A Less Than Perfect Life Can Be a Life Well Lived

by Katy on December 29, 2014 · 43 comments

There’s a lot on the internet that makes it appear as if people are living perfect lives. Whether it’s happy families on Facebook, perfect mommies on Pinterest or spotless homes on blogs.

It makes it seem as though other people have somehow figured out how to create these effortless existences that elude the rest of us. You know, those of us whose laundry piles up, have kids that bicker and refuse to stand next to each other in photographs and have never served a meal that inspired an Instagram post.

I am not one of those other people.

And guess why. Because those other people do not actually exist!

There’s always a wizard behind the curtain. A reality outside of the picture frame, where the messy stuff is pushed off to the side so that the Pinterest-worthy photographs can be carefully crafted.

My mother likes to say that “we compare our insides to other people’s outsides,” which I think holds real truth. How many times have you felt inadequate next to someone who seemed to be super put together, only to find out later that they had serious issues going on in their lives?

No one is perfect, everyone is flawed.

Just the other day I put together a huge crockpot of mixed bean and ham soup. I even wrote about it on The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group to share about my wonderfully frugal meal plan. And then guess what I did? That’s right folks, I turned it off and then left it out all night at room temperature. (You know room temperature, the ideal temperature for bacterial growth!) And in case you think this is some kind of isolated incident away from my otherwise perfect life, let me correct you. I have multiple messy pockets in my house, I mess up with my frugality and my life is far from perfect.

So as you’re choosing your new year’s resolutions for 2015, please remember that you may not have achieved perfection but that’s okay because no one else has. Ever.

And you might actually already be good enough the way you are.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Debra Posthumus December 29, 2014 at 11:56 am

I totally agree but still….it’s hard not to compare.
Interestingly though, i have noticed in multiple magazine layouts, certain objects that move around the house into multiple pics. Phony baloney.
I do have a sis whose house is company ready at all times though. She has a housekeeper once a week, she vacuums every day, keeps all mail in a drawer and abhors chochkes. I didn’t get that gene though…

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Katy December 29, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Ha, I’ve noticed that as well!

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chris December 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Sorry about your soup – you’re not the first one to do that! We’re all human, after all.

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Kelly in MA December 30, 2014 at 7:37 am

I did the same thing with a big batch of Chicken noodle last week. I was so disappointed. I got the chicken from a sales rep at work that had left over samples, and I had everything else at home so it was a big batch of free soup!

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Sharon H. December 29, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Well put, Katy.

It’s one of the great secrets of adulthood, and I keep trying to convince young women of it: we are all afraid, we’re all flawed, we’re all making a lot of things up as we go along.

We compare each element of our lives to someone else who aces that particular element. How silly! But we all do it. It’s a constant challenge to be satisfied with our ‘good enough.’

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BethATL December 29, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has left a crock pot meal out overnight! So frustrating (and I’ve done it more than once — ACK!).

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nancy January 1, 2015 at 6:03 am

Why is it I always leave it out overnight when I am trying to be particularly frugal. I too have done it more than once…

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Kale January 5, 2015 at 9:37 am

I’ve done this a lot but just reheat it extra long the next day :s
I know it’s probably breaking some food safe rules but I’ve never gotten sick.

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Anne December 29, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Sing it sister!

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Jill December 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I love your mother’s wisdom! This is a lesson I have been working on all my life. I grew up in a household that very much cared what everyone else thought. Luckily, my husband is one of the most “comfortable in his own skin” people that I know so he helps me with perspective.

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Diane December 29, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I’m going to write your mom’s quote on my forehead. I’ve been getting frustrated that our new house doesn’t look like the beautiful ones I’ve pinned, and feeling like my small efforts to make it pretty have been a waste of money and time. I’m good at avoiding shopping malls, now it’s time to get off Pinterest.

