Don\'t Worry Be Happy

Don't Worry Be Happy

Alice Domar tells women how to escape "the perfectionist trap"

By Barbara Walsh | Photos by Mary Schwalm '99


Excerpts from Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Break Free from the Perfection Deception

Whether or not we work outside the home, we hear little voices—from ourselves, from society—reminding us of what we “should” be. From the minute we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning till the minute we fall asleep at night, we are inundated with messages that tell us we should be thin, beautiful, successful, and sexy while being exceptional parents, supportive spouses, superlative employees, and cheerful volunteers. Oh, and we’re supposed to get a restaurant-quality Thanksgiving dinner for 23 people on the table without breaking a sweat. So, despite all the progress we’ve made, perfectionism is holding us back.

domar bookYou can stop this perfection-based insanity. You don’t have to be a slave to these messages. You can change the way you respond to the expectations set by others, and you can re-script the demands that you automatically place on yourself.

While Martha and the pie-in-the-sky stores peddle perfection in the home, women’s magazines set unreasonably high standards for how we should look. For example, Glamour magazine offers up “10 New Flattery Rules” in its 2006 Big Book of Do’s and Don’ts. These rules cover everything from dressing to showcase your favorite physical feature, practicing the art of camouflage, choosing figure-flattering fabrics, using patterns wisely, and knowing that the A-line is your friend.

These rules make sense—you can’t argue with someone who’s recommending that a woman with trailer-width hips and a jelly belly avoid crop tops and pencil skirts. But Glamour pushes perfection a little too far when it tells women what they should do with these 10 rules. “Memorize them, believe in them, follow them, and you will leave the house fashionably every day.” That’s an awful lot to ask—I’d be happy to leave the house fashionably once a week. Plus, each rule is illustrated with a photo of a celebrity exemplar—Jennifer Aniston, Beyonce Knowles, Lindsay Lohan, Selma Hayek, and other stunningly beautiful women that the average reader wouldn’t resemble no matter how many fashion rules she followed.

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  • On August 5, 2008, Cheryl Heiks wrote:
    I too am a Mom with two wonderful daughters, and want to avoid passing along some bad habits I have accumulated. I read this book and loved it! It is full of wonderful humerous examples of how to avoid some of the common self-criticisms that can get in your way.

  • On September 3, 2008, Ann R. Stillwater '81 wrote:
    Wow, I have not read this book, but have read bits of an earlier book. I agree with Cheryl that healing the generations is important. My children are grown, but I hope that by modelling more self-care and self-acceptance, my children will see pathways out of the dysfunctional patterns that impede them.