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an unguest post

By Dalene Rowley

One of the things I love most about reading other people’s stories is getting a little inside their heads. It’s kind of easy to do this with someone who thinks just like you. But to me it’s even more interesting to get into someone’s head who has a completely different experience than mine. It kind of blows my mind.

Which is why, after a number of posts and comments here at Segullah addressing the subject of cosmetic surgery–particularly that of the enhancement type–I wanted to go out and solicit a guest post from someone who’s had it done. I wanted to understand why.

Unfortunately, I’m either really oblivious or I must live on the wrong side of town because I don’t know a whole lot of surgically enhanced women.

So I did the next best thing. I talked to the one person I know in all my circle of friends who has had breast augmentation surgery.

I told her about some of the rather heated conversations here at Segullah and I invited her to tell me about her own experience. It’s understood that her story is her own and her reasons may not be the same as those of others, but because this was a topic about which I myself have strong feelings, I wanted to try to understand…at least from her perspective. And, as is usually the case when you try to look at someone’s situation through their own eyes, I came away with a greater understanding and a little more compassion.

I never knew her before she had her surgery. In fact, had she not confided in me several years ago, I never would have guessed she’d had it done. She appears completely natural to me–so natural that it’s not uncommon for some of our mutual friends to discuss or even make fun of breast augmentation in her presence without having any clue. Perhaps that’s one more proof of the wisdom behind “moderation in all things.”

So we had a frank talk about her experience and this is what she said…

Actually, we did have frank discussion about her experience. But out of respect for her privacy, I’m not going to tell you here what she said. (I’m still holding out for a guest post, but only if everyone promises to play nice.) I will tell you, however, that I love and respect this woman. She is my sister and my friend. And even though her reasons didn’t change my mind, I will not judge her. Who’s to say that in her shoes I might not have made the same choice she did?

What I really wanted to write about today was something one of her doctors told her that really struck me. He made the observation to her that women–particularly Mormon women–seem to be under an awful lot of pressure. I asked her what he meant by that and she told me he explained how in our community there is so much pressure to be perfect: be the perfect person–especially the perfect mom–the perfect wife, the perfect saint. And to have the perfect house, the perfect family, the perfect body and the perfect life. As an admitted non-perfectionist, I honestly had never really given this much thought before. But I could see what he meant.

I don’t usually let it get to me, but I’ve seen it weigh heavily on people I love. And, I’ll admit there have been moments and days in recent years when I can feel it trying to press down on me. That pressure to be perfect. In my younger years we used to blame it on the church. But I do not believe it is the church that preaches perfection in this life–the gospel simply requires faith, repentance…more stuff…a continual aspiration for goodness…more stuff…and enduring to the end.

The way I see it perfection now is something our society, our culture–maybe even mostly we ourselves–demand of us.

Do you feel the pressure to be perfect?

In what ways?

Do you ever wonder if you inadvertently put pressure on others–or on your children?

How do we stop that?

What do you do to help yourself cope?

About Dalene Rowley

Began blogging as a legitimate way to avoid housework and to keep a journal of sorts. In her other life she wants to be excellent at a number of things, but in this one she's settling for baking a mean sour cream lemon pie, keeping most of the points on her quilt blocks in line, being a loyal friend and aspiring to moments of goodness as a wife and mother.

42 thoughts on “an unguest post”

  1. Dalene!

    How fun to be reading you now that I have a face to put with your words!

    I feel like such a slacker when the "pressure to be perfect" stuff is discussed. It's kind of like when people go on about how this new person or this new book is HONEST about how hard motherhood is. Really? Because I never thought it was supposed to be all sweetness and light.

    So, do people really feel this pressure? Should I be feeling it? Would my house be cleaner if I did?

    Great post. And would love to see a guest post by your friend!

  2. I suppose there is pressure to be perfect & I probably put it on myself or exaggerate in my mind what is actually expected of me by others. My problem lies in how I cope–I do the opposite of trying to reach that standard because I just don't feel like it's possible to reach that high. My house is a mess & I struggle with the simplest of things, especially regular scripture study & prayer. I need to reach a point where I feel okay at doing what I can rather than just not doing at all.

  3. I feel a weird sense of pressure but apparently not enough to live up to it. (As my house attests . . .)

    But I know the perfection thing is out there and very real. A few years ago while serving in YW, one of the leaders actually gave a lesson where she mentioned how important housekeeping skills were–because what if someone came into your house and saw it messy . . . what would they think of you? I wanted to smack her.

