COLUMN: Perfectionism: The Facade of Flawlessness

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"Don't trade your authenticity for approval"-Cory Booker Photo credit: Marisa Herr Photo credit: Marisa Herr

Perfection. A word that encircles society today. It can be found displayed on billboards, on the covers of magazines and every time you open your phone. You are faced with comparison every day. Perfection is projected everywhere.

As a teenage girl growing up, I found myself consumed with achieving this freedom. The peace that perfection pretended to provide. The freedom from imperfection, weakness and inadequacy. I lived in fear of this perfection for nearly thirteen years. Constantly projecting the face I believed people wanted to see. However, as I began to become this person, I started to lose the person I was. I felt happy, but deep down I wasn’t ever at peace with myself. Whether I knew it or not my facade was beginning to crack.

It all came crashing down in January 2021. Everything I had built in my life was taken down in a matter of hours as I was diagnosed with severe anxiety. My whole world froze, as the doctor explained to me what that meant. I learned that day that the weight I placed on certain things to be perfect, things of little importance and things completely beyond my control had slowly been breaking me. My need to be perfect was taking control of me and I truly was losing myself.

Until this moment, I believed my perfectionism to be a positive thing. But it was a demon in disguise. From the second I woke up, to the last thing on my mind before bed, my personal adversary lurked.

I decided I didn’t want to live this way anymore, leading me to seek authenticity within myself for the first time in my life. I started diving into the imperfections instead of simply camouflaging them. I chose to face them. It was at this point in my life that I felt completely disconnected from myself, mixed up in an identity crisis. I truly had become the facade that I so desperately wanted to be. I became a shell of myself, struggling day after day playing the role assigned to someone else. Perfection was my new identity. I would prevent myself from feeling certain emotions, doing certain things and opening up to people. I became lost, my very own life felt foreign to me.

However, as I sought authenticity I found myself redefining beauty, perfection and weakness. I began to unveil the strength in humanity, in being human and making mistakes. I found real, raw emotion and connection with people I never let in before.

Every day I would ponder who I truly was, what my values were, what I loved, what I disliked and many other defining things. I began to open myself up to the realization that having an opinion was a good thing. I was never the girl to raise her hand in class or the leader of the pack. I found my comfort behind the curtain where I could slip by — agreeing with the thoughts and ideas of everyone else.

After years of this when I finally spoke up, I found a burning within to let people know my thoughts and opinions. I found that I no longer needed to shrink myself to fit some societal mold to hold value. I began to understand that I could have a voice. What I said mattered, I could take up space and be different than those around me. For the first time, I found peace with my uniqueness.

As I continually sought authenticity, I found myself. I accepted that I was human and that making mistakes is a part of life. I began to share all sides of me and let people in. I found real, raw emotion and connection with people unlike ever before.

Here I am almost a year later and stronger than ever. I do still have my bad days, but I recognize that those parts of me serve a great purpose. It’s so easy to be consumed with the way things should be versus the way things actually are. But through my experiences, I have come to realize that being imperfect is okay. I promise you it is. It allows us to need others, to connect and serve. Without imperfection, weakness and inadequacy we would live in isolation. Imperfection connects us. I have come to appreciate those parts of myself more than anything. I would never change who I am — not ever again.