Over the years I have become well aquainted with mistakes, large and small. They never get any easier for me to accept in myself, though perhaps age has softened my view to a small degree. I’ve been wrestling with what to do when you make one of those big mistakes; I have always been able to forgive others, but how do you forgive yourself? I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe that’s the wrong approach, though. A wise friend made a great point- what if we let go of the word forgive and embrace the word acceptance instead? I think that is the key – at least it is for me.
In my misguided life-long quest for perfection, I have set myself up for failure, making mistakes, countless times. My need to please everyone with that perfection has been a recipe for disappointment, and sometimes, disaster. After all these years, I am ready to drop that Super Woman cape (it never looked good on me, anyway). It’s time for me to truly understand who I am; a very flawed woman who does the best I can to be a good and kind person. One who stumbles and falls, but who always tries to get back up with a smile on my face. I don’t have to be perfect…I can’t be perfect. Thinking those thoughts is one thing, but truly believing it in my heart, letting go of years and years of perfectionism? That will take time and work.
I know where it all began; I was the surprise baby coming at the very worst time, born when my mother was forty-one, with my parents divorcing just months later. My family was in chaos, and I knew from my earliest memories that I needed to be good, to not cause any more trouble, that I had to work hard to earn praise from my distant father…I had to be perfect. With each success came the reinforcement that I needed to continue my quest of perfectionism. It led to some good things; good grades, first chair in band and orchestra, praise from family and friends, scholarships…but it also led to not-good things as well; anorexia and bulimia, fear of failure, a divorce. You can’t control every environment to make it perfect, and you can’t control how people react to you, no matter how hard you try. We have to allow ourselves to be human, to make mistakes- we have to accept ourselves for who we are…not some impossibly perfect charicature of who we think we must be. What freedom that will bring if I can get to that place.
I have been on a mission to help my students learn this for years, to see that they are beautiful in all of their imperfect glory. Now it’s finally time for the teacher to learn the lesson. There is nothing to forgive- that’s for God to do. I can only accept failures and mistakes in others with love and compassion…and I am working hard to learn to give the same gift to myself. One day at a time.