    Sure, let's get 14-year-olds already obsessing about being perfect for the outside world . . . that's healthy . . .

  4. I'm a perfectionist about some things (the way my house is decorated but, oddly enough, not how clean it is), and, sadly, my appearance. if plastic surgery were cheap I would certainly have a much better body. But I'm completely not a perfectionist in other things. i tend to be rather honest about my shortcomings, thoughts and opinions, which bothers my husband to no end. I figure it's OK to seem perfect about some things if you are honest about others. It's only people who totally kill themselves to keep up the façade of perfection at all costs that bother me (my mother-in-law, among others).

  5. Here's the thing. We all have our ways of trying to get attention or validation in this world. Some people try to do it emotionally, some people intellectually, some people physically. None of us can pretend to not yearn for validation. So looking down on people who find their validation through physical means (pretty houses, perfect bodies, etc.) and calling them vain and snobby is kinda hollow, imo. (And Dalene, I'm not saying YOU'RE saying they're vain and snobby–you're obviously not–but many people do.)

    What about blogging, for example? Blogging is an exercise in vanity and an attempt for exterior validation on a certain level, too. So why is putting a lot of energy and attention on the need to be seen as smart and witty and cool any more noble than putting your energy into the need to be seen as fit and put-together and aesthetically pleasing? Plastic surgery may be taking the need to have a beautiful body to a certain level that some find inappropriate . . . but I know lots of people who find the amount of time some of us (ahem) spend on the computer to be inappropriate, too.

    We all have different talents and abilities, and we leverage those gifts in many different ways. ALL of us do this on some level (well, except for some really wise Grandmas I know). So I for one have decided to hold off on judging those people who are leveraging their physical attractiveness until I can honestly say that I'm not also searching for validation in my own probably vain and ephemeral ways. And I do kinda need a tummy tuck :-).

  6. Whoa — have to respond to Angela's comment.

    "Blogging is an exercise in vanity"

    For me, blogging is an exercise in creativity and hard work, and, maybe most of all, humility. Maybe when I'm a little more (or, A LOT) successful, it'll feed my otherwise rampant vanity. 🙂

  7. When I do something that feels perfect I get such an amazing high out of it. Like when I throw a really great kid's birthday party, or even a really great dinner party, or make a family holiday come off really well. Sew a fabulous Halloween costume, usually for an inordinate investment in fabrics. Back when my husband was a salaryman for three years I had a beautiful 1927 2-story house with the wood floors, 10-inch crown molding, basement, attic playroom, really great gardens. I did feel oddly beautiful and intelligent for being associated with the beautiful and intelligent layout of that house. It's funny how that works. I'd like to lose the 25 pounds I put on in the last four years, because I felt so amazingly together just because I was a size 8. I don't think it's pressure in my case, something more like addiction.

  8. MOTHER: To me you were the most … I don't know. It's impossible to describe. Just to touch your perfect, smooth skin. To look into your eyes and try to imagine what you were thinking. To watch you crawl around picking up everything in your path and putting it in your mouth. Everything about you was, still is, a miracle to me.

    SON: Even if I were not the Son of God you would feel that way. A mother's first child … well, if you can't describe it, how can I?

    MOTHER: Perhaps you're right. Perhaps the miracle is in discovering how to be a mother.

    SON: Then every mother everywhere could know that miracle if they would follow your example.

    MOTHER: I don't deserve that.

    SON: Of course you–

    MOTHER: Please don't. I appreciate and cherish your honor for me. It is a wonderful gift, especially coming from you. But, any more than that is … too much. I'm afraid I wouldn't believe even you if you were to bestow me with more praise than I deserve. I could never live up to it. I may allow you to call me a miracle or even an angel … maybe. But never … never the perfect mother.

    SON: But to me —

    MOTHER: Don't! Listen, if you're going to begin teaching people, there's something you need to understand about people. We don't love better by reaching for perfection. We approach perfection by loving better.

  9. Interesting perspectives for sure.

    I think both Angela and Johnna bring up a good point I hadn't really considered before: Is the motivation for perfection external or internal. Is it because you think you need to be perfect (in whatever way you express it) for others (whoever they are–spouse, family, friends, society)? Or are you driven to perfection because of something it does for you inside–do you get some internal satisfaction from it? Or maybe it's both?

    I'm still interested in exploring whether or not we think we inadvertently put pressure on others to be perfect. Anyone?

