In the last post I talked about how you're not perfect and you don't have to be. In this post I'm going to talk about why that's a really good thing. After all, it's easier to be imperfect than it is to be perfect, right? Well, what if being imperfect could actually make you happy?
Let me tell you a story...
There's this 12 year old girl I used to know. She was a fairly normal kid. She had a pretty ordinary childhood. She was an only child but she had a large extended family. She had a stable home life. She was a little shy but she had friends who she enjoyed hanging out with. She was happy...until she became the victim of bullying.
She was bullied every day, even by those she thought were her friends. Being bullied took its toll on her right from the start and after it was all said and done, she wasn't the same person anymore.
Sticks and stones will break your bones and words will hurt you (at that age).
She became very withdrawn. She didn't hang out with friends anymore. She shut down around her family. She was lost and confused.
She started to think that those who bullied her were perfect and that their lives were better than hers. She didn't wish to be a bully like them but she envied them in other ways. The irony is that sometimes people bully others because they are envious! Regardless, she thought the grass was greener for them.
She believed the things the bullies said about her and it made her feel like she wasn't good enough. Thinking this way led her to strive for perfection. She thought that she could pretend to be perfect to avoid judgment by others.
Being bullied causes us to want control over everything, including how we are perceived. We feel like we have to prove our value.
Well, striving for perfection didn't get her anywhere. She wasn't getting bullied anymore because she was out of that environment, but she wasn't making any progress toward getting back to the person she used to be. Then she realized that the person she used to be was gone forever.
She realized that if she wanted to eventually be able to move on from being bullied that she would have to embrace who she was, including all of her flaws. This was scary to her at first but then she realized that she could use her experience of being bullied to become an even better version of herself.
This girl I used to know was me.
It's been twenty years and I'm still working on being the best version of myself that I can be, but I can tell you that letting go of wanting to be perfect as a way to protect myself has been the best thing I have done for myself.
It's definitely scary to put yourself out there, but it's the only way to open the doors to the world that you want to be living in.
Let's look at how imperfection keeps those doors shut...
How Imperfection Holds You Back
- Thinking you have to be perfect all the time prevents you from making any changes. Perfection leaves you frozen because you're of afraid of messing up. You become closed-minded because you think that perfection is the only way.
- Striving for perfection only sets you up for failure and giving up. It's not easy trying to be perfect all of the time, and it can be very stressful. Eventually you're going to find out that being perfect can't prevent you from being judged. Perfection can't always protect you from feeling like a failure.
- When you want to be perfect, you're not grateful for who you really are. Of course it can be difficult to like ourselves at times, but we have to go easy on ourselves and appreciate ourselves. If we don't, then how can we expect anyone else to?
- Wanting to be perfect means you don't want to embrace your weaknesses. Instead you want to punish yourself for them. We have to use our weaknesses to become better. Our weaknesses are the keys to becoming better. They are how we know what we need to work on.
What You Need To Know About Imperfection
- Imperfection is all about learning from our mistakes. As I said above, it's how we can become better. Just like with history, if we don't learn from our mistakes, we are condemned to repeat them.
- We identify better with people who don't seem to be perfect. We like to know that someone is "human" and has flaws. Otherwise we feel like they are a fake. So why would you want to set yourself up as a fake? People are going to know and they're going to call you out on it. Being real will earn you more respect in the long run.
- You have to be mindful of your expectations. Sometimes it's better to not have any. If you don't have any expectations then you won't be disappointed if you don't reach them. However, that's not an excuse to not try your best. It's more like a way to keep you from falling into the perfection trap.
- Imperfection and confidence make a great pair. Instead of trying to be perfect, try to be confident. When you can be confident, you worry less about your imperfections. I know this is easier said than done so we'll talk more about this in future posts.
- You have to remember that mistakes do not make you a mistake. Mistakes let us know where we've been but they don't need to tell us where we're going.
- You can't worry about what could go wrong. Sometimes things are out of our control. Try to be in the moment and focus on what you need to be doing at that time. Obsessing over what could go wrong will only make you anxious and afraid to take a chance.
I often wonder about the person I would be today if I hadn't been bullied. In one way I'm grateful (yes, grateful) for what I went through. I know that I am a better person for it. Even though it has led me to struggle with perfectionism, by doing so it has also opened me up to the beauty of imperfection.
Imperfection is a good thing because it allows us to get to a place where we can be happy. This happens by embracing who we are and by allowing ourselves the possibility of improving.
If we want to be the person we are meant to be then we are going to have to be imperfect.
Striving for perfection only holds us back from being the person we are meant to be. It keeps us focused on the wrong things. Happiness comes from not caring what others may think of us. It's about having the confidence to get past that.
I do want to clarify that you don't have to learn to let go of perfectionism completely. At least not at first. I personally think that it's something we have to continuously work on because it's not easy. We can't change ourselves overnight.
The key is to be aware of when we are trying to be perfect and ask ourselves why we want to be perfect at that moment. Often when someone has been through a past experience like bullying, they will tend to become a perfectionist. There's even research showing a relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and perfectionism.
None of us would be who we are today if it wasn't for what makes us unique. We need to embrace our uniqueness so that we can become happier because of it.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any stories or questions.
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