Quit Trying to Be Perfect (You Already Are)

This a column from Matt Hattersley on Tiny Buddha.

“Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect. It makes you feel inadequate.” ~Maria Shriver

Like many of us, I spent a big part of growing up feeling like I wasn’t enough. I was quite a studious kid, and this coupled with being terrible at sports and also quite chubby meant I was a bit of a target. Indeed, when your first and last names both rhyme with “fat” it’s pretty easy for bullies with even limited wordsmith skills to come up with insults.

And it’s easy to say what words can’t hurt and that it says more about them than it did me. Yet, what it did mean for a long time was that I felt a lack of acceptance from my peers. And this does hurt. I don’t for a second think I’m alone with this either.

No matter who you are there’s times growing up when you want nothing more than acceptance.

Because here’s the thing: This need for acceptance, it’s a natural human tendency.

As we grow we try to fit into the world as best we can. We yearn to be grounded in who we are, so we fall into the trap of defining ourselves by what others say about us. As a result, over time, we become conditioned to believe that the world outside us is somehow responsible for our happiness and well-being. We look at our jobs, our partners, what we believe other people think of us—and we decide that we are lacking.

This was certainly true for me for a good number of years until I became a teenager, when I lost weight and started to feel stronger and happier about myself. Finally those feelings of not being enough were gone. Or so I thought.

Because what I realize now is that they too had grown up. And what was once naïve insecurity had twisted and mutated into an adult need for perfection and control. As I’ve come to terms with this recently it’s opened up a whole range of emotions and new insights for me.

It’s dawned on me how much I’ve been hiding and pretending these past few years, and I’m ready now to move past that.

This was highlighted recently for me when I found a poem I wrote when I was younger titled: If I was David Bowie I wouldn’t have had my teeth done.

And I really meant it too. Because the thing is, I’ve always liked things a little edgy, a little earthy and real. I grew up listening to Nirvana and Guns n Roses and The Stones. I spent my twenties obsessed with the Beats and Bukowski. So, the idea of being overly polished and shiny-teethed wasn’t something that ever really appealed to me.

Yet, next month I finish off a two-year course of Invisalign, which has made my teeth all straight and nice, and ends in a treatment to make them all white too!

You see, something changed a few years ago and it’s only now that I’m really seeing it fully. Somewhere along my journey I reverted back to acting from fear rather than love. I stopped enjoying my imperfections and had begun striving for an outward ideal of perfection.

To read the rest of the column, follow the link.