In October, I made a list. The list consisted of the names of fifteen people I love and admire, and next to each name was a sentence that explained why I loved/admired them. The point of the exercise, which I’d learned in a body image group, was to show that I probably didn’t love or admire anybody based on their weight or how they looked. For me, though, it did a lot more. As I scanned my list of sentences, I was struck with a realization.
I love people for the ways in which they aren’t perfect.
I had never thought about it before. Perfectionism is like a virus that overwrites all the logic in your brain, and in a way, it turns you into a massive narcissist. I spent God knows how long constantly freaking out about whether anyone could see my flaws – was I totally put together every time I left the house? Did I get 100% on every test? Did I successfully conceal unpleasant emotions? Had I lost enough weight? Did I always come across as friendly, likable, desirable, smart, and down-to-earth?
In other words, was I perfect?
Well, in a word, no. No one is. It’s literally impossible. And what is “perfect,” anyway? Is there a checklist? The dictionary states that perfection is “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Which is still pretty vague, because who decides what’s a defect and what’s not? Society? The people you surround yourself with? You?
Almost everything I’d written down on that list could probably be looked at by some objective “judge” and deemed a flaw. But none of them were. They were the things that set these people apart from the masses, made them interesting. Made me love them.
My little brother is maddeningly lazy. But that was on my list. I admire his ability to let go of the things that aren’t immediately relevant and just enjoy time as it passes. He knows himself. He’s confident and secure. And that means, well, sometimes he doesn’t get everything done, but he doesn’t get stressed and manic and worried about it.
Some people, including myself at times, would consider that sort of lazy, disinterested attitude a “defect.” But I’m secretly (or not-so-secretly) incredibly jealous of his ability to stay present, in the moment, no matter what the situation.
I admire little things about the people I love. I love the way my best friend sings loudly and off-key way too often. I love that my mom gets super neurotic about things because it means she cares. I love that my roommate doesn’t eat salad because she hates most vegetables and she doesn’t give a crap about it. I even love the way my friends lose patience with me because it keeps me on my toes. If anyone tried to tell me that those were flaws or defects or barriers to perfection, I’d be pissed. I can’t imagine those people without those qualities. I can’t imagine loving them. Those flaws are integral, special, and important parts of who they are.
Perfectionism causes you to hold yourself to impossibly high standards. But clearly, I’m not holding everyone else to the same ones.
I’m working very hard to deal with my perfectionistic tendencies, especially when it comes to my grades and my body. Part of me doesn’t want to let it go, because the goal of “perfection” gives me something to always be fighting for. It gives me a purpose. But the other part knows that I will never measure up to this unrealistic concept of the ideal.
I’ve got flaws. I overshare a lot. I overanalyze a lot. I forget to clean the coffeemaker literally every day, and I have an obnoxious bone structure that does not allow for the existence of well-fitting pants. I can be flaky and painfully socially awkward.
But maybe someone who loves me would say those aren’t flaws at all. (Well, the coffeemaker one definitely is. I’m working on it.) Maybe someone who loves me would say that my social anxiety is kind of funny and puts people at ease. Maybe someone who loves me would say that my overanalyzing means I usually do the right thing. Maybe someone who loves me would say that well-fitting pants are overrated and my unnaturally large hipbones are ridiculously awesome. Who knows what someone who loves me might say?
Imperfections are the good stuff. They’re enticing. If I were “perfect,” I wouldn’t want to be friends with me. I probably wouldn’t be very interesting. And I don’t find myself drawn to people who look like they have everything put together, either – I’m much more intrigued by the people who embrace the parts of themselves that make them different from the boring, general average population.
Part of recovery, and growing up, and life itself, is accepting all the little imperfections. And slowly but surely, I will embrace my own.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their own little idiosyncrasies. Some people call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff. — Robin Williams