The other day my husband and I were walking and talking on our way from the parking lot into an event my work was holding. As our conversation progressed, I grew increasingly frustrated, I honestly can’t even remember why. My husband turned his head and looked at me cautiously through the side of his eye like he was a tiger trainer preparing to open its cage. “Do you get mad at yourself when you don’t know how to do something?”
I bit the inside of my lip and paused a few awkward seconds too long before I gave my profound answer: “Yes.”
He thought about that. I could tell he was chewing on the idea in his brain, or maybe he was giving me the chance to offer up a little more information. “I’ve always been like that,” I added. “I like to do everything right the first time. And if I can’t, I sure as goodness wait until I figure out how before I let someone else see me do it.”
And there it was. My husband now knew my deepest darkest secret: I’m not perfect, but I want everyone to think that I am.
I’ve lived with this level of showmanship that requires I perfect my act before presenting myself in front of an audience for as long as I can remember. Prior to my beginning pre-kindergarten, my mom attempted to teach me to write my name on numerous occasions, and I just wouldn’t. I showed no interest. About a week or so before my first day of school, though, my mom walked into the living room to find “Rebecca” written out perfectly on a sheet of paper laying on the coffee table in front of me with a crayon in my hand. Ever since then – whether it’s riding a bike, playing a new song I’ve written, trying a tennis stroke – I attempt to conceal my learning curve.
It gives us a warped sense of empowerment to control the image we present to the world around us. If people believe I am a good girl with good grades and a happy little family (which is what people tend to believe about me), then maybe in some way it’s true.
But what I’m learning is that the facade of perfection is always a lie. And the pursuit of perfection is a meaningless, empty, troubling journey that distracts you from your true destiny.
Perfection is an unattainable goal. It’s like a cat trying to catch a laser point. We laugh when we watch a cat so focused and intent upon catching that little red light because we know it’s impossible. The cat will never win. And, yet, for some reason, no matter how many times it fails to catch it, the cat will always chase that red glowing dot around the room.
When we aim for perfection or for others to think that we are perfect, we are exactly like a cat chasing a laser.
But the question remains, how do I change. How do I release myself from becoming angry when I can’t do something perfectly the first time? How do I rid myself of the belief that I will only be accepted if I am flawless? How do I let down my guard and soften my heart and rest?
I don’t have the perfect answer to those questions. I’m still learning. But what I know is that there are a few simple, daily practices that help me stay centered, accept myself, and be the true Rebecca in front of the people around me:
- Meditate – Who am I? Find the little kid inside of you. Sure, you’re grown now, but that’s still you. Tap into the essence of yourself as a child. That is who you were created to be. Find that, rediscover the hope and wonder, and sit in it.
- Slow Down – Life in the 21st century is fast paced and always getting faster it seems. Slow down and enjoy. Look up, look around you. Take life in. Make time for the things that bring you peace and happiness.
- Believe the Best – People are just like you. And I promise, they aren’t thinking about you near as much as you think, and they aren’t out to get you or make you look bad. The people in your life love you and want what’s best for you. Set your paranoia down and trust again.
- Breathe and Be – Allow yourself the space to just be. When you feel the perfectionism coming over you, bearing down on your shoulders, take a deep breath and be. Take the pressure off of yourself to perform. Bring the real you up from the depths of your heart and experience life.
When I begin to take my eyes off of the lie of perfection and shift my focus towards living here and now completely as me, I reclaim my sense of purpose. I find joy in each moment. I smile and laugh and cry more. I love more and let others love me. I am at peace.
I am me.