I have written so much about my mother, always trying to portray her as the imperfect and very real woman that she was. To me, her imperfections and quirkiness were what made her special and so very strong. After all of these years, maybe I’m finally allowing myself that same understanding.
I have struggled unsuccessfully in my quest to be perfect my entire life; the good girl who never misbehaved, made good grades, made first chair in band. The Girl Scout, the helper, the ‘do anything I can to keep the peace’ girl. In trying to look ‘perfect’ I have struggled with weight issues, ranging from anorexia and bulimia in my twenties to extreme diets that only eventually helped to add unwanted pounds. Perfectionism has stressed the hell out of me, turning me into a constant tight ball of anxiety, thanks to the impossibly high bar of expectations that I set for myself.
As I wade through the second half of my fifties, my perspective is subtly shifting. I’m tired of the constant nagging of my inner voice that criticizes every decision, every word, every reflection in the mirror. I don’t want to continue the vicious cycle of trying to build myself up only to tear myself down to the studs again and again. I fiercely champion my students, doing my best to help them see themselves as the beautiful humans that they are, always telling them that it’s not about being perfect; it’s about giving your best…why can’t I see my own worth?
I don’t have to be perfect. I am so not perfect. There, I said it. I am grateful for finding my way through dark days with hard work, my mother’s strength, and the support of dear friends and family. I am grateful to be in a very happy and loving marriage, for a thriving and rewarding career, for true friendship, for a home that my husband and I have turned into an oasis of peace.
Just writing the words seems to lift some of the weight from my chest. I have rehearsed this role of unworthiness for a long time and I know that old habits don’t die easily. However, I also really believe the words of a former professor, “Act your way into a new way of being.” If you want to change a behavior, begin doing the things that are characteristic of the better behavior; if you want to be healthy, eat and exercise like a healthy person. If you want to be successful, work hard like successful people do. If you want to be worthy, embrace imperfection, give your best, be your unique self…but know that in doing so you have been worthy from the very beginning.