Last week, Dan Pearce from over at Single Dad Laughing posted an amazing entry called “The Disease Called Perfection“. I came across both his post, and subsequently his blog yesterday after one of my friends posted a link to it on Facebook.
Today, Dan followed it up with a post titled “The Cure for Perfection“. In it, he begins what he calls “The Perfection Project” where he encourages his readers to share the biggest mistake, trial or struggle they’ve ever survived, and how it changed them.
It struck me that I’ve turned into a terrible hypocrite. When I started this blog, I told myself that having major depressive disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, and, maybe if I’m completely honest with what I’m experiencing on a daily basis, as well as what I’ve gone through in the approximately 20 years since I was diagnosed, then maybe I can help someone else. True, there are things, like the Experiment, that are still too painful to talk about, but on the whole, I planned to be completely honest.
Then, being completely honest, life happened. I got concerned about appearing perfect. Certain family members kept telling me that “it’s not very nice to read” when I write about being depressed. Well, no, it’s not. It’s not very nice to be me when I’m in a low point. I write about it because it’s a) therapeutic, and b) because if nothing else, maybe I can let someone else who’s brain doesn’t work right know that they are not alone in their suffering.
I wish I had someone let me know that I wasn’t alone in my suffering years before it actually happened.
A good part of my anxiety is, I think, linked to the ideal of perfection. I was talking to a psychologist recently, and mentioned my anxiety and agoraphobia.
“What are you afraid of?” she asked me.
“People” I said. “There might be people [at church/in the movie theater/at Wal-Mart]”
“What is it about being around people that makes you anxious?”
I couldn’t answer that, but upon reading Dan’s post, it hit me–it all has to do with the fear that I might say or do something that will reveal to the world that I’m not perfect.
Logically, I know how stupid that is. Just looking at me–I’m more than 100 lbs overweight, I rarely do my hair and almost never wear makeup, people can tell that I’m not perfect. And besides that, perfection is boring. Perfect is annoying. Think about fiction–books or movies or TV shows. Think of a character who always says and does the right thing at the right time. You hate that guy, right? I do.
Our flaws are what make us real. Being less than perfect is what makes us human.
I guess we all need to be reminded of that.
I know I do.
At church today, I ran into a girl who I have contact with perhaps once a month. I can never remember her name, but she annoys me. I realized today why–she is very concerned about appearing perfect, and, the natural shape of her face and nose makes it appear that she is always looking down at the world around her.
We chatted for a bit–small talk, which I totally suck at, and I realized that she is quite a nice person, one who probably has a lot of the same neuroses that I do.
Mormons are very concerned with perfection–we are taught that the purpose of this life is to become perfect, like our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see Matthew 5: 48 and 3rd Nephi 12:48) When perfection is discussed, we are reminded that perfection is impossible to obtain without the saving power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, and we will not be perfect until after the resurrection.
Granted, I know more Mormons than any other denomination, but it seems like we are more concerned with showing the world a perfect face than the rest of humanity. We have to be the most humble, the most sincere, the kindest, the most generous, etc. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and, quite frankly, depressing.
I’ve talked about this before from a personal viewpoint. WHY do we have to put a perfect face forward? Everyone is human, and everyone who has ever lived (besides Christ, of course) made or makes mistakes. We are not perfect. We are flawed, we mess up, we do dumb stuff. The beauty of the Plan of Salvation is that as many times as we mess up, we can repent and start fresh and new.
I know full well that one of the biggest challenges I face is overcoming the need to appear perfect. I know that no one thinks or expects me to be perfect right now, but I get mad at myself when I fall short. When I am fully aware of my shortcomings, I don’t want to go to places where I think they will be highlighted.
It doesn’t matter, I suppose. All we can do is keep moving forward.