  10. Using my kids' grades at school as an example of how I try to approach anything in life, I've said this over and over to them: "If you fail because you didn't try, I will be very disappointed. If you try your hardest and you still fail, I don't care what the grade is, I will be very pleased."

  11. Oh I hope your friend will write. My opinions of the whole thing have become more compassionate over the last several months, especially since that first Segullah blog post about bringing dinner to people after they have augmentation done. I would love to hear her perspective.

    As for perfectionism, I have my own battles with it, though more about needing to be emotionally together than physically fabulous. With my little baby, I laugh at myself as I find myself saying to him, "You are perfect . . . but no pressure!" or "I'm so excited for you to learn to walk . . . but take your time, there's no hurry."

    I hope I can be a laid back parent. I'm not a laid back wife yet. Somehow I seem to understand that children and teens are in learning mode still, much better than accepting that us adults are also in learning mode.

  12. I don't feel pressure to be perfect physically, but that's more because I'm just nowhere NEAR that realm – I'm the friend that makes everyone else feel totally pulled together and gorgeous – but, I thought Angela's comment was incredibly insightful.

  13. I strive for perfection in a handful of areas, some of them pretty public (I am house proud, I like to throw great parties, I spend time and money on clothes for me and my kids). I am embarrassed to admit it because I KNOW those things aren't important and I truly don't think more or less of another person based on those areas. Really. I believe that these pursuits are driven by an internal sense of satisfaction and enjoyment and perhaps in very small part (in all honesty, because really, why else am I commenting here) on a latent need to please my parents, who do care about those things. Maybe 5% on that last one.

    I don't want to sound like a total idiot, but it kind of drives me crazy when people think I am a clenched perfectionist when in fact I just enjoy making things (my home, the party invitation, the skirt/shirt combo) pretty. I'm very visual, an artist at heart, and I just really like it. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a mess in many other ways, but I hate feeling like I have to apologize or enumerate my flaws so that I can be free to make really rad birthday invitations for my three-year-old's party. I wish we could all do more to embrace the "perfect" in each other, and not feel the need to compete with it.

  14. (Maybe without going into too much detail?) – I do want to comment on this post, because I have the actual psychological affliction of perfectionism – have gone to therapy for it, battled it since my earliest awareness, still suffer from its effects. My perfectionism manifests itself in non-domestic, worldly, type-A ways. Perfect grades, a stacked resume, professional skills, etc. Or, at least, the effort to achieve these things. This has made my stint as a SAHM particularly hard for me.

    Some thoughts on perfectionism, in my experience:

    1) I cling to Jesus Christ and His Atonement to help me deal with my anxiety over my flaws. He is teaching me to offer Him my best effort, and then to step aside and watch Him use my efforts as He sees fit.

    2) Perfectionism brings many rewards that can become addictive. An extreme example of this is anorexia – the pursuit/attainment of thinness is at first rewarded by compliments and society's approval. But taken to the extreme, an obsession with thin can kill us (sidenote: this is what I think of cosmetic surgery).

    3) The pressure I put on myself to be perfect can come across as being judgemental of others. And let's be honest with ourselves, if we are striving for perfect for the sake of perfect – whether it's grades, housekeeping, toddler birthday parties, or visiting teaching stats – then there is always an element of competition.

    4) When I first had children (they are now 5 and 6), I worried a lot that I would mess them up with my perfectionism. But my husband is a warm, even-tempered guy who balances me. So far, I don't think I've passed my perfectionism on to my kids. As I've told my husband, his job is to minimize any damage I do to our kids!

  15. I was going to comment on all of the perfection pressure I feel, pretty much night and day, and how much it sucks, but I think Angela is right about the validation business. I certainly never tire of hearing that I have done something well.

    I know that the pressure I feel comes from me, even though I like to pretend it comes from everywhere else.

    I think maybe I learned something tonight about perspective. Thanks!

  16. When I think of all the things I need to do to feel like I measure up to the wonderful Ward women around me- I feel totally overwhelmed…. and then I end up so beleagured that I'm nearly incapable of getting anything done. I sometimes feel my chest tighten up and my heart palpate irrationally because I just don't know where to start.

    How do you fix a broken house without any money? How do you teach your 5 and 6 year old to read when you have zero time and patience because you're working so many hours at a job you hate? How do you stop feeling guilty for not reciprocating comments to your blog friends and returning phone calls to your real life friends?

    I'm perfect, alright. A perfect mess.