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Katy December 29, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Make sure to write it backwards so you can read it in the mirror! 😉

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Jeanne December 29, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I just heard the phrase “don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides” a few months ago, and since then I have heard it used many times. In fact, just last night it was used on an npr program. Anyway, I think it is a great phrase and I tend to use it more to understand the values and motivations of others rather than the appearances. I find that there are many things I may not want for my life or future family (like the crazy schedules, giant house, leased cars, piles of debt), but I need to use that opinion wisely and not as a way to criticize those that do these things. It is very hard to do!

Also, this is a large reason why I don’t use facebook, twitter, instagram, etc… The only social media outlet I use is Pinterest and I continue to use it because I know that the pins I see are more composed of things the pinner likes rather than things they bought, made, experienced, and so on. A TED talk I watched a while back taught me that feelings of envy are encouraged by seeing someone you know and can (too) easily compare yourself (peers from high school, work, other places) where you and this person were at once somewhat the same. When these people change and buy a large house or another new car or whatever you can’t help but compare yourself to them, since you once did and it didn’t do any harm, but now it can create feelings of jealousy and envy. Very interesting!

I try to keep these things in mind when I inevitably compare myself to others!

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Betsey December 29, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I gave up perfection for Lent about 20 years ago and haven’t regretted it at all! I have also adopted the mantra not to take anything personally which had made life easier.
About the soup, all of us have done that. I left out a prime rib (about 2 lbs ), totally forgetting it. It did not go to waste; the dog honestly did eat it.

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Vickie December 30, 2014 at 8:22 am

That’s what I do with leftovers that don’t get eaten or food I mess up. I feed it to the dogs. Let’s just say the dogs are fed very well some weeks! LOL!

I love it – “gave up perfection for Lent”!
I think you and I have adopted some of the same philosophies. As I’ve gotten older those lifestyle changes have gotten so much easier to adapt. I’m happy being me and I don’t worry about acceptance from others. I does make life MUCH simpler!!

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Yankeegal December 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Love the “giving up perfection for Lent!”

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Theresa December 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm

A great reminder going from the holiday of overwhelm into the whole “new year, new you!” zone!

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Katy December 29, 2014 at 5:46 pm

The “whole new you” is designed to sell stuff to people. Exercise equipment and supplies, weight loss plans and everything else comes at a cost. These companies would make no money if people were satisfied with who they already were.

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Patti December 29, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Thanks, Katy, for not being perfect and admitting it. And thanks for being “real” and not just to show that you are. Bet some of the folks who started blogging never thought it would be so hard to keep their online persona going. And even some of those who think they are acting “real” are still trying to tell everyone else how to live. I feel for the younger generation that feels life is one perfect party or one perfect vignette – it all so false and all so ridiculous in the scheme of things. No one is going to care in 10 years if your bathroom sink was cleaned at 9:15 AM on Tuesday after you loaded the dishwasher and prepped your perfect crockpot meal.

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Kelly in MA December 30, 2014 at 7:45 am

Agreed, Thank you Katy!

When I’m looking at these ‘perfect moments’ I often remind myself that I had to take 25 pictures to get my perfect moment too. And while there are dishes in my sink and Mount Washmore is growing by the day in the basement I have to remind myself that my house is clean (maybe a bit cluttered) and my family is healthy and we live in this house.

I love the saying you shared. Thanks!

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Diane December 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Thank you! I have been thinking about this all day. My messy, messy life doesn’t even begin to compare with anyone else’s perfect life. I am a 70+ woman struggling to get out of debt, with a broken down 15 year old vehicle and a very outspoken 26 year old granddaughter living with me. I’m having the worst time this winter with SAD and being cooped up indoors too much.

Your post made me realize I am one among many of imperfect people.

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Diane December 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“one among many imperfect people.”

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Vickie December 30, 2014 at 8:24 am

Count another imperfect one in there with you!!

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kathleen December 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I so needed this, thank you!

