a dejected kid who just cannot seem to understand a math concept.

Most Moms I know pretend to be perfect in front of their kids. We pretend to be calm, logical, organized, decisive, right, knowledgeable, strong, thoughtful, loving, honest, kind, emotionally stable, with it, put together… I don’t know about you, but I’m not all those things even half the times. I am such a flawed human being, I make mistakes all the time. I’m not even sure we realize how hard we are trying to be perfect for our kids, how we try to model the right behaviour for them. It’s exhausting! If we keep it up long enough, we end up blowing up or burning out.

We are all human beings. Therefore we are never perfect. And that’s why we learn, practice, and grow. That’s why our children push us to be introspective, self-critical, and eager to improve.

A wise mama friend said to me: We respect our children’s opinions, we apologize for our mistakes, and we engage them in decision-making. Then they learn to trust us. Pretending to be perfect is exhausting and not sustainable. When they see us do our best and own up to what we can or cannot do, it is much healthier for them and for us. We can develop better relationships with them when we are ourselves.

Signing off today as,

Flawed Mama, Happy Mama


The Perfection of Mediocracy

“Mommy,” my 11-year old gravely starts off, “Mommy, I know that you probably won’t be too happy about this, but I think I have to tell you anyway.”

As a parent, you are always worried about your children, their safety, their happiness, their future… As I braced myself for his confession, I tried to guess what this was about, predict how I might react, manage how I should not over-react, and keep my mind from getting carried away with what he could possibly tell me that I might not be “too happy about”…

“Mommy, I know you want me to be a straight A student, but I think I’m going to be a B+ student. I might be able to get some As, but I’ll probably get mostly Bs… maybe even a C or two…”

The Tiger Mom in me just wanted to roar at him and indignantly state why he should strive for better and how important grades are, but the calm mom in me marvelled at his self awareness as we proceeded to have a conversation about why he felt this way.

I quickly admitted to him that I had mixed feelings, that I admired him for knowing himself but that I hoped he had confidence in himself to achieve anything he set his mind to. We discovered that he wasn’t sure the additional effort to get the As were worth it to him. It sounded like he was practicing self care and managing his resources based on his goals of learning and getting enough sleep to be healthy.

It got me thinking about how much we celebrate success, strive for perfection, and encourage achievement. For some, this is absolutely appropriate and they go on to do great things. But how many people are struggling every day, feeling like failures because they did not live up to some lofty goals they set and constantly compare themselves to? For some, overcoming obstacles and barriers to reach their goals makes them happy. But is that true for everyone? Are others comfortable achieving what they think is good enough so they can focus on aspects of life that make truly them happy? Maybe they are content being content.

My son got me thinking about happiness. You don’t have to be successful to be happy. You don’t have to be perfect to be happy. You don’t have to be rich to be happy. You have to want what you have to be happy. You have to appreciate what you have to be happy. You have to enjoy what you have to be happy.

So he wants to get good enough grades that accurately reflect his ability and still have enough time and energy to enjoy his life. He knows what makes him happy. I’m good with that.