    (On a sidenote I had a discussion with a mutual friend of ours that has a blog name found in the Produce section. She said she would totally bring a casserole over to a sister at church that had breast implants/tummy tuck/etc. and wouldn't think twice about helping with the kids and stuff until she recuperates. I thought that was one of the most amazingly charitable things I've ever heard because in my heart of hearts I know that I'd be the jealous old biddy type that would refuse to help.)

  17. I've never understood why Mormon women get plastic surgery. I have always leaned toward the natural look and have felt that the Lord prefers us to be simple in our appearance–but that is my interpretation. Plus in church I've never heard it preached that we will be perfect in this life. But for some reason I have always felt a lot of judgement from Mormon women and have turned to non-members for my closer friendships. I feel more comfortable with them, like I can be myself more easily (and that self is someone who tries to do the right thing all the time-it's not like I'm hanging around bad people so I can be a slacker).

    I kind of feel bad that I don't feel more accepted by (and maybe accepting of) Mormon women. Maybe it has something to do with this perceived pressure for perfection issue. Maybe this is why I am afraid to move back to Utah.

    I struggle with perfectionism issues too, but at the other end of the spectrum–since I can't do things perfectly, I don't do them at all. I have a variety of talents, but can't stay focused long enough to see how good I could become, maybe because then I have an excuse why I'm not more perfect at it.

    This is a good topic for me to ponder. I have noticed that my blogging was for attention because I almost quit as not as many people left comments as I wanted. I felt so unpopular that I actually got depressed from not having comments (then it turned out it was PMS). I think writing a blog has brought out many of my weaknesses as well as some strengths-it has been an opportunity for increased self-awareness.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post that helped me want to not judge others unrighteously. And sorry for my imperfect comment that lacked in wit and cleverness. 😉

  18. Your honesty in this discussion has brought me to tears this morning. Thank you for being willing to explore this topic so openly.

    Jane–I agree with you about blogging being an exercise in creativity and hard work. But I have to also agree with Angela about the vanity since she added "on a certain level." While the motivation to blog can be many things–creativity, a desire to connect and communicate, a desire to write in a specific genre, etc.–it can be difficult to find balance in blogging and it can feed into certain non-desirable traits. I know a lot of women–including myself–who are conflicted about their blogging.

    scott–that is the message I try to send my kids as well–the outcome isn't as important as the process and the effort.

    wendy–interesting you should bring up that discussion because that discussion was what started it for me as well. That is so interesting to contemplate–a need to be emotionally together. And I love this: "You are perfect…but no pressure!" I guess the message we want to send our children is, "I love you just the way you are." It's the same message we receive from our Heavenly Father, but we do have a hard time hearing it sometimes, don't we?

    Sue–I'll bet when we do lunch one of these days (still want to meet you) I'll be the friend who will make you feel totally pulled together and gorgeous. You're awesome–and welcome back!

    b.–Thank you.

    Red–I too wish we could stop making each other feeling like we have to apologize for strengths and even for good fortune. And this is beautiful: "I wish we could all do more to embrace the “perfect” in each other, and not feel the need to compete with it."

    Angie–I appreciate your insights. One of the things I have learned by living with and loving perfectionists is to remind myself it's not about me–as hard I as I think they may be on me sometimes, I now know that they are so much harder on themselves. This is teaching me patience and compassion.

    Wesley's Mom–I agree. And well said: "I know that the pressure I feel comes from me, even though I like to pretend it comes from everywhere else."

    elastic–What I have learned about Wonderful Ward Women is that all is not always as it appears. They are indeed wonderful. You and I are wonderful. But none of us is perfect. And that's OK. I don't have any answers to your questions except that maybe sometimes all you can do is just take a deep breath and keep doing what you are doing to meet the challenges of each day head on and try to remember to love yourself and let God's love for you in even while you are being hard on yourself and feeling so overwhelmed.

    Sage–I love your comment–it was perfectly honest and that is perfect for me. There is a woman in my ward who appears to be perfect in every way. I used to perceive judgment from her and then we went on a road trip together to chaperone a bunch of high school band kids and I realized I had it all wrong. She loves me and appreciates me and sees strengths in me I myself don't even recognize. And her life wasn't as perfect as I had imagined. I was so happy to have my ill-conceived perceptions of her shattered.

    I truly hope if and when you move back to Utah you have a different experience among Mormon women and that you will feel free to be yourself among them.

    Did I mention there is a house for sale across the street from me?

