I have a secret.
Now don’t get too excited, it isn’t salacious, juicy or worthy of a trashy tabloid. It won’t solve the COVID crisis or win me a Nobel Prize, but the discovery instantly made me a better… me. Oddly enough, it’s a realization that when I mustered up the nerve to share it with a close friend, he stopped dead in his tracks, stared at me with an unflinching glare, and with words oozing with sarcasm said, “yeah, no kidding.”
Wait, so maybe this isn’t a secret after all? Have I been working like a nut bar to keep this hidden all my life when really the only person I’ve been bamboozling is myself?
I don’t even remember what I was doing when this deep dark secret decided to emerge from its Pandora’s box looking for light. I just know that it hit me like a random anvil to the coyote’s head. What was this shock of all shocks?
I’m not a perfectionist.
How could this be? I love annoying little details, have a classic type A personality, and well, isn’t that what I’m supposed to be? I mean come on, I’m a first-born female for Pete’s sake.
I stood there allowing myself to exhale for the first time in what felt like a very long time and observed the reality spread out in front of me; I am a great many thing, but a perfectionist really isn’t one of them.
My entire life I’ve willingly carried the burden of perfectionism somehow thinking it was necessary in order to be taken seriously and earn my worthiness. The pressure caused me to unknowingly suffocate myself with self-judgment and to constantly buzz with the fear that at any moment I would be exposed as a fraud.
But at the time, I didn’t know any better. After all, society had gone out of its way to convince me that becoming Mary Poppins, the true embodiment of practically perfect in every way, would give me joy (with limitations), happiness (complete with fake smile), and to feel loved (with conditions).
I was forcing myself to follow rules that didn’t exist, using an invisible measuring stick to decide my value, all the while fighting against my natural nature that was screaming done is better than perfect. Now here I stood, baffled, with only one thing I knew for sure… I was exhausted.
- Exhausted from following rules that were self-imposed.
- Exhausted from saying “yes” because perfection told me it was the right thing to do when I desperately wanted to say “no.”
- Exhausted from beating myself up for missing the tiniest of details that didn’t matter and nobody else would see anyway.
- Exhausted from actively searching for my mistakes instead of appreciating my accomplishments.
- Exhausted from offering self-put downs when someone complimented me when all I ever need to do is say, “thank you.”
- Exhausted from betraying myself by believing that I’m not good enough, smart enough, and working overtime to make up for it.
- Exhausted, simply from forcing myself to be something I wasn’t.
In the end, what became glaringly obvious is that fact that perfect is wildly… boring.
My imperfections are what make me interesting and feed my quirky unpredictable personality. They give me the freedom to explore while defusing any personal judgment with laughter and give me permission to release the imaginary restrictions I’ve been clinging to as a false sense of security. And every once in a while, my imperfections have me throw caution to the wind, make a bunch of mistakes I get the benefit of learning from, and leave me at the end of the roller-coaster shouting, “let’s do that again.”
Perfect doesn’t exist. And by voicing my great lack of it, I took away its power over me and accepted that the joy, happiness, and love perfectionism was bribing me with didn’t need to be earned, were mine all along.
I want to end each day feeling like in some way I’m a better person than when I started it. And the best way I know how to do that is to be kind to others, laugh as much as I can, and embrace the fact that I’m perfectly imperfect.
Lori Rae Tomlinson is a writer, inspirational speaker, and high school teacher who enjoys sharing life lessons, forehead slapping a-ha moments, and quirky perspectives on life. She’s a personal growth junkie, storyteller, wanderlust traveler, serial hobbiest and that girl in the grocery store you for some reason find yourself pouring out your life story to. As a cancer survivor, Lori’s learned the power of joy and that life really is like eating an elephant, we need to tackle it one bite at a time.
Image courtesy of Ibraim Leonardo.