I’ve always been a perfectionist, ever since I can remember.
Even as a young child, making sure my Barbie’s mini-skirt fit just right, no creases, and her hair was in flawless plaits.
I’d always leave the most delicious thing on my plate until last, insisting on savouring every bite of that particularly sprinkled fairy bread.
Fast-forward to my school years, and this perfectionism morphed into something a little less harmless. I started putting pressure on myself to be “perfect”, to perform and deliver every single day – whatever that really meant. I expected too much of myself. It began as beating myself up if I wasn’t chosen to be the ‘centre’ in a netball game, or if I didn’t score the first try of the touch footy season. Then, I’d accept nothing under A’s for assessment marks, berating myself if a red, glaring B- stared back at me.
When I reached high school, the inevitable and incredibly sad body image insecurities crept in. I went to an all-girls’ private school, and comparing what girls were eating at lunch and what gym class one had been to (and how many times that week) was a way of life. Darwin was right, it was survival of the fittest: the more make-up you could physically put on your face, the more prominent your thigh gap or the more boys you had lusting after you, the more valuable you were as a person. Not only that, but there was this intense academic competition, that was rarely acknowledged, but well and truly brutal and unforgiving.
If you didn’t quite cut it, you were quickly deemed the runt of the pack. Like I said, survival of the fittest (read: smartest, prettiest, most popular and thinnest. No pressure, girls). It’s only a matter of time before being exposed to that kind of environment starts to beat down a person’s psyche, and skew their sense of self-worth.
From then on, I began placing unrealistic expectations on myself, in every aspect of my life. Surely, if I can ace my HSC (final year of high school), have the best/thinnest/most toned body, have my boobs be at least a C-cup… oh, and go to as many parties as I can, I’ll be accepted, a better person for it and ultimately, be happy.
Oh young grasshopper, it doesn’t work like that. I had so much to learn, and such an astounding journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance yet to embark on.
I was constantly forcing myself to pretending I was always happy, bubbly, the loudest in the room. I had this crazy idea that to reveal who you really are, imperfections and all (as much as I was in denial about mine), was to risk losing everyone, and everything. “Flaws don’t suit you, darling. They make you unlovable, unattractive and, well, imperfect.” This was genuinely what I believed as a teenager, and in the first few years of adulthood.
However, a few years into my uni degree, my perception began shifting. I started to challenge all these pre-conceived ideas I had about humans and their flaws, what really bonds us to other people and makes us real, genuine and relatable. After meeting some of the most incredible people in my life in those early adulthood years, like Tom and my closest girlfriends, I learned something that liberated me more than anything else could: those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter. The people that love you, love you unconditionally for who you are. The don’t care about your past, they don’t judge you. You are you for a reason, and when you reveal your whole self, you attract the people in your life that you’re meant to. These people will give you more fulfilment and happiness than finally reaching the elusive “perfection” ever will.
Slowly, I allowed myself to just be. To open up, be honest and unapologetic about my imperfections, and who I was. I also allowed myself to be more vulnerable with people, to take more risks in life and abandon that crippling fear of failure. It has been the best, and most freeing decision I’ve ever made to date. It’s given me the strength and freedom to travel, to chase my passions, to go against the grain when I don’t believe in the mainstream values… and to love with my whole heart.
Through this adventure, I’ve learned so much about myself, and who I am. Yes, I’m still young, and still have so much to discover. That said, that transition from teenager to adult being released to fly in the real world is a huge, scary but exhilarating thing. It’s to be embraced, and not feared.
Here’s the quote I came across the other day, that inspired me to write this:
— Robert Glover
So, here’s the thing.
I can be too stubborn and feisty for my own good sometimes (blame that on being an Aries), but that’s okay.
I’m constantly restless and looking for new adventures, like traveling the world. I hate staying in one spot for too long, but that’s okay.
I appreciate having time alone everyday to reflect, think and recharge my batteries. But I love being around other people, too. That’s okay.
I’ll never look like one of those “fitspo” models, I’m a woman so I have a few spots of cellulite – us ladies all do, but that’s okay.
Cooking isn’t my thing, and I’ve got an intense weakness for peanut butter and Nutella, but that’s okay.
I can be lazy and leave things until the last minute, then consequently freak myself out completely, but that’s okay.
I’ve got a weirdly loud voice for such a small person, and have to be told to use my inside voice a lot, but that’s okay.
I’m a really emotional person and often feel all the things, all at once, but that’s okay.
All of these things aren’t perfect, but they’re my little quirks and flaws that make me exactly who I am – and why no one else is like me.
I’ve decided to embrace them, because hey, ingredients in a cake are pretty crappy by themselves – like flour – but as a whole, a cake is pretty damn delicious.
Plus, there are plenty of things that I’m good at, and I have my own talents and strengths.
Have you ever struggled with the pressure to be “perfect” or not have flaws?
How have you helped yourself embrace exactly who you are?