I want to start this reflection by telling you again how grateful I am that you are here. I truly appreciate you and your time, and I hope to be of great service to you along this journey in life.
That said, I want to let you know something from the start. If you’re expecting me to be perfect, to never make any mistakes, or to be able to put me on some kind of pedestal, you’re really not in the right place. Because, believe me, I am just as human and imperfect as we all are. And I vow to shamelessly admit to some of my greatest faults, struggles, and learning experiences throughout our shared time together.
Why would I do such a thing? Because, as the great children’s television host Fred Rogers once said, “what’s mentionable is manageable.” And I believe that statement with my whole heart and mind.
We live in a society that is often ruled by perfectionism. We may get these expectations early on from our parents, our families and friends, and our society as a whole. Often by the time we are quite young, we’ve learned to internalize these unrealistic expectations, and we may start giving them to ourselves! And yet, because we know deep inside of us that it’s not possible to be perfect, we often can act from a very conflicted internal space over this whole idea.
Somewhere deep within, many of us still may carry that gleam of hope that being perfect or putting on a front to the world that we’ve got it all together is actually possible, realistic, or truthful. But the reality often seems to be the opposite. Our lives get messy at times. We falter and fail. Things may not always work out as we plan.
We are given these challenging opportunities, I believe, so that we can learn and grow even more throughout life. But because of so many societal factors at play, we somehow may believe that being imperfect and learning through making mistakes is an awful, cursed way of being. We may learn from young on to value what we think we can or can’t do rather than who we are and what lessons we can gain.
We might spend tons of energy after a perceived failure, or before a potential one, beating ourselves up. We aren’t often trained very thoroughly to turn to some of our other kinder options. Those may include taking a step back, taking some deep breaths, letting ourselves be as gentle with ourselves as we would be with someone who we dearly loved, refraining from harsh self-judgement, and looking for the growth opportunities from the situations we may find ourselves in.
We might treat our leaders, teachers, and guides very similarly. We may expect the world from them. Finally, someone who can teach us! Someone who has been through the storm and has come out into the sunshine! And yes, it’s true, many of them have had rough periods in their lives and have come out learning how to shine. But then we see them make a mistake. And because they are in the public eye, everyone hears about it. We judge their mistakes just as harshly we judge our own, expect maybe even more harshly. “They are supposed to be our leaders. They are supposed to be our teachers. They are supposed to know better. How dare they betray us by making that mistake!”
In recent years, due to social media, many mistakes have taken on epic proportions. They go viral in minutes, often costing the people involved much shame and potentially even their jobs in the process. We no longer offer many who put themselves in the public eye a chance to understand maybe why they made that mistake and to learn from it. Granted, mistakes can be costly, and consequences often do occur, depending on the mistake. But whatever happened to gently learning from our mistakes and gently allowing others the chance to do the same?
Often, we may laugh, blame, shame, judge, and guilt others for their mistakes, all the while being happy that we didn’t make such a horrible mistake as “they” did. Because we haven’t walked in their shoes, maybe we think that we could never have made such a mistake ourselves. But the truth is, we don’t know all of what their lives have involved. We haven’t had their experiences. Who are we to judge them, and why do we? Maybe it’s because we don’t even want to entertain the possibility of what it might be like if we made a similar mistake ourselves. But we are just as human as they are, and maybe if we lived their life, we could have done so.
And yet, if we told the truth, underneath the betrayal that someone we looked up to has made a mistake, could there even be a small, quiet sigh of relief in our hearts? They weren’t perfect. They never were. We just built them up to be, because maybe we hoped so much that finally someone might have surpassed human imperfection and be “the person” to show us exactly how to do the same.
Let me be clear. This isn’t a copout to excuse all mistakes and say that all behaviors, whether mistaken or not, are wonderful and healthy. But it is a chance to put a brake on the shame and judgment and perhaps examine them in a different way.
The truth is that we all are imperfect. And the truth is that sometimes we only see the sides of people that they want us to see. We forget or may not know what they may have gone through to get where they are. We forget that no matter how high the pedestal we or society may have placed them on, they still get up each day, eat food, and use the bathroom just like we do. We forget that they’ve probably had to learn a lot to get where they are, and that they’re still learning.
We forget because we don’t always stop to think about them in these ways. Maybe what we’d really love is an ideal leader, someone who has surpassed the failures and the pettiness in humanity. But all we really have are people who are ultimately just like us. No better, no worse. Just 100% wonderfully, messily, miraculously, uniquely human, and all that comes with it.
Not all of us feel called to be leaders in a public way, and that’s totally okay. But I believe we all have something unique and wonderful to offer other human beings in this world, whether those human beings are our immediate family, our next-door neighbor, or the kid down the street. And I feel that we owe it to any leaders or people that we may look up to, and also to ourselves, to understand and remember that none of us will ever “rise above” humanity through perfection. In fact, I like to believe that we can become all the more deeply human by embracing our full humanity—imperfections and all.
That’s why, in addition to guiding you to open more deeply to your own life, I’m committed to sharing many different sides of myself with you throughout these reflections. I don’t want to fool you into thinking I’m any better than you or somehow superhuman just because I feel called to write in a public forum. And I want to share some of my trials and growth opportunities, some even as they happen, so that you are reassured that I do indeed have struggles, no matter how much I feel that I also may help guide you through some of yours.
So if I could kindly ask you to do me a huge favor, as a reader of my work: Please don’t put me on any kind of pedestal for any reason. I’m just as human as you are. Trust me on that one. ;)
If you’re up for it, I have a great challenge for you in the last two paragraphs of this reflection that may help you deal with any pesky critical inner perfectionist voices, if you may also feel that you have them. And if you’d like to explore even more on this topic, Brené Brown, author, teacher, and social worker extraordinaire, has written a fantastic book called “The Gifts of Imperfection.” If you check it out and love it, you can purchase it through the link below this reflection. If you click that link and then decide to buy it right after you look it over, I will earn a few extra cents for having mentioned it to you. :)
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No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,