What does it mean to you to be perfect?
On the surface, it might mean to look great, be beautiful, wear the right clothes, be successful, drive the right car, have the right friends, etc. If we just had all of these things, we’d be what? What are we searching for in perfection? What benefits does it give us?
I think I started my quest for perfection at a very young age. When I really became aware of it was in 7th grade. This was when I started to get concerned with how I looked and even more concerned than I was in the past with how I acted. It became more important to me to have the right friends, to be popular, to do well in school, to be a good daughter, and the list went on and on.
What Is Perfect?
What does it feel like to be perfect? I’m not sure — I never made it to perfect. I didn’t even have the word PERFECT defined. There was only some elusive feeling about what it was — and I was never going to get there anyway. Instead, I was just going to keep striving, pushing, fearing, working, asking for nothing and tip toeing along — hoping I’d eventually get there.
The Quest For Perfect
In the quest for perfect, nothing is ever good enough. You win a prize and you are happy for a moment. Then you start to work harder for the next prize. You get the job and you worry about keeping the job. You get the boyfriend you liked and worry that you’re not worthy. You get accepted by that group of friends and wonder if they will really like you when they know the real you. You hide the real you and become something you think they want you to be. You get to your ideal weight and fear you won’t be able to maintain it…so maybe if you just went a little lower, there’d be some room to feel comfortable.
In the quest for perfect, you get further and further away from yourself. You leave yourself behind while trying to become something that perhaps you haven’t fully identified. You don’t even know how to be because what you’re going after is not even you. And maybe, like me, you develop an eating disorder. Just one more thing to lock myself into a vicious cycle, thinking that something outside myself will allow me to make it to perfect.
Peeling Away The Layers
If you peel away the layers, I think we may have mixed up the idea of this thing called “perfect” with what we really want to feel: confident, happy, free and loved. For me, it meant that people would love me — that I would be loved. And since this “perfect” self I had created — this person who wasn’t even me — this fraud — was not me at all, I never felt that unconditional love for just being ME. I also developed a fear of love, because remember, I was a fraud — not loveable. This made it hard for me to ever feel close to people.
In the quest for perfection, for approval, for love — I would ask for nothing. I was brazenly independent and would try to do everything for myself. So this “perfect” self I had created got tired, overworked and burned out. And if I was so tired that I wanted to rest — for a day, a month, a year — to just back off my schedule and responsibilities a bit — I felt like a lazy slug. Why? Because “perfect” would be able to do everything. Why? Because people stopped asking me if they could help after being told I could do it myself for so long.
Confessions of Perfection
Okay, so now I have a confession to make. In the eyes of my friends, my family, my husband — I seemed perfect. Not perfect like I wanted to be –like the movie stars or other archetypal perfect figures. No, I was a normal everyday version of perfect to the people around me. I was superwoman — successful education, successful job, successful marriage, great house, great life, etc. My friends claimed their lives weren’t as charmed as mine. People were afraid to invite me for dinner because my dinners were so “perfect.”
No one feels comfortable with the perfect one. And the perfect one feels comfortable with no one — not even themselvesWhat else did this perfect life give me? No one ever acknowledged me in groups when accolades were given out. This happened time & time again over the years. Later on, someone would tell me that they didn’t think I needed the praise because I had everything going for me. My parents even didn’t pay as much attention to me as my sister because I was the “good child,” the one who could take care of herself, who didn’t need attention or praise. I walked around in my life, never getting acknowledgement and feeling totally unloved. And of course, I felt utterly imperfect and like a disaster inside. So I was a walking disaster, who no one felt like they needed to praise or acknowledge — because on the surface, everything was perfect!
Perfect – The Road To Hell
It sucked. Really. Now, I am in my thirties and just figuring out what many other people out there probably already know — or maybe not. Perfect sucks. No one likes the perfect one. No one feels comfortable with the perfect one. And the perfect one feels comfortable with no one — not even themselves. It’s a recipe for unhappiness — and yet, all I had wanted was to be happy. I was trying to make it to happy by being perfect, never knowing that perfect was a road to hell, not the road to happiness.
I watched the imperfects out there get a lot of love & encouragement from people. I watched them get acknowledged. And I realized that people like, love and acknowledge HUMANNESS. People who are human are imperfect. They drop the ball sometimes. They say the wrong things sometimes. They don’t look perfect all the time. They have — horrors — flaws!!! Now I realize this and it is so freeing! Now I revel in being human. I dress sloppy most of the time and I love it! I go shopping with my hair in a ponytail, no shower and a baseball cap and I love it! I say what I feel like saying, without worrying so much. And guess what? People love it! They love this human me. This imperfect me. I can see it in their eyes. Everyone relaxes when me, the imperfect, is around.
Imperfect Is The New Perfect
In my life, imperfect is the new perfect. I know what imperfect will get me — it’s being who I am, saying what’s in my heart, wearing what I want to wear (who cares what “they” think — who are they anyway?), doing what I want to do — it’s following MY heart. It’s not thinking about what I “should” do, but looking at what I really want. It’s getting closer to who I really am. As the imperfect, I am happy. Maybe in the outer world, my house is smaller and I look like everyone else, blending in — rather than standing out. It is AWESOME! I love blending in! Finally, the pressure is off and I can be myself. And this joy that is bubbling up from inside of me? This comes from imperfect. Yes, imperfect is the new perfect.
- What does perfection mean in your life?
- In what ways are you striving to be perfect?
- What are the benefits of perfect?
- What are the costs?
- Are they worth it?
- Who would you be without being perfect?
- What would it look like to be who you really are?
- What commitment will you make to yourself?
- What does it take to be truly happy?
- If imperfect was truly perfect, what would you be able to do? Who would you be?
Next time you see someone you think is “perfect” consider what they must be doing to create that image. You may think they look great and have it all, but what’s underneath that quest for perfection? Consider whether they are going to extremes to be perfect. I was, perhaps you are. The grass is rarely ever greener on the other side.
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