It all started– well, honestly, I don’t know exactly when. All I know is it’s been rooted in me since a young age: this unrealistic desire to be perfect. The type that has you crying before an exam, despite the fact that you studied for days, the possibility of getting anything less than perfection is too high. The type that has you dieting before you’re even out of second grade. The type that tells you vulnerability is a weakness, to the point that the existence of this article used to be impossible. Even now, part of me screams to delete it all.
If we’re going to be honest, part of it is on society. Perfection is painted as normal in everything we consume: billboards, magazines, shows, etc. But part of it was also just me.
High school continued just like middle school, only on steroids. Instead of two clubs, I was in six, instead of honors classes I was in IB, instead of breakdowns before a test, I struggled with mental illness. Only this time, I hid it from the world. Not only did I hide my mental illness, but any weakness. It was my junior year of high school. I had made it onto the exec board of Key Club, and that night was our big event at a soup kitchen. There would be homemade food, presents and more. I had noticed a fever the day before, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Sure, my throat ached and my snuffed nose made it hard to talk, but I was fine. I was always fine. “You excited about the soup kitchen?” I asked my best friend who was also in Key Club. She then spent the next 15 minutes convincing me not to go “It was okay to bail at the last minute when you were this ill. You would just contaminate the food. You don’t have to do it all, just take care of yourself for once.” Looking back now, I can see the absurdity of it, skipping one event didn’t make me any less a part of the club; it just made me human.
It was my freshman year in college that I finally started to toy with the idea of imperfection. It started with choosing my college. I had applied to an absurd amount of schools but had fallen in love with Florida State. Part of me knew that from the beginning, another part of me worried about what people would say. As far as ranking goes, it wasn’t the highest-ranked school I had gotten into. But the mere thought of me going to one of the others made my stomach churn. I ultimately, as you probably figured out, decided to go with the school I was passionate about. Go ‘Noles! I continued to indulge in my passions by declaring a double major in English and Studio Art. Imagine my perfectionist self when I realized I wanted to be a writer instead of a scientist. I then decided not to join the Honors Program. Don’t get me wrong, Florida State’s Honors Program is fantastic, but it wasn’t right for me. I knew that joining the program would mean another four years of obsessing over straight As, and for the first time in my life I wanted more; I wanted to be happy.
However, November came, and I began to feel that need to overexert myself. I looked at clubs on Nole Central, decided to reach out to some, and within a couple of weeks, I was a part of five. I had quickly fallen back into the routine of barely allowing myself enough time to breath. Sure, I knew the risk, but I had done it all in the past, so why wouldn’t I be able to do it now. Not to mention, I was older, so shouldn’t that mean I could handle more? Sure, I had survived it in the past, but that’s all I was doing, surviving, hence the crippling depression. I realized that I had gotten so caught up in living the perfect life that I forgot to live my life. So, I quit the clubs that I wasn’t excited to go to. Instead, I started focuses on things that made me happy: writing, friends and traveling, even if it is just to the closest coffee shop.
To say I don’t still struggle with this idea of the ideal me, would be a lie. However, now the idea of perfection has changed; instead of striving to live up to society’s standards, I strive to do more of what makes me happy. So, here’s me, doing my best to let it all go.
Things you can do to embrace the imperfect:
Surround Yourself With Friends
One of the biggest things that helped me was surrounding myself with friends who reminded me that it was okay to be imperfect. Whether it’s reminding me that a cold and a soup kitchen aren’t a good pair, or that a bad grade on an assignment doesn’t mean the start of the apocalypse, my friends have also been a constant support system.
Talk to People
I know, vulnerability is horrifying, but the truth is it’s also freeing. Whether you decide to talk to a professional or your friends, talking about it helps to put everything in perspective. In fact, being vulnerable isn’t just helpful to you, but also to others. By always acting like everything’s perfect, we feed into the same unrealistic, idealized image that society created.
Start Caring for Your Body
It’s important to start treating your body with love. Whether that’s a Sunday night bath or morning yoga. By being kind to your body and listening to it, you can start to appreciate its imperfections.
Actively Challenge Your Mindset
Changing your mindset can be hard, but it’s the most significant step when accepting your imperfections. It’s going to take some time to erase all thoughts of self-criticism, so, instead, completely correct them. Next time you hear yourself stressing about a test grade or not working out enough, remind yourself of everything you’ve already accomplished.
And in case no one’s told you yet: you’re worth it. You’re worth finding the “you” that makes you happy.
*This article first appeared in Her Campus FSU*
Let me know in the comments down below how you practice self-care!