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fear and imperfection


I’m 42 years old and I’m realizing for the trillionth time that there is no way in the world to be perfect—to write perfectly, parent perfectly, to be a perfect friend or partner, to look perfect, act perfect, have a perfectly clean house and a perfectly clean life.

But I catch myself expecting it. I think about times when I’ve been impatient with the kids, the time I spanked two-year-old Oliver’s diapered butt because he wouldn’t take a nap. I’ve played it in my head over and over and over, getting stuck on a futile negative feedback loop.

Sometimes I shrink with shame about how I look, the kid with the bad perm that smelled like her parents’ cigarette smoke; the woman walking into a coffee shop, wearing her imperfections on her forehead.

We can forever feel bad about ourselves, wanting to change this, change that, make appointments, and criticize ourselves.

Or we can choose to be fully, wholeheartedly, unabashedly ourselves. That includes everything—every idiosyncrasy, every fault, every failing, every time we lost our cool, everything we love about ourselves and everything we hate about ourselves.

My good friend once brought up the idea of “radical acceptance.” For a while, every time I felt ashamed, I’d think about what it would feel like if I could truly, deeply, and forever accept everything about myself.

You know what it would feel like? Freedom. Total and utter freedom.

I want that. I want freedom from beating myself up about things I can’t control.

In order to get there, though, we have to walk into fire, look squarely at what we fear to discover what it is we are really afraid of.

And in order to do that, we need to shine a bright light on our darkest spaces. There we will not only find our fears, faults, and failings, but we will also find our softness, our kindness, our humility, and our grace. It is in the dark spaces where we discover the gifts from our struggles.

It is not in perfection that we find wisdom and strength. These things only come from being exactly who we are.

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, you are fierce with reality.”

–Florida Scott-Maxwell





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