If I were to list the negative aspects of myself, I would have a novel written. However, the adjective that tops the list is imperfect. No matter how hard I try, I mess up and end up hurting others along with myself. The detailed flawless plans in my head go awry when I attempt to carry them out. Ashamed and frustrated, I have to admit that I am not perfect despite my determined efforts.
Now, I know that saying “no one is perfect.” However, I find it nearly impossible to live out in my daily life. For others, I find grace and forgiveness; even when they make mistakes, I shrug them off or recover from my disappointment. No one else is held to the standard of perfection that I have made for myself. Call me hypocritical but I almost always let others off easily after they hurt me. But rage and self-hate fills me when I make similar mistakes.
Through my treatment, I have met many women and men who were perfectionists. Rather than being demanding or insensitive, these people were caring, charming, intelligent, and talented. In fact, they seemed to have everything in life going for them. However a crippling fear of failing held them back. Instead of fulfilling their potential, they fretted about minute details, doubted any good event, and did not allow themselves a chance to succeed.
Watching others beat themselves up for not being perfect saddened me. Yet, I treat myself the same way. If one blemish pops up on my face, I am transformed into a hideous beast. When one point is deducted from a school project, I become an idiot. Remembering my past brings up horrid memories of little mistakes I made as a child. Many days I feel like giving up because everything I do turns into a dreadful mess.
Yesterday was a great example of this. Thursdays I normally cook a meal for the family. Every day, I have begun near 2:30 because the chopping, boiling, seasoning, and other cooking functions take so long. However, I did carefully read my recipe until 4:00. To my horror, I needed to soak the beans for an hour, cook them for another hour, and then add spice before they simmered for yet one last hour. Anxiety filled me as I rushed around the kitchen, attempting to hurry along the process. Finally, I was almost finished. My Brazilian-style rice was cooked, the coconut bean soup was ready to be blended, and fruit was arranged prettily on a tray. As I opened the cupboard to find some colorful serving bowls, two glasses fell down at me. No only did they break over the fruit into numerous pieces, they also cracked my mom’s favorite tray that held the fruit. Tears of frustration rolled down my cheeks as I angrily grabbed the pieces and threw them in the trash. How could so many thing go wrong?
Yet, my family enjoyed the meal and was very kind about the whole affair. Eating supper at 8:00 pm? That was common in other parts of the world. Breaking dishes? It happened and they were only things. Having a small piece of glass left in the fruit? My sister decided it was her payback for snitching some raspberries before the meal began. Every mistake I made my family countered and forgave. Even my little brother chimed in as he exclaimed that this was the best meal I had ever made. I am not sure if that was a compliment to this dinner or his way of saying he disliked the other dishes.
Anyway, I was reminded of an important lesson last night. I am not perfect – not even close. Growing up, peers labeled me as an angel, naive child, and perfect. However, even than I made mistakes just like every other human. Thus, I am attempting to show myself compassion when I make mistakes and aim toward excellence instead of perfection.
Do I still long to be perfect? Yes, but I am slowly seeing elements of myself that are good if a little flawed. For example, I deeply care for others to the point where I take on their emotions and struggles. This quality has both its positives (loving others and understanding them) and negatives (trying to take on the pain of the world and over-sensitivity). It is an uphill battle to find myself apart from perfectionism but I am fighting it every day.
If you are a perfectionist, I want to challenge you to aim for excellence instead. Start small with daily projects and continue to grow until you are able to accept yourself even with flaws. Someone once told me that “the opposite of perfectionism is not failure; it is excellence.” So keep opening yourself up to making mistakes as you attempt to do your best.