  19. I just wanted to make sure that nobody thought I meant that it's simply vain (read: wrong) to blog. I agree with Jane that blogging is also an exercise in creativity, hard work, and humility, and can be an excellent outlet for all those things.

    But there is a "hey, look at me!" impulse that I think most of us share (or at least I hope most of us share, so I won't be all alone :-)). I think our motivations for so much of what we do in this life are very, very complicated. Many of our motivations are noble: we want to improve our talents, create beauty and order, seek to understand the world, serve our fellow human beings. But mingled in with those noble motives are often some not-so-noble ones, too–and I'm not judging that. I'm just noting it, so that we can realize how similar most of humanity is in this respect. Getting a thrill over a bunch of comments on a blog post is, to me, probably akin to the thrill of looking really kickin in a new pair of jeans. Neither is terrible, neither is noble, both are human.

  20. Dalene, you were posting while I was posting. Can I say ditto to all you said? I loved reading all these comments, too. What a fantastic conversation.

  21. I feel a pressure to be perfect physically, but I think it depends more on the region and culture I live in than the church as a whole. For example, when living in SoCal ( a very materialistic and shallow place), I feel more pressure to have a perfect body and perfect clothes. But when living elsewhere, such as Colorado or Washington D.C., I don't feel those same pressures. Only when I return home to SoCal (and my in-laws who incorporate all the shallowness of it into their lives) do I again feel the pressure.

    So, in my experience it has nothing to do with the church, and much more to do with the people I surround myself with.

  22. I support the idea that blogging is a narcissistic endeavor. If we didn't want anyone to read about our lives, we'd be writing our family histories instead of posting weekly/daily/monthly in a public forum. Is it creative? Yes. Is it worth-while (most of the time), yes. Does it serve a good purpose when done right? Yes. But, I don't think we should blind ourselves to the reality that there is a selfish part of it.

  23. As an object lesson for this topic – did anyone notice that my previous comment was itemized neatly? Ha ha! Well at least I can have a sense of humor about my perfectionism! 🙂

  24. Dalene, has anyone answered the other question? To it I say an emphatic yes. Of course we all put pressure on others. Sometimes we mean to do it, other times we have no idea it's happening.

    I think just trying to put on your "game face" for church can put pressure on others. No one want to let it all hang out there that we don't have it all put together. And when we in any way attempt to conceal that fact, we inadvertently send a message to other mothers that they couldn't possibly measure up to our image. But the trick is, it's just an image. It is in no way real.

    The only way to really shed off our pretenses would be to behave in an entirely ontological way. But that's not even really possible, is it? We all pretend, and in so doing, we put pressure on others.

  25. Justine–

    Being entirely "real" would still put pressure on others, because we each have different strengths and weaknesses. Unless we all pretended we had the same weaknesses. And that is just as false as a "game face," right? Being "real" is still an image, it's just genuine (and it really is impossible, anyway).

    I think the best way to cope with all this is to surround yourself with people who appreciate the real you (or the close approximation that you radiate to the world) and strive to do the same for others. I have found genuine, positive individuals like that wherever I go.

  26. Justine–I did not get much response to that question, but I'm still interested. I think the concept of our games faces is interesting as well. I am like an open book about many things–people know my life is crazy, my house and yard aren't perfect (neither is my body), etc., but there are parts of my life I would never share because they involve the privacy of others. I keep them hidden not because I want people to think I am put together, but because I will not betray the confidences of others. It pains me to think that keeping that to myself is somehow putting pressure on others.

    I'm also interested in exploring a little bit more the source of the pressure we feel. If I look around my neighborhood there are probably only a handful of people who are truly judging me–or putting pressure on me to be perfect. So why do we sometimes in our minds let the few represent everyone?

  27. Maralise — I object (quite strongly) to the idea that blogging is narcissistic. No more so than any other form of writing. (So maybe it is!). But what if I can't write fiction or if I happen to find my own kids more interesting to me (right now) than some long-dead ancestors? Does that make me self-centered?

    I found Angie's comments about clinical perfectionism very interesting. My sister's soon-to-be ex is clinically narcissistic, and true narcissism is completely incompatible with human relationships. (Maybe this means blogging is narcissistic? I mean, since it sometimes can detract from the real-life relationships?)

    But talking about blogging as narcissistic or vain really irks me. As if a woman (in this case) taking time for herself to try and understand/examine her own life is selfish, etc, seems really destructive and even worse than this supposed perfectionism-pressure.

