“It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.”
I have a confession to make. I’m not perfect. No, really, I know you all thought I was and you’re probably very disappointed to learn otherwise. Oh, wait. You didn’t think I was perfect. I did. Or, more accurately, I hoped you thought I was, if not perfect, then very, very close to it. It gives me great pain—and also great relief—to finally admit, publicly, that I’m flawed. I can be messy, selfish, stubborn, controlling, I hate to admit I’m wrong… I could go on, but my ego is begging me to quit. I’d really prefer to list “faults” that are really virtues in disguise (as we’ve been told to do on job interviews), but I’m finally becoming too
old wise not to accept all parts of myself.
I’m tired of being afraid of mistakes and missteps, of being paralyzed by fear of looking foolish or hypocritical. I’m tired of unreasonable expectations (my own and society’s). I’m tired of perfectionism when it comes to appearance or character or accomplishment. I’m tired of trying to force myself into even attempting to look perfect when—newsflash!—NO
is perfect. No, not even me.
Why am I so afraid of showing my imperfections, of looking foolish and admitting mistakes? One reason—I feel a certain shame in admitting imperfection. I should always be kind, warm, giving, an excellent writer, wife and mother, and, on top of that, perfectly fit and healthy. (Shouldn’t I?) My people-pleasing, perfectionist little heart doesn’t want to do anything “wrong” and risk rejection. At bottom, I’m truly afraid if I don’t present myself as darn near perfect, I am not “enough”—and I won’t be liked, let alone loved.
I’m not sure exactly where this comes from. Perhaps because I’ve been given so much in my life—in teaching, examples to follow, health, good fortune and opportunity. I feel I have no excuse for not being, at the very least, really, really close to perfection. I don’t want to waste what I’ve been given. However, just because I know better doesn’t mean I can always do better. I’m still human, and to be human is to make mistakes. I’m still working on feeling OK with that.
The funny thing is, pretending to be perfect actually keeps me from receiving the love I want. Sharing mistakes and weaknesses—imperfections—deepens intimacy between people. And keeping up an appearance of perfection means I can’t share my weaknesses with others, and perhaps receive the help and encouragement I need. It also may keep others from sharing their imperfections with me and allowing me to help them.
Life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about growing, learning from mistakes when we make them. My faults don’t define me. They are just threads woven into the cloth of my personality. I also have many good qualities, and it’s the unique combination of faults and virtues that makes me me. I am human, and learning to be happily so. I want to be loved in spite of and because of my faults. I can’t hide them, from myself or from others. I’m taking to heart Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton’s words: “If you wish to be loved, show more of your faults than your virtues.”What have you learned from imperfection? How do you overcome your own perfectionism?