Why is it so hard to be who we are? Who we truly are, deep down inside? And even more, why is it so hard to actually know who we are?
It’s taken 38 years, chronic pain, divorce, single motherhood, and wanting to die—repeatedly—for me to figure me out.
I spent a great deal of my life being uncomfortable—trying to cover up what I thought were my flaws—so others didn’t see them. And probably, even more, so I didn’t see them. I put immeasurable amounts of energy into trying to be perfect on the outside, while being a complete mess on the inside.
The little gems I have come to know about myself, I have learned, because of my circumstances; the experiences that happened that I had no control over. Not the moments when everything went according to plan. It was through the challenges that I came to know who I am. The times I thought I wasn’t enough; when I felt like the next logical step was to give up, but didn't. Those moments when I had to reach down and pull from the depths, just to get through.
I found—me—in the deepest, darkest places inside myself.
It was also where I learned I didn't need to be perfect.
Perfect—perfection, they can be such ugly words. Why was I so drawn to being perfect? I realize now, I never found comfort in trying so desperately to be perfect; I never felt satisfied or complete. I was always striving for something that didn't exist. Talk about exhausting. I was obsessed with perfection. Perfection in so many things that didn't even matter.
The scary thing about perfection is that is actually prevents us from being authentic. It causes us to change depending on who we are with. It makes us doubt our abilities and forces us to live from fear; to not live at all. It keeps us from sharing our struggles and challenges with those who may need to hear them.
Perfection prevented me from knowing and loving myself. It made me question my every action; my every thought. It made me confused about how I should feel about certain things. Because a perfect person doesn't get angry and a perfect person always says and does the right thing. I was constantly disappointed in myself because I never said or did the right thing. Perfectionism has an ironic way of tarnishing our views of ourselves. Because of the ugly p word, I worked so hard to make everything appear put together and flawless,, but in the end, I never felt like it was good enough; like I was good enough. At anything.
My breakup with perfection happened the moment my body gave out on me. The day life-altering pain decided to make my spine it's home. Because of the pain, I had to let go of perfection. I could no longer hold myself to that level of expectation. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my body didn’t work anymore.
It was incredibly aggravating knowing in my mind I could do better, but lacking a body that would perform. It still is—almost five years later. I had to learn to embrace the fact that my new perfect was no longer 100%. My perfect became just enough.
It took years and years of self-help books, life-coaching sessions, writing, processing, rewiring my brain, trial and error, and being conscious of old beliefs that kept popping up, before I was finally able to acknowledge and accept my faults and weaknesses—instead of hate myself for them.
I actually had to seek out those parts of me that were imperfect; the parts I never wanted to expose. It was one of the hardest, scariest things I’ve done; to dig up my imperfections and own them. I had to feel the hurt, the shame, the guilt that came with chronic pain, unexpected divorce, bad choices, and finding myself, again.
Through owning and accepting my weaknesses—those pesky imperfections— I came to know and love myself. The more my love grew the more I showed myself patience and compassion, much like I would a friend who came to me struggling. Inevitably, I realized, that instead of being disappointed when I made a mistake or when things didn't go as planned, I could learn and make myself better. I could recognize where I acted/reacted in the wrong and be conscious of my behavior the next go-around.
The more I realized how much I needed to change, the more I became perfection. Not perfection in the perfect sense of the word, but perfection in that, I am perfectly me, in every way. Flaws and doubts and mistakes and broken body and all.
Maybe, perfection it isn't about being the best at everything. Maybe, it isn't about having life in order all the time or hiding your flaws from the world. Maybe, it's just about doing your best—whatever your best is—in that moment, owning your mistakes, learning from them, and calling it good after a long, hard day.
I'd say that's perfection in every single way.