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Christine December 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm

This has been a hot topic among my friends this holiday season… started with a question from a friend, “do you find that we just don’t have people over the way our parents did?” I totally blame Pinterest. You can’t just vacuum the living room rug and stick a ham in the oven, it’s a full day + of cleaning, planning, prepping. I might set foot inside many of my friends’ homes once or twice a year, and they always look their best… so I have no concept of what the inside of most people’s homes looks like on a regular day (and of course assume that mine is 1000 times worse).

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Katy December 29, 2014 at 5:48 pm

So true. My house is a reflection of all the stuff we have going on at one time, and it reflects that!

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CarrieP December 31, 2014 at 7:54 am

Christine, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I think you’re right. I only had friends over once in all of 2015. Mostly my friends and I meet for lunch at restaurants. Sad.

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Sarah December 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Wonderful truth to remember in this age of looking at photos of everybody!!!
Thank you; I sooooo needed to read this!!!

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Cathy Agin December 29, 2014 at 7:25 pm

I need around a week’s notice to prepare my house for visitors! As for leaving the soup out, look on the bright side. At least you didn’t leave the pot on and pay for a night of electricity, too! I once left the oven on all day. Oh, and I also dumped a holiday dinner of salmon on the floor. causing my daughter, who had been waiting for that dish for months, to burst out in tears. The dogs loved it, though.
By the way, if it isn’t hot in your house and the beans aren’t fermenting, you can boil the soup on the stove for fifteen minutes (fifteen at a full boil) and it will kill anything nasty.

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Cristie Glasheen December 30, 2014 at 11:10 am

As an epidemiologist, I want to note that this is technically not accurate. Some bacteria release a toxin as part of their metabolic processes. You can kill the bacteria with heat but not the toxin already in the food. I recommend reading this: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09300.html

Ham and processed meats is one of the common pathways for staphylococcal intoxication.

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Sarah December 29, 2014 at 8:50 pm

This is such an excellent reminder and it is so refreshing to read everyone’s comments, too. I do think that this is something that can be easier to figure out with age, too. I have a very good friend who looks as if she is living the most perfect life. Once I made a comment like….your life seems so nice and perfect. She replied …..it does seem that way doesn’t it? She then filled.me in on many problems. I think that everyone you know has a problem that you wouldn’t want…..so the moral is….the grass is never greener! Try to be happy with your life and situation. 🙂

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Kelly in MA December 30, 2014 at 8:00 am

I had a friend disclose a similar story to me. She has three beautiful children and via Facebook her life looks pretty perfect. Then we got together for coffee and she showed me the 100 pictures she didn’t post and talked about how her autistic son is struggling in school.
Made me think, my thing is having a neat bedroom. I can let the laundry pile in the basement get taken care of at its own pace and I know there are a couple of cheese its under the couch and I can live with that. Having a messy bedroom makes my anxiety go through the roof and makes me cranky toward my family. Instead I talked to my fiance and told him about how I felt and how it effected me. Now we are working together to create a mutual way of organizing. Learning to live together is a process at times.

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Practical Parsimony December 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm

I hate when that happens. I have accidentally left food in the crockpot, the oven and on the counter over the years. What really frosts me? I will tell you, someone who has a tsk tsk and starts telling me how to remember things or asks me if I think it’s Alzheimers. I just feed into their superiority complex.

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Allison December 30, 2014 at 5:16 am

So true Katy! As a new mom this year I constantly struggled with trying to keep up a full time job as well as a house, and it’s tough. I’m trying to come to terms with all I can do is my best at home and at work. (easier said then done) haha!

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Lucy December 30, 2014 at 5:16 am

Fortunately I gave up comparing my life to anyone else’s a long time ago, when I realized trying to fit the mold was killing me, inside and out.

LOL, I made beans last night (inspired by you) and had that “Oh crap” moment this morning when I saw the pot. However, I did manage to put them in the fridge before bed. This time.

