In spite of evidence to the contrary, I was not raised to be a perfectionist. I wasn't raised in such a way that I was told to try harder, or do more, or do better. In fact, I wasn't supposed to try at anything. I wasn't supposed to work too hard, or do too much, or strive to be anything. Being a perfectionist is a bad thing. Being a perfectionist means you're anxious. Being a perfectionist means you have to try so hard to be perfect.
See, I was just supposed to be perfect. Effortlessly, beautifully, simply, articulately perfect. I was not told how I was supposed to behave, or what I was supposed to achieve, or what I was supposed to do. I was just supposed to do it, and I was supposed to do it in an effortless and perfect manner. It was just all supposed to fall into place. If you let people know you were trying too hard, it wasn't perfect. If you let people see that you were anxious about it, it wasn't perfect. Perfection wasn't something we were supposed to seek. It was just something that was supposed to be. Perfection was just something that had to happen, automatically, without trying, because to try would indicate that you weren't inherently perfect. And that is what we were supposed to be: inherently and ultimately perfect.
By that logic, I couldn't be a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist means, inherently, that you're not perfect, so that couldn't be me, right?
Unsurprisingly, a by-product of this environment made it such that I had no choice but to be a secret perfectionist. Our public family face was one of perfection. Any imperfections happened behind closed doors and were never mentioned to others. I was (and by some, still seem to be considered to be) perfect. It is still the image I am supposed to present.
I'm not perfect. I have been failing at perfection since forever, and not for lack of trying. I'm still really bad at failing at perfect. Even after all this practice at trying to be perfect, perfect still doesn't come easily. It doesn't come naturally. In fact, it doesn't come to me at all.
Failure, however, is even less natural. It's just not an option. It's not supposed to even be on my radar. Failure is a devastation and disappointment that I'm just not supposed to contact.
But you do sometimes. Or, I do. Or I did. And it feels like the world has caught on to 27 years of pretending. It feels like, finally, that which I have been trying to avoid has been made known. It feels like I have been called out by Life. Life has finally caught me, ripped off the ill-fitting mask of perfection I've been trying to mold to my face, and shown "everyone" who I really am.
It's so bad, in fact, that I even feel like a failure because I don't know how to fail perfectly. I want to be able to fail and bounce back quickly. I want to be the perfect person who has such strong self-esteem that a little failure doesn't send her for a loop. I want to maintain a cheerful, beautiful, strong, effortless position on failing, and I want to write something motivational about how to fail in the best possible way. If I can't be perfect, which we've established I can't, I at least want to be able to be a perfect failure. Not perfect feels not lovable. Failure feels unthinkable.
This is some fucked up shit, y'all. And it's really hard to write about. It's really hard to write about. In fact, I totally see myself deleting this post after I post it (which will be problematic, because then I won't have a post for every day, which means that I failed at posting every day which I set out to do, so maybe I'll just edit it or something else, because...failure makes me anxious).
It's hard to separate out "that thing I failed" from "I am a failure." I mean, there are some mornings that if I burn my toast or spill my coffee I spend the rest of the day obsessing about the fact that I'm a failure. Real failure -- something beyond burned toast -- it makes my bones hurt. I realize that sounds melodramatic and silly, but I'm not kidding. It makes me feel unable to eat, and it makes my bones hurt.
Have you read Jonathan Safron Foer's amazing book "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"? It's a gorgeous book. The movie doesn't do it justice. At any rate, in the book the main character says, "Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living."
I hear this. My bones feel like they're cracking under the weight of all the perfect I'm not obtaining. Failure weighs heavy on my bones. Perfect weighs heavy on my bones. Their combined weight is breath-taking.
Anne Lamott reminds us that "perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor." I need a freaking emancipation. The tyrant in my head is unrelenting.