    As if we should be spending all of our time on other people — how dare you plunk away at the keyboard! ARGH. Or as if canning or some other more domestic endeavor is of more value than trying to create something lasting, of value, with words. I thought we'd come further since Virginia Woolf's day. (I've been telling my husband lately that I need a laptop of my own.)

    But what I sat down to write was about the Rachel Ray show I saw at the gym today (they have free babysitting there, y'all! and I finally signed up yesterday because my formal PT is over. Woot!)

    Anyway, the authors of a book called "Dirty Little Secrets" were on the show, and it was all about the pressure to be perfect, and, y'all, there was no mention of any church or anything. Just moms/women feeling inadequate and guilty, etc.

    Makes me impatient. Who cares if we're not perfect? Who cares if other people's kids' hair is actually brushed on Sunday? If I need to write a post or something on Sunday morning instead of wrestling with a hairbrush, I'm DANG WELL GONNA DO IT!

  28. Jane–I sometimes feel like I need to defend blogging as an art or literary or communication (or whatever) form too, but the truth is vanity and narcissism can be a real part of it. Because blogging is public (of course so is any type of publishing) it can be hard not to get caught up in that aspect of it.

    But to me there isn't much difference in journaling your thoughts, experiences and creative ideas on paper or online. Truthfully you likely would do neither if you never expected anyone to read them. But I love how online it becomes kind of interactive and can connect me with far more people than would ever read my feeble attempts at journaling. I do believe it is a great medium for people like me who love to write, but who aren't capable of writing a novel.

    And back to the subject of perfectionism, I wonder if it is a woman thing, a mom thing or both? Except I know men who struggle with it too. Maybe we are more vocal about it? But while I don't believe it comes from the church I believe our culture can add more fuel to the fire. Sometimes it seems people are looking for us to be perfect in so many more aspects of our lives. Or something like that.

  29. Jane–I think any endeavor that we spend time on is narcissistic, but I don't think that's a bad thing. In my opinion, the world revolves around enlightened (hopefully) self-interest. I blog (and take photographs and volunteer with Segullah) because I like it and it fulfills me and it's something that I believe is a benefit to others, but I don't want to ever get to the point where I'm self-deluded enough to make it seem that I'm doing what I love for any other motivation than it's what I like/want to do. As long as it's not hurting others, I don't think there needs to be any justification. Maybe narcissistic is the wrong word? Let me restate: I blog because I like it and I have no guilt about liking it. It's in my self-interest to blog, therefore I do it (sometimes well, sometimes not so well). To me, it's important that I keep my own motivations on the forefront so I can keep a healthy perspective about blogging and also all of the things I write about.

    So, I agree with you. Blogging needs no justification. But, I don't think we should ignore that we have a 'need' (whatever that may be) to do it. That it fulfills a need. And that endeavor is self-motivated.

  30. There was a time when I thought everything I did or touched needed to be perfect. I worked hard on my yard, I did the phen-phen and got skinny, I tried to cook healthy, I did alot to make the inside of my home lovely, I demanded chores out of my kids – and I almost had a nervous breakdown. I don't know what I was trying to prove, but all that happened was I was ornery and negative to the people I love the most – my family. I kept looking at other women around me who seemed to have it all together and I thought I needed to be like them to belong (to what, I wonder?).

    Now I have seen the light. My yard is a weedy mess – but I don't care (well, maybe a little). My skinny body went away, as did my desire to cook. I still try to have healthy food around, but mostly we find some chef in the valley who has cooked for us. I love how I've decorated my home, but it is never done – and I'm okay with that. It is still a struggle to get my kids to help around the house – but they are great kids.

    All told, I am happy where I am now. I seem to worry less. I have gotten to know alot of the women I held up on a pedestal, and have realized they struggle too. One day I was discussing with a woman in my ward who I look up to, how some of my artistic friends intimidate me. I don't feel as good or talented or up to par with them. This woman looked at me and said "That's interesting, because until I got to know you, you always intimidated me." I was shocked and decided we just don't know what others are thinking. The perfect woman we are comparing ourselves to may just be looking at us the same way. Something to think about.

  31. I do believe society in this country is obsessed with physical perfection. Yet it is strange how there seems to be a heavier concentration of this obsession amongst the Mormon majority. In fact, I was thinking about writing an essay about this.

