Some of you already know this, but as a child I went through some pretty severe peer rejection. I had almost no friends and spent much of my time reading or taking walks by myself. I mostly played games with my sister, five years my junior. We used to choreograph dances in our living room and perform them for our parents. We crafted elaborate skits and created props out of cardboard. I loved it, but I didn’t choreograph dances or craft elaborate skits with kids my own age. I made friends easily but I couldn’t keep them because I was too “weird.” Not because I ate paste, but because I had different values from those around me. I was a vegetarian who didn’t eat onions, garlic or mushrooms. I believed in reincarnation and karma and love as the pervading force in this world. The people around me did not. They told me I was going to hell because I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. They made fun of my lunch every day exclaiming, “Ewwww! What’s that?!?” My brother got the worst of it – his peers teased him so mercilessly they threw meat at him. I seemed normal enough in my appearance, but when kids peeled past my outer façade, they inevitably stopped calling, stopped inviting me to parties, just stopped.
In the midst of this, I picked up the idea if I was perfect people would love me. If I never made a mistake in soccer practice or on a test, then people would see how normal I was. If I acted just like everybody else, then I would be loved. I would never be able to think or believe in what those around me did (unless I moved), but at least on the outside I could fit in. Thus perfectionism was born. For me when I make a mistake, no matter how small, I have to quell a bit of panic because my subconscious/unconscious mind equates mistakes with isolation and abandonment. It’s silly, really. Just because I sent the wrong e-mail attachment to a contact today doesn’t mean all the love in my life will be taken away from me. It doesn’t mean anything, actually.
I’ve written before about mistakes being the zest of life, which I think is true. I honestly believe mistakes are part of the learning process, and nothing beats the expansive feeling that comes from learning. At the same time, I’ve felt a desire to be perfect right out of the gate. To know everything immediately. To be a star pupil. To be an award-winning martial artist. To know how to invest my money and become a millionaire. I want to know right now and I want to do it perfectly. Otherwise you won’t love me.
When I examine that belief and idea it starts to crumble because perfection does not guarantee love. I graduated number three in my class and my peers didn’t love me more. I called a perfect show as a stage manager and no one seemed to notice or really care. Even when I do things “perfectly” it doesn’t seem to make a difference. And you know? It never will.
People will never love me more because I’m an all-star. People will never love me more because I’m famous. People love me for who I am, not what I accomplish. I am allowed to make mistakes. I am allowed to send the wrong e-mail attachment because there is no inverse relationship between the mistakes I make and how much I’m loved. Thus perfectionism, I bid thee adieu.
I dream of a world where we realize love is associated with our insides, not our accomplishments. A world where we experience unconditional love all the time. A world where we allow ourselves to make mistakes because we know love will still be there. I dream of a world where we let go of our outdated beliefs and ideas because they no longer serve us. A world where we feel loved now and always.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.