Thank God I’m not perfect. I spent years striving for perfection and it didn’t sink in until at least my late twenties that perfection is not actually possible, and that I had been living as though it was an achievable goal.
“I am not a perfect person” has become a frequent reminder and comfort for me in my personal life, professional life, marriage, and other relationships. Letting myself off the hook with a bit more compassion not only benefits me, allowing me to relax into and even embrace my humanness and reminding me of my need for God, but it also benefits others.
I’ve often felt the sinking feeling of observing what appears to be near perfection in other people in some realm of life- youthful and flawless appearances, astute intelligence and wit, flexible and agile athletic ability, delicious Southern cooking, warm hospitality in a decorative home, or parenting with that elusive balance between too strict and too lenient. The sinking feeling comes from my sudden reflection of all in my own life that contrasts to those images- my “mommy brain” moment when I couldn’t remember my son’s teacher’s name, my hips and back still sore from childbirth, my rushed mac-and-cheese-with-hotdogs dinner, my empty frames with a stack of pictures that have been sitting on my desk for at least three weeks, unwritten thank you notes, and the moments of lost patience with my spouse and children.
What I need to remember is the fact that the moments we observe perfection in others are snapshots. They are images that no more capture reality than a photograph allows us to know and love a person. A snapshot of a person is most appreciated within the context of knowing that person in greater depth- a depth that includes a broader and more accurate experience of a person over time. A friend can celebrate my successes with me and that is gratifying, but it is when I’m at the end of my rope and a friend is listening and providing comfort that a different, enduring kind of connection grows. It’s in vulnerability that we can embrace one another as we are and accept a healing kind of love. Sharing difficult experiences binds us together into the types of connections that help us withstand future challenges. Realizing this helps me not only accept but celebrate that I am not perfect.
The next time you feel the pull to present a perfect snapshot, consider instead how you can strive toward your goals while remaining a bit more compassionate toward yourself and a bit more transparent with others. Everyone will benefit.