    A decade or so ago, the supposedly "perfect" Mormon woman was probably labeled as a "Molly Mormon." Let's look back and remember what kind of person our sister Molly seemed to be back then. Molly, who was diligent in all of her church duties, was someone who many might have considered to be plain, and most definitely a prude. She abhorred things of the "world," and tried her best to separate herself from such things. From the outside, she appeared to be the perfect saint untainted by sin.

    Today, our sister Molly has evolved into something much more disturbing than the sexually repressed Mormon female, who just didn't have it in her to "let loose." In fact, I believe the new "Molly Mormon," is now most likely a bleach blond, size 6 female, who has had her fair share of surgical sculpting. In fact, it seems as though our sister Molly has transmogrified into being part of something that the world feeds off of voraciously; something that has become a billion dollar industry; something that can destroy men by dangerously exploiting women.

    Our sweet Molly is now looking more and more like a porn star.

    Sound harsh? Just 20 years ago, the everyday woman was not expected to be without pubic hair. The everyday woman was expected to look her age, to look like a "real" mother, and beauty queen. Now we're supposed to play strippers in the bedroom, having poles installed in our homes. Today on television, you hardly ever see an actress playing a mother that appears matronly; all the mothers on TV now have to be MILFs.

    As women, we compete against the preposterous ideal of air-brushed beauty. We compete with digital actresses of the adult film genre. Suddenly our only competition is something that does not really exist, something that only takes place in the world of fantasy. Whether you like it or not, pornography has trickled down into our everyday lives, and it has crushed our previous perceptions of the "perfect" Mormon woman.

    Personally, I'm not anti-plastic surgery. Our bodies are always changing, if not voluntarily then involuntarily. Our hair falls out, our cells reproduce; our bodies are in a constant state of change whether we like it or not. However I'm a fan of not fixing what ain't broke. The old college roommate of mine who had a breast augmentation from a C cup to DD cup: not necessary. Of course all of us will view what may be "broken" quite differently (many will claim it is self-esteem that is broken, and a nose job will fix it), and being something so personal it's best not to make such generalized judgments on the topic (like I probably just did). Yet when you're trying so desperately to become the "norm," which today is now the "porn norm," some perspective has been lost, and you'll have to ask yourself, "Will I get to take these saline triple D's to the Celestial Kingdom? Will they accompany my body with resurrection? Do you think they'll have a permanent remedy for cellulite by the Second Coming?"

    It's nearly impossible in today's world to not give into the "porn norm." Myself, I have paid salons to wax unmentionable places. I have considered taking one of those "striptease" aerobic classes. Being sexy and desirable is important to women, but it shouldn't be our main priority in life, especially due to the fact that the concepts of "sexy" and "desirable" have been warped into something that can be so degrading.

  32. Ugh. Small typo in my massive comment, imagine that. It should be, "The everyday woman was expected to look her age, to look like a “real” mother, and NOT like a beauty queen."

  33. I used to feel pressure…but that's when all I wanted was "perfection". Now I'm just looking at little-by-little progress. I think progress is a more realistic goal…at least for me.

    Here's the deal – I realized a long time ago that being like everyone else wasn't going to happen. Maybe it helped I was the one Asian chic growing up in Bountiful…then the only Mormon Asian Chic in my jr high/high school in Calif… or often the only Asian in a white congregation… I was never going to be "perfect" in some sense, in some way…in someone's eyes. I realized it wasn't something I cared for.

    Now – it's about improving day-by-day. Doing things that work for me.

    I think when we look at people and get annoyed, or feel guilty because we aren't measuring up to whatever their standard is… well – we're looking at other people… WHY? Why are we so concerned about what other people do? I'm too busy messing around in my life to give didly squat what someone else is doing.

    This is why it annoys me when people have a cow that someone has a nice house, has a great body or is extremely intelligent. Why are we upset? We should be cheering people on who have progressed – little-by-little. I think it's about what we value… and hey – if it's something we want to achieve and someone else has… why be upset or resentful or feel guilty… give yourself some time… get some tips from someone who has succeeded at something you'd like to. I think sometimes we're too proud. That pride is often our roadblock. Once we remove that the possibilities to move forward are infinite.

    So I don't give myself a hard time when I still have 15 lbs to go to meet my day of wedding weight. I don't envy the ones that are at wedding weight. I look at the fact that hey – right now I may not have all the time in the world – but I'm doing little things day-by-day that will meet that goal… I have a belief it will happen. Faith I guess.

