All I ever really wanted was to be perfect.
I followed all of the rules (both spoken and unspoken).
I made good grades.
I did all the things I was supposed to do.
And I did everything within my power to exceed expectations.
I had it all together.
I was the perfect mix of pre-prison Martha Stewart and pre-spandex Sandy (you know, like… “Sandy, you can’t just walk out of a drive in!” — that should be read in your best Danny Zuko voice)..
I was Little Miss Perfect.
And I felt like a fraud.
Like any minute I’d be found out. Someone would finally see that I wasn’t actually all that smart or talented or nice or pretty or perfect.
It was exhausting. And no matter how hard I tried to actually BE perfect, I never FELT perfect.
So after years of carrying the burden of being Little Miss Perfect, I’ve let it go.
Here is what I’ve learned from (trying to be) Little Miss Perfect:
Lesson 1: Perfect is an illusion.
No matter how hard you try, you will never be perfect.
Not in the way we expect ourselves to be perfect anyway, as in: no faults or flaws or blemishes… and no real emotions either (because emotions are messy, and we tell ourselves that perfect cannot messy, and messy cannot perfect).
Perfect isn’t something you do. It’s something that you already are.
Try this: Instead of striving for perfection, strive for acceptance… and love.
Lesson 2: Perfect is a burden.
It’s a lot of work trying to be perfect.
And it’s exhausting… because even when you’re not actively trying to be perfect, you’re worrying about whether you did such-and-such well enough to keep up the illusion of being perfect or [duhn duhn duhnnnn…] will they find out I’m a poser?
Imagine what else you could do with all the energy you put into trying to be perfect.
Try this instead: Set the burden down. And be authentically and ( oh, the irony) perfectly you.
Lesson 3: Perfect is really hard to let go of.
I used to have a kelly green cardigan that I wore with everything. Everything.
It started out as cute and fresh, but eventually it faded and wore thin in the elbows… but I kept wearing it.*
Striving to be perfect is kind of like that sweater.
You have other options in your closet, but it has become your go-to. It’s comforting in a weird (& unflattering) way. And you still wear it, even though you know it doesn’t really match your outfit or go with who you are today.
Do this: Take a look inside and see what else you could wear instead of that “perfect” sweater. A splash of hot pink vulnerability would go nicely with that skirt you’re wearing.
(* My husband was happily shocked when I finally got rid of it.)
Lesson 4: Perfect is a shield!
Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be our best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth; it’s a shield.
~ Brene Brown
Shields are heavy and burdensome and only really necessary in a battle.
But I carried my shield with me to brunch and happy hour and… everywhere.
Try this instead: Wear the pearls to brunch and leave the perfectionism at home.
Lesson 5: Perfect is really hard.
Let’s be real.
It’s REALLY HARD to maintain the illusion of Perfect-Martha-Sandy-Patricia.
It’s REALLY HARD to live any kind of real life carrying that around.
It’s really hard to be happy all by yourself behind that perfect shield.
It’s really hard to feel successful when you never feel good enough.
It’s really hard to feel loved. Accepted. Alive.
But life doesn’t need to be so very hard.
Try this instead: Let life be easy. Let the love in. And know that you are beyond good enough.
You are already perfect (striving and trying are unnecessary).
Let me know in the comments below how your relationship to Little Miss Perfect is going, and what, if anything, you’ve done to embrace the messy side of life.
Photo: © Andrey Kiselev – Fotolia.com