Parent-for-Peace Spotlight: “I’m A Recovering Perfectionist”

Embracing the Flow
by Stephanie Evans Hanson

  •  Hello.  My name is Stephanie, and I am a “Present Past Perfectionist.”  Admission is the first step, right?  Left unchecked, this is how my brain typically works:  I wake up each morning with a to do list in my head, constantly thinking about the next item I need to complete.  I move through the day accomplishing one task after the other, trying to keep up with the daily chores that I have to do, as well as the projects that I invent for myself.

When I was a little girl, I remember being involved in four simultaneous activities outside of school by the time I was 8 or 9:  ballet and jazz classes, piano lessons, horseback riding lessons, and Girl Scouts.  I must have had an extracurricular activity to do almost every day after school, on top of my schoolwork.  I don’t remember this being a problem when I was young – I wanted to do all of those activities, and I enjoyed them.  But as I progressed through the years, this level of activity never ceased or slowed down.

In high school, I transitioned into studying classical music and flute pretty seriously.  However, this wasn’t all I did.  I also had a part time job, ran track, and was a member of 2 or 3 community orchestras at one time – while keeping up with my studies and spending time with friends.

When planning to go back to graduate school, I made the decision to continue working full time while also going to school full time.  This (crazy idea) allowed me to take advantage of a scholarship and fellowship, and I could pay for my living expenses out of my salary.  Financially it made sense; every place else it didn’t.  I can remember this exact thought going through my head: “As long as I have time to sleep at least 6 hours per night, this will all be manageable.”  Not surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to realize this wasn’t a realistic plan.

By the time I was 25, I experienced my first anxiety attacks.  I would break out in hives 5 or 6 times a day, for what seemed like no reason at all.  I became paralyzed in social situations, especially as they related to academics and my career.  I couldn’t give a public presentation without feeling like I was going to faint.  What underlay all of this was my belief that “I’m not enough” – so I had to do more and be more in order to fulfill the expectations I had for myself.  However, I wasn’t aware of that belief at the time.  It took over a year of working with an energy healer in order to begin shining a light on this part of myself.  This was the hardest, yet also best thing I’ve done.  I had to learn to be present, receive, and become comfortable with being rather than doing.

I reflect on those 15 or so years of my life, because as I read Parenting for Peace while pregnant with my first child, these memories are what are present for me.  My default brain setting is to continue doing, whereas my true desire for how I want to be in my life is to simply practice just being.  Before my husband and I became pregnant, I worked with a life coach to create a list of my core commitments and values that I could live by.  I practiced saying no to activities and requests that weren’t in alignment with those commitments, and (tried to!) simplify our social calendar so we would have the time to focus on the activities that were important to us.  I wasn’t always successful at this, and sometimes caught myself reverting back to my habit of filling up each night of the week.  But I had begun learning the difference between activities, people, and commitments that drained my energy, versus those that gave me energy.  I didn’t have to work so hard all the time anymore.

As I read Parenting for Peace throughout my first trimester, I found myself mourning for my own childhood.  The time for free play was present in my early years, but I slowly forgot what it felt like to spend hours working on a project with no real goal in mind.  To draw, just to draw.  Or play music, just to play music.  I can’t count the number of opportunities or fun activities with friends that I missed because I was too busy accomplishing and doing.

I’ve spent the past seven months of my pregnancy trying to focus on being present, because I know that is what this little baby needs most from me.  Although I wish I had learned these lessons earlier in my childhood, I have an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness that I now have the opportunity to take a journey of rediscovering the world of imagination, creativity, and rhythmic simplicity with my own child.  My desire is for him to always have the feeling that he is centered, balanced, and whole.

Parenting for Peace has served as a guidepost for me on living in alignment with my core values, and the values that I want to instill in my family.  Designing our work, volunteer, and social activities around the commitment to build a nurturing environment for our new baby are central to how I frame my goals now.  I sometimes struggle with feeling comfortable asking for what I want or need to better serve my true commitments.  But, I’m working on it.

I titled this “Embracing the Flow,” because I view this journey through pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a newborn as helping me discover peace in accepting life as it flows.  I hope to learn how to let go of things I have no control over, and find comfort in slowing down, doing less, and being more.  Moreover, I’m learning how to be okay with who I am.  Just as I intend to guide our new baby through his lessons in life, I’m open to everything he is already teaching me.

Stephanie Evans Hanson lives in Falls Church, VA, with her husband Dave. Their first baby — a boy — is due in November.


I want to thank Stephanie for helping us inaugurate our new
Parent-for-Peace Spotlight by sharing her P4P experience with such an open heart. If you would like to submit a story, a reflection, anything at all regarding how Parenting for Peace has made itself felt in your life,  we would love to include you in an upcoming edition of the Spotlight! Simply drop us an email at marcy@marcyaxness.com.

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