From the moment we're born, people ooh and ahh over our tiny features and silly gestures, never taking their eyes off our adorableness, just waiting to see what our next move will be.
But somewhere around five years old, the cute haze wears off and we cease to be so alluringly irresistible.
People stop paying attention.
This fact goes unnoticed by us. Used to everyone watching, we continue to think the world is our audience, resting on our every move, waiting to enthusiastically cheer our successes and mourn our failures.
Though we might not realize it's happening, we have to work much harder to stand out from the crowd and garner that coveted praise. The more competitive the stakes, the more we aim for perfection.
If you're like me, maybe you go to graduate school for an advanced degree. Then, instead of staying home with your new baby -- which might be what you really want -- a few months after he's born you launch a business of your own and bust your butt to make it successful.
Wow, aren't you impressive!
Meanwhile, you miss out on (mostly) everything that matters to you.
Or maybe you go and work for someone else where you get to wither away in a windowless cubicle and obsess about how to sell more dental floss/salty snacks/dried sausages. All. Day. Long.
You climb your way to the top of the company fast, getting promoted quickly, being given more responsibilities, more money, a better title. You're a big shot!
Meanwhile, between work and the commute, you're never home. You miss your family. As you scramble to land your next raise, someone else raises your kids.
Though you don't see them enough, at least people know you're bright enough. You make enough. You accomplish enough. By all appearances, your life is perfect.
Except here's the funny thing ...
No one gives a crap.
We fret endlessly about other people's perception of our success, making decisions about our lives based on what we think they think.
We spend so many years yearning for acceptance and approval. Yet the reality is, everyone's so busy tending to their own lives, they barely have time to notice anyone else's.
Then, suddenly, at around age 40, the most wonderful thing in the world happens: We begin to realize nobody's keeping tabs on our accomplishments.
So we stop trying to be perfect. We stop caring what everyone else thinks. And that's when things finally begin to feel just right.
Here are eight telltale signs you no longer give a crap about being perfect:
- You don't care how much your family is worth. What matters is that the limited time you have together feels worthwhile. You might not be as far along as you hoped you would be. The debts may outweigh the debits. But, man, is life good.
- You don't care what kind of car you drive. What matters is that it gets you where you want to go, together. Chuck's Hopshop in the fall. The Phinney Farmers Market in the spring. Or Golden Gardens Beach in the summer.
- You don't care if your kids attend a prestigious school. What matters is that you finally found a place that appreciates your kid for who he is and understands that children aren't robots who all learn the same way.
- You don't care if your youngest is the first to be potty-trained or give up the pacifier. What matters is that, three kids in, you finally understand that savoring the fleeting baby stage fills your heart and rushing through it fills you with regret.
- You don't care what people think about your parenting or if they believe Ben & Jerry's Free Ice Cream Day is a good enough reason to skip school. What matters is that your kids think, at least for one day, that you are the coolest parent. Ever.
- You don't care if things go according to plan when you have company. What matters is that you finally know who you really enjoy making plans with in the first place. And they could give a hoot if you overcook their salmon.
- You don't care if you fall off the bike/paddleboard/horse and look like a complete idiot even if someone posts it on YouTube for the whole world to see. What matters is that you finally figured out what you love doing.
- You don't care if some people don't like you. What matters is that, finally, you really like yourself.
The beauty in getting older is that you don't give a crap if your life looks perfect to others. You care that it feels perfect to you.
This blog post is part of a series for HuffPost Moments Not Milestones called 'Beyond Perfect: How letting go of perfection has made a difference in your life.' To see all the other posts in the series, click here.