Utah women and the perfection paradox

Elise Haynes chronicles family life in her blog Haynes Family Yard Sale. The opinions stated in this article are solely her own and not those of St. George News.

HUMOR – Brace yourself, I’m about to generalize. Can I tell you about something that I’ve noticed about Utahns, particularly female Utahns? There is a lot of pressure to appear perfect.

We want people to think we have the perfect home, perfect body, perfect relationship with our spouse and perfectly behaved children. We are perfectly tidy, perfectly patient. We never doubt, argue, or cry. We don’t lose our temper, never have a hair out of place, and we always have a seasonally appropriate homemade wreath hung upon the polished door of our McMansion.

It makes me want to barf.

No one has it under control like that all of the time. No one. Perfection is humanly impossible. I don’t care who you are, everyone has days when they just want to sit around the house watching reruns of “Lost” even though the series finale turned out to be a total crock, or when they eat Cheetos for breakfast, or when they’re mean to the checker at Wal-Mart. And yet we like to pretend we’ve got it together.

If you are thinking, “Not me. I never watch TV and I don’t eat processed foods. I don’t even shop at Wal-Mart. And, by the way, my children were all born potty trained and reading at the fourth grade level,” you are part of the problem. Stop it.

I think one of the reasons that people, and by people I mean women, are so obsessed with perfection is because they are stressed out that others are judging them. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s one that is easily broken if we apply the advice of one of my favorite people, Deiter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints :

“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon … When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm — please apply the following: Stop it!”

I don’t know about you, but for me the problem comes when I judge myself against other people. I look at my neighbor and think, “She has clean, fully-clothed children. She runs a homemade hair bow store online which earns literally tens of dollars per month. She ran the marathon. She runs a preschool and takes warm meals to the elderly. I am clearly a lesser human being.”

And men, don’t think that you’re off the hook here. Here’s what I imagine goes on inside the brain of the typical Utah male when he compares himself to his neighbor: “Look at that guy. His truck is way bigger and emits way more toxic fumes than mine. Time for some red meat.” Not that I like to generalize, obviously. I’m sure there are a number of Prius-driving vegetarian men in Utah who would appreciate representation, but this paragraph is already much too long.

We have two options when we compare ourselves to others. We can continue to pretend that we’re perfect and perpetuate the ridiculous cycle. Or we can do what I tend to do when I feel inadequate: compensate for it by eating half a thing of Blue Bunny ice cream, which magically shrinks my pants and perpetuates the self-loathing.

Like Susan Powter before me, I say: Stop the insanity. Do you remember Susan Powter? She was a nutrition and wellness motivational speaker in the mid-1990s who has since faded into obscurity, but her catchphrase lives on, as all worthy catchphrases do. Stop the insanity, Utah! Can we stop pretending that we’re perfect and allow others a little leeway with their imperfections? If we can do that, and maybe get a Trader Joe’s, Utah might end up being a pretty awesome place to live.


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Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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  • Valicat April 5, 2012 at 9:02 am

    A big ‘Heck ya!” to this fun article, as I sit with yesterdays clothes on and Easter candy for breakfast! I’m finally getting comfy with my imperfectness in my late 30’s. Do it sooner, ladies!

  • IQ92 April 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Having lived in 42, that’s right 42, places around the world. This self-pressure is no more or less here than anywhere else. Fancy-smancy people are found in every culture and subculture. Just compliment them, and they’ll follow you around.

  • Greg April 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    President Uctdorf also said, “don’t judge me because I sin differently than you do.” That one really hits home with Utahns.

  • Troy Bailey April 6, 2012 at 11:19 am

    If I remember correctly Pres Uctdorf also said “pride is a sin of comparison”. While pride is a “sin” generally attributed to men and our “male ego”. I think you’ve just nailed how it affects women, and how horribly rampant it is in Utah women. No I’m not going to pretend men don’t have a problem with it, we do, but we understand that. I’m not too sure women in utah understand their problems with pride.

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