    Same with mothering… some days are better than others. I'm really proud of myself when we've been doing interactive stuff all day and the TV hasn't been turned on. But there are other days when we've watched two Disney movies… and it doesn't bug me. It's what it is.

    If I cared about comments I would've stopped blogging long ago… but that's not why I do it. I kind of like sharing myself and leaving it there…take me or leave me… plus… I am hoping that leaving it all out there will help my girls realize it's ok to be themselves – come what may.

    It's about our priorities, how we feel about ourselves, without the echo or input of the people/world around us. It's about whether we are willing to be humble and learn …or merely complain and be jealous. Life is about choices… what we focus on – what we don't.

    I honestly believe that pressure comes from us. From inside. We choose to allow things to affect us. Do we buy into it… or don't we. How much do buy into it? There will always be people who are fake. We live in an inhuman world… most people can see through that… so why let it bother us?

    It's like when one the girls from Church laughed at me for washing my grapes, strawberries and blueberries in saltwater… (it actually removes so much more dirt for my admittedly neurotic self) it was interesting because… I don't make fun of her for not doing it. I'm not comparing myself to her… but she for some reason was comparing herself to me. I just chalked it up to her own insecurity… that's why we make fun to make ourselves feel better… right?

    Do we really care that much about what other people think of us? Or… do we care more about what we think of ourselves, what God thinks? Cuz trust me… most people aren't worth it.

  34. I've referred to the following Chieko Okazaki quote in a number of Relief Society lessons (and found a lot of comfort in it myself). She says,

    “Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs or your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations. Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others—nearly always this will make you despondent. Don’t accept somebody else’s interpretation of how you should be spending your time. Practice saying, ‘I feel good about my decision to . . .’ and then fill in the blank with whatever you’ve decided.”

    I think that many of us DO need to practice saying, "I feel good about my decision to . . ." And we can fill in that blank with blogging, or a getting a boob job, or bottle feeding our kids, or working outside the home (as Sis Okazaki herself did) or any number of decisions that other people might look at sideways. For me, one of the best parts of getting older is I'm more and more able to stand still in my own skin and say, "Hey, this is me. These are the opinions I've developed and this is what I think is important and here are the things I've decided to do with my life." Although I can't control the fact that people will judge me, I CAN control my reaction to that judgment . . . especially if I feel confident in my ability to make good decisions for myself. Do I still feel occasionally stung by judgment or worried that I've made a bad impression? Heck yeah. But I also know that those worries are steadily decreasing the older I get.

  35. I feel good about my decision to rewash the laundry instead of putting it away today.

    And I feel good about my decision to step over the toys that the kid threw over the banister, rather than refuel her ammunition.

    I like it.

  36. tonya–I love your art and your garden and your house and your kids and…Don't change a thing!

    Angela–I want that cross-stitched on a pillow: "I feel good about my decision to…"

  37. Dalene, you have done it again. You have a (spiritual) gift for generating discussion.

    How to deal with pressure to be perfect and all that nonsense? That's easy for me: I don't have room for that crap; for the worry or comparison or any of it. I have more important things and people to spend my time and energy on.

    I apologize if this seems harse, but, frankly, my belief is that it's not as complicated as we make it. People will make all sorts of excuses for why they are caught up in it, but the bottom line is that, for whatever reason, that is where many people are comfortable, so that is where they stay.

    My answer for how to cope is simply: Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.

  38. Don't you just adore Cheiko Okazaki?

    i i eeee — I liked so many things that you said. It had never occurred to me how much I'm letting the "porn culture" influence my own self-image, my relationship with my husband,etc. Please write that essay!

  39. Dalene:

    I meant to reply right after I read your comment. I loved how you wrote a note to each person. As I read it I felt your love and concern for people who took time to comment. I think you are right that the connections we are able to make through this blog phenomenon are unique and enriching.

    Anyway, thanks for being so friendly. Maybe I'll move to Utah after all. : )

  40. That's so funny, I was just thinking this morning how that offer still stands–the house is still vacant.

    We had an interesting discussion about this–not so much perfection, but more about sisterhood, acceptance and reaching out–in RS just yesterday. I'm trying to compile my impressions into a post.

    Anyway, thanks Sage.

  41. 🙂 I am very blessed to live in a ward where there is a lot of sisterhood and not a lot of judging (but as women we do it anyway, don't we!?)

    I guess I'll let you know about the move when my husband finally has a minute to decide to accept the offer he has! He's been too busy at work to decide. And I am just finishing the house I've been remodeling for four years, so my feelings are mixed anyway.


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