Freedom from Perfectionism

We all know nothing is perfect, but some of us don’t really believe it. As someone who has fought perfectionist tendencies her whole life, I know this firsthand.

Of course, intellectually, I’ve always known things can’t be perfect, yet as a child I somehow felt like a less-than-perfect girl in a perfect world. I could turn a blind eye to the faults of others easily, but never let myself off the hook.

I’m reminded of a high school friend, who I’ll call Tara. She was the thinnest in our group, and looked great in a bathing suit, yet always worried about looking fat. I remember one morning after a sleep over when we were going to suntan at the lake, and Tara wouldn’t eat breakfast. She wanted her stomach to be perfectly flat. She also had the most beautiful golden blonde hair, but there was a commercial on TV that said, “Don’t just be blonde, be ULTRA blonde,” so she bleached her hair lighter and lighter until it was almost white. It lost all its shine and became brittle and broken.

Our pleas of, “you’re thin enough already,” and “your hair is beautiful just the way it is,” fell on deaf ears. She was unable to believe us. She wasn’t motivated by vanity, but from a very deep sense of inferiority. Tara eventually became anorexic, which thankfully she survived.

When we expect things to be perfect, we have trouble enjoying what is. One thing that has helped me greatly is the realization that flaws are the norm. There are flaws all around us in nature. Creation is perfectly imperfect. As I look out my window right now at an oak tree, I see irregular branches, a few dead leaves, and a mossy air plant that has latched on to a knotted area in the bark. Yet I would never question the design of a tree. Imagine a forest where every tree was perfect and evenly spaced out. No broken braches or fallen leaves. No knots in the bark, or holes for the squirrels to hide their treasures.

If trees weren’t meant to be perfect, how can humans be? If everything around me is flawed, I need to expect to be flawed as well.

And that is freedom.

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