Throughout my youth and early adulthood, I strove to be the perfect woman. My parents were fundamentalist Christian ministers who instilled in all five of their children the fear of God. Though they showed great love and affection to me, the pressure to be perfect always tormented me. I felt I could never be good enough. I constantly compared myself to others, and yet, paradoxically, I thought doubting myself meant that I had humility. In my mind, self-esteem disgraced God. Feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and unworthiness haunted me in all my friendships and even in my marriage. Though I learned many good values from my strict Christian upbringing, the pressure to be perfect in all my choices and roles took its toll on my fragile self-image. It wasn’t until I reinvented my identity and my belief system in my early 30s that I began to embrace my imperfection.
As I embarked on a new life path away from my childhood religion, I began to welcome mistakes, take risks and try new experiences. I stopped beating myself up for not having a spotless home, an immaculate hairdo, perfect breasts, straight teeth, the highest GPA, or the fastest time in a race; perfection in my appearance and in my endeavors ceased to be the catalyst of my life. I discovered the real me, the me that could value excellence while enjoying the freedom of imperfection. I began to pursue change and seek adventure because I had made it acceptable to try and fail; in fact, it became more desirable to attempt something new and not succeed than to not try at all. As I affirmed myself, I began to discover what I really believed about life, death, the universe and my place in it. I began to choose who I wanted to surround myself with, not who others chose for me. By empowering myself, I started to love myself and others without judgment. When I tolerated and even laughed at my weaknesses, I learned to embrace the shortcomings of my fellow human beings. This new tolerance brought a great capacity for forgiveness, peace, abundant hope and a joyful approach to living that I never had before. What my parents instilled in me had its own value and I respect them to this day, but the new direction my life had taken far surpassed my old life of self-deprecation and guilt.
I have evolved into a more tolerant teacher, patient mother, and compassionate friend. Now I am someone who is in a much better place to have healthy relationships and help those less fortunate. What naysayers see in me as shortcomings, I no longer see as my problems to fix. If I don’t measure up to someone’s expectation of me, I can still maintain my dignity. Someone else’s failure to see my worth is not my battle to fight. It was when I learned to love myself and value what I offer to others, that I realized something liberating: I am not perfect, and that’s more than satisfactory. In fact, my imperfection is terrifying and freeing all at once. To quote the great Alexander Pope, “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” and Buddha teaches, “to be enlightened is to be without anxiety over imperfection.” So, today I celebrate because I am finally, imperfectly good enough!