I belong to an outstanding toastmasters club and feel very blessed to hear men and women from all walks of life and all skill levels deliver speeches on topics ranging anywhere from “How to Retire on $10” to “The Benefits of Kale”.
During a recent meeting, one speaker opened with “Show of hands, how many of you think you’re perfect?” Without hesitation, my arm shot into the air like a clown out of a cannon. To my surprise, only one other person raised their hand. Only two out of 40+ people admitted to thinking we were perfect.
Now, one might think that I would have been pretty embarrassed. Who does she think she is? Nobody’s perfect. She should be more humble!
I was not embarrassed. As a matter of fact, I was perplexed. Puzzled. Dumbfounded.
What the rest of the audience did not know about me, sitting there in all my royal perfectness, is that I thought each of them was perfect too.
But I didn’t used to think that way.
I’ve spent the better part of my life struggling with perfectionism. I’ve written several articles about perfectionism, but you haven’t read them. Because I didn’t publish them. Because they weren’t perfect. Which meant that I wasn’t perfect. And you might see me in all my not-perfectness. Then you wouldn’t like me.
Perfectionism makes you crazy. It’s like a disease that infects your thinking. It makes you feel like you’re constantly being judged and held to the highest standards. Like you’re less-than everyone else and you have to prove that you’re not a slacker by staying at least one step ahead. You can never relax and do or be “just good enough”. Perfectionism can cause you to lay awake at night planning your every move in order to be perfect the next day. You may even become a controlling parent, trying desperately to make your children perfect too, because they are, of course, a reflection of you. If they’re not perfect, that means you’re not perfect.
Perfectionism sucks your time away like spiders through a Dirt Devil. Do-overs become part of your daily life until there is no life left in your day. Completing any project takes longer and can be at least twice as expensive as it should be, due to all of the do-overs. There simply can’t be flaws in anything. You can have no flaws. And if you do, they MUST not show.
Because, isn’t it a fact that nobody will like you if you have flaws? Isn’t it a fact that nobody will hire you, or want to be your friend, or love you if you’re not perfect? Haven’t the media and the magazines and the schools and the rest of society made it clear that only the BEST deserve the best? That’s the way it works, right?
Somehow, somewhere along the line, I bought that line. I believed it. And I made it my mission to be perfect. Because I wanted people to approve of me, like me, – hell, even love me. But after years of trying so hard to be perfect, I eventually became exhausted and was unable to complete my mission. I had to succumb to imperfection. The humiliation and shame would surely be unbearable.
Funny thing is, nobody cared! As a matter of fact, they liked me better when I revealed my imperfections. They made remarks like “you really ARE human, after all”. They suddenly became less stressful to be around (imagine the irony of that).
As I embraced my so-called imperfections, I noticed that other people had them too. People whom I’d always thought were perfect. And, surprisingly, I liked them just the way they were. Even loved them! They were still smart, and funny, and loving and kind. They were amazing human beings!
They were…in a word…perfect.
And if they were perfect, I must be perfect too.
In this world created by God, or The Universe, a Power Greater than Yourself, or however else it can be described to your liking in all political correctness, we are all here to be exactly who we are. We are only flawed if we believe we are. And we are all perfect if we believe we are. And perfect is a wonderful way to be.
Now let’s try again. “Show of hands, how many of you think you’re perfect?”
I know you are.