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JD December 30, 2014 at 8:13 am

My forehead slap moment was grilling a huge amount of chicken wings for company, and storing the leftovers in the empty microwave while we had dessert, so there would be room on the table to serve the dessert. Yep, the wings were all still there in the microwave the next morning, ruined. And they weren’t cheap!
I know I’m not perfect, I usually am not envious at all, but I get far too wound up by what people must think when they see my house (“decorated” by a husband who never seems to finish any of his many projects and four furry, sandy-footed pets). I really need to get over that.

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Rebecca@ thefamilyfinder.net December 30, 2014 at 8:21 am

I long for clean empty surfaces, perfectly fluffed couch cushions and no dishes in the sink. My oldest son is 17 and asked for “things for his future apartment” for Christmas. It makes my heart break. It went by so fast. I also have a 2 and 5 year old. I am trying to get over the desire for clean surfaces because the reason they are not clear is because there are dinosaurs and toy guns spread all over the place (including a paper Pterodactyl hanging from the fan) from our dinosaur expedition yesterday. Next week it will be a Lego city and the next week it will be a train track. Way too soon it will be empty and I will miss the chaos. Enjoy the NOW.

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Vickie December 30, 2014 at 8:40 am

Thanks for the post, Katy!

I remind my daughter of this all the time, when she gets frustrated or depressed, because she can’t keep up( single Mom of 3) .

I think many of those “perfect women” shows on TV cause anxiety for women. I always remind the women around me that Martha Stewart has kitchen assistants, landscapers/gardeners, and housekeepers, etc. on staff. Same for all the other shows – they do NOT do all of those things without lots of help.
Most women can’t afford to pay people to help them. When you’re doing it all yourself, it’s a big job. Women need to stop beating themselves up.

An example: I’m trying to dejunk/declutter around my house; however, yesterday I had to move 4 chests and 3 boxes of my late Mother’s stuff into my back bedroom to go through. It was the last of her things moved from her old house. Once again, my house looks like a hoarder’s haven. It’s going to take time for me to go through everything, especially since I’m not yet retired and I still have a life to live.
It will get done, but Europe wasn’t conquered in a day, or even one lifetime!

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Jessica December 30, 2014 at 8:43 am

Great post! I was also thinking about how we don;t have people over as often as we’d like because of all of the reasons mentioned here. I remember when I was a kid everyone’s houses were a little cluttered, except for the occasional parlor where kids were NOT ALLOWED.

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Katy December 30, 2014 at 9:34 am

I have zero memory of other people’s house’s cleanliness.

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Cindy December 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

I’m very familiar with “don’t compare your insides to another’s outsides”- it’s a pretty common one in the recovery program I frequent, it’s great to hear “regular” people use it too (hahahah- regular people) Another one is: “you’re only as sick as your secrets” which is why it’s so liberating to share that you’re not perfect and we all have “stuff”. I’m so bored of “perfect” people, I want to share my life with people who have lived and made mistakes and cried about it- and then laughed about it and show their scars and go out with no makeup and admit that they like simple things. life is too good to chase the mirage of perfection.

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Hope :) December 30, 2014 at 5:30 pm

“We compare our insides to other people’s outsides.” This is perhaps the most astute observation I have ever read. And boy, did I need to read it today. Thank your mom for me, OK? 🙂

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Carolyn January 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm

We planned an after Christmas dinner. Saturday with a huge FREE turkey with enough reward pooints through the grocery store. My boyfriend stuffed the turkey, planned the dinner and with way too much food, I invited a neighbor couple for dinner late afternoon. They are great friends and they felt it was a gift out of the blue. We prayed, we ate and shared great company. They loved the food we talked and enjoyed the company, after we asked for prayers for the new year. I feltt blessed to be able to invite others to a great feast. My boyfriend believes company and last minute guests should never feel unwelcome. I feel their company was a gift. So I want a really big table in our next house. God is Great.

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