If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty hard on yourself. I see this often reflected in my daughter, who also is so tough on herself whenever she makes a mistake and watching her struggle with her perfectionism is like a mirror reflecting back a place where I have a lot of work to do.
Every day, I wake up and I start out with a blank slate, but it’s not long before I forget something, let something slide, or make a mistake. Suddenly, it’s like the sun outside darkens and my whole day begins to be colored by that feeling of falling short. I’ve internalized this idea that anything less than perfect isn’t good enough.
Logically, I know this is ridiculous. Logically, I know that no one is perfect and I’d never try to measure anyone else in this way. I know I’m human and I will make mistakes, but somehow, logic goes right out the window and I can be merciless when it comes to measuring myself against an ideal that I’ll never reach. The fact is, even if I get all my steps in today, I might make a mistake on my nutrition…or lose my temper with one of my kids…or not catch the puppy in time to take her outside before an accident…or forget to make an important call or appointment. The odds are stacked against me having a perfect day and I will make a mistake in some small or big way because I am human.
This is EXACTLY by design and how I’m meant to be.
It can be VERY easy if you’re someone into self-improvement of any sort, whether it’s a fitness buff, yoga student, spiritual or religious seeker, or in recovery or therapy, to start to focus on the negative, the places where you have growth to do or character traits that you’d rather not have or the little spots on your body you’d love to change and lose track of the bigger picture, which is that no one is perfect and we’re not supposed to be. You were created with certain personality features and if you were able to smooth all of those down to some ideal…would you even be the same person anymore? My quick temper is the flip side of my passion that helps me find intense joy and share it with others or push through adversity. Without that temper, I wouldn’t have other positive traits and all of that is a big part of who I am. Should I work on handling it better? Of course. But at the same time, I shouldn’t beat myself up for having imperfections that are part of my unique design. None of our bodies fit a perfect ideal. We always have something to learn and some way to grow.
In my life, I have a very specific religious path I’m on that can be very exacting. There are a lot of rules and it can be really hard to feel like I’m living up to it all at times, but then I need to take a deep breath and realize that I’m not meant to be perfect at it all…I’m just meant to try and to do my best, whatever that may be for me, not what someone else’s best might be. No one is expecting me to be perfect, least of all the One who created me complete with my unique limitations.
There is something freeing about accepting my imperfections as part of the plan rather than as some mistake that I have to work to correct. It also has an added benefit of helping me be more patient and tolerant and accepting of the humanity of others. If I recognize that the things I’d rather change about myself were put there on purpose and I’m kinder to myself as a result, I find it much easier to accept and love others in their imperfections. I even find often that it’s those “imperfections” that make them uniquely endearing. One friend might tell the worst puns, the kind that make you groan and may even get annoying, but when I love and accept them as they are, I begin to see that trait as something cute that makes them who they are. A crooked smile, a tinny singing voice, a weird quirk…all of these become something special rather than some kind of mistake. They are part of what makes each person different and distinct and I remember that the world would not be complete without a single one of them…quirks included.
We were never meant to be perfect. That was never the plan and none of us was created with perfection in mind. We are meant to make mistakes and fall short…and keep trying and we’re meant to do this alongside and with other imperfect beings all with their own unique struggles and mistakes. It’s messy and beautiful when I step back and look at it from a more positive perspective rather than trying to make the world in my own ideal instead of accepting that it works perfect as it is.
Imperfections and all.