I have long thought that perfectionism was a virtue and that I was going to master it. Recently, I have learned otherwise. I am not going to perfect perfectionism, not even close. I am a constant work of progress. Indulge me a few moments to fill you in.
What I once used as survival techniques to get through a challenging childhood I held on to through the early years of adulthood. I didn’t realize I didn’t need to use those sharp tools anymore. I didn’t need to wield my mighty sword and slay dragons because dragons were no more. I was free of those burdens but in the meantime, I hadn’t learned how to deal with a whole new world and a whole new me that didn’t need to fight for life, for a future, for hope. The battle was won and I was free to live fully. I just didn’t know it.
At age 21, the Air Force had beckoned my name and I enlisted. I still didn’t know how to live a good life but what I was doing up to the point I signed the dotted line definitely wasn’t working well. So I changed. I did something different. One thing I’ve always been good at is realizing when I’m not getting the results I expected.
As an Airman Basic, a smidgen older than the majority of the young adults who had joined alongside me, yet I was not much better off in knowing how to speak to people and represent myself without sounding like a jerk. I was a diamond in the rough. A huge chunk of proverbial coal that needed to go a couple rounds in the rock tumbler to knock some sharp edges off. And my work of progress was catapulted into full speed ahead. I’ve had many mentors along the way. Some people took the liberty to love me and help me grow while others couldn’t care less for me and they too helped me grow. I was determined to realize my full potential in life as well as in the military. I needed perfection. I needed acceptance. I needed to be ok. As a result, I learned my job very quickly and became a well-recognized ophthalmic technician across the globe. I was an expert in my field by all accounts. I was not perfect yet though. I had a lot more to learn and more I wanted to accomplish.
And then I became a wife and a mom. My ideals of how life would go changed. The picture of perfection became a more skewed, adulterated concept and I started to abandon the idea altogether. I was just going to do what was good and necessary and life would be ok. I was wrong. Perfectionism is wrong too, let me be clear about that, but just doing enough isn’t enough either.
As I’ve aged I’ve become more aware of myself and my place in the world. I long for feedback which helps me grow, but my source of feedback has changed. I seek wisdom and guidance from my Lord. I don’t seek approval from my peers or supervisors as much as I once did. And I am humbled by the constant ebb and flow of my energy and drive to be a better version of myself. I realize more clearly now than ever before, perfectionism is for wimps and the weak of heart. As a relatively new teacher, I have not perfected my craft. I have a lot of work to do to become a fantastic teacher. As a single mom, I don’t play with my son enough and I forget things that he wishes I would remember. I don’t forget on purpose, I just don’t know all the things that are important to him yet. As a Christian woman, I don’t have all the answers and certainly don’t have my scriptures memorized. I can’t even tell you what chapter of the bible certain stories are in! I criticize, I judge, I break rules and I am still a bit too sharp-tongued at the most inopportune times. While I do many things well, I am nowhere near perfect.
Perfectionism says I am good enough right now and forevermore so hold your peace. Perfectionism declares change is not necessary, and more importantly, irrelevant, because one will be devolving rather than evolving meaning that being perfect doesn’t lend itself to growth. I am definitely no longer a perfectionist. I am most definitely a person in search of new versions of myself and am eager to write new chapters in my life. I am just a constant work of progress.
The Repressed Peach