When I was a girl I loved playing with Barbies. Maybe that’s when my problem with perfectionism started.
I’m sure that by now we’ve all heard the truth about Barbie’s freakish measurements. If Barbie were a real woman, she would be abnormally tall and disproportionate, not to mention anorexic and unable to lift her own head or walk.
Someone has even come up with a “real-life” Barbie doll who looks more like the average woman. Next to the actual Barbie doll, real-life Barbie looks short, chubby and ho-hum.
But I have another, more sinister version of Barbie who lives inside my head.
She is the Barbie Christian and she is perfect.
I’m a good girl, brought up in church from the time I was born and always eager for people to like me. Somehow I developed this idea, even as a small child, that the key to pleasing God was my behavior. I set about to create the perfect Christian life.
I read my Bible and prayed. I went to church and sang all the songs. I memorized scripture and was quiet and obedient during church services. I prayed “the sinner’s prayer” at the end of every worship service, just to make sure my bases were covered. I constantly pressured myself to do what was right.
As I got older, the pressure intensified. I attended a small Christian college that was heavily populated with “good Christian” girls. And I think it was there that I began forming the picture of the perfect Christian Barbie in my mind.
In my warped thinking, the perfect Christian woman would be:
- Beautiful (of course) — she keeps her figure trim and in shape; she never overeats and she never goes to bed without her 12 step beauty routine. Her nails are clean and groomed and she NEVER bites them.
- Classy — her clothes and makeup are always perfect, polished, and put-together, reflecting the most current fashion.
- Well-Mannered — she always knows what to say and how to say it. Her voice inflection is never inappropriate.
- Talented — she has a myriad of talents and skills up her sleeve, and she is the best in her chosen field. She is also a good cook, seamstress, home decorator, hostess, etc.
- Hard Working — she is never lazy. She doesn’t take a day off unless all of her work is caught up. She is energetic at all times and is an early riser who greets the day with excitement.
- Righteous — she studies her Bible faithfully every day and spends at least an hour in prayer before her husband and children arise. She rarely sins, and when she does it is only a minor slip-up.
- A Good Mom — she always puts her children first. She helps them with homework, always loving and aware of how to cater to their individual learning styles. She never raises her voice or disciplines out of harshness. She never loses her patience or her temper. She always knows how to parent in every situation that her children might throw at her, and as a result, her children are well-behaved and respectful at all times.
- An Excellent Wife — she keeps the spark alive in the bedroom. She meets all her husband’s needs and is never too tired for sex. She wears matching bras and panties and keeps her figure shapely. She never criticizes or nags her husband. She is always pleasant to be around.
- Educated — my version of Barbie Christian actually has at least a Master’s degree. She is very well-educated in her field and well-spoken. She keeps up on current events and can have an intelligent conversation about anything.
- Temperate — Christian Barbie never loses her cool. Not even in the school carpool lane. She never yells. Her voice never shows even the hint of frustration because she is never frustrated. Her personal walk with God never allows frustration because she presents all her requests to God and therefore has a handle on this whole “peace that passes understanding” thing. She never, ever, EVER throws a temper tantrum. Or cries in public. In fact the only tears she cries are either at someone’s funeral, at a sappy romantic movie, or the tears of happiness she cries over her sweet, well-behaved children. As a side note, when she does cry, she always looks beautiful. She never does the ugly, snot-nosed snorting cry. NEVER.
- Tidy and Organized — Christian Barbie’s house looks like a furniture showroom. Everything is organized and in its place. Her closet is color-coordinated and full of perfect size 4 clothes. Her children’s rooms are like a page out of Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Every surface in her house is clean enough to eat off of. Her pets never smell, and there is never a trace of pet hair on any of her furniture. Her carpets and floors are spotless, and there are no bits of dried food crusted on the surface of her kitchen table. Her car still has new car smell. Her children are careful to take care of their own messes because she has taught them so well. In fact, not only do they clean up after themselves, they are happy to do so because they have such a wonderful Mommy. They let her know each and every day how grateful they are for her.
Okay. Enough already. Are you exhausted yet?
This Barbie in my head is a conglomeration of many women I’ve known (and many I haven’t) throughout my life. I’ve picked and chosen all my favorite things, the desirable qualities I’ve seen in different people, and I’ve rolled them all into one freakishly ideal person — a woman who just doesn’t exist.
How often do Christian women do this? We put so much pressure on ourselves to perform these ridiculous roles, to be all things to all people, to never mess up, to literally do it all and to look good while doing it, even to the point that our husband, children, house, and yes, even our pets must reflect our own perfection.
It’s just not possible.
I know who you’re thinking of. You’re thinking of that woman you know who really is perfect.
Yes, I know her. I have one of those in my life, too. Just take comfort in this tidbit of truth: her poop stinks. Not that I’ve personally smelled it, but rest assured — it does.
As a grownup, I’m actually starting to take a little pleasure in not being perfect. It takes the pressure off when you don’t have to worry anymore about holding it all together. And for that perfect girl you know, imagine how hard it must be to keep that up. She’s got to be dying inside to keep that performance going.
If Barbie were a real person, she wouldn’t be able to hold her head up. She wouldn’t be able to do any heavy lifting, and because of her foot size and weight distribution, she would be forced to walk on all fours. She would only have half a liver because that’s all she’d have room for. She would be anorexic and have abnormally large eyeballs popping out of her head. She would not menstruate and she would be unable to bear children.
That’s pretty darn unhealthy, wouldn’t you say?
And so is my ideal Barbie Christian.
Unrealistic, impossible, and if I’m honest, undesirable.
I’m going to quit putting so much pressure on myself, I think.
Y’all can keep your Barbies. I’m done. And now I’m going to unbutton my jeans and go have some ice cream while I yell at my irresponsible kids for leaving all their crap in the car.