If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m going to draw your attention to the fact that the main picture on my website has a flub. During the photo shoot, the little stringy thing, which all shirts have for some mysterious reason, worked its way out and is there for all to see. Here, I pointed it out for easy viewing. I didn’t see at first, but then I couldn’t not see it.
My friend who took the photos offered to Photoshop it out, but ultimately, I decided to keep it in. See, I love these photos. They are probably my favorite pictures of myself ever, and I want to keep them slightly imperfect.
For much of my life, I have strived to be perfect, or at least appear perfect. But even more than that, I have used the excuse of “I’m not perfect at …” to not try, to not finish — and sometimes, to not even dream.
Not being perfect was always an easy “out” for me. I can’t audition, because I’m not the best singer. I can’t be in charge of that project, because there are so many people more qualified than I am. I can’t publish a kids book about shame, because my degree is in interpersonal communications, not child psychology. There was always a reason I wasn’t good enough to try.
At some point, I decided that imperfection meant failure. That if you didn’t know, without a doubt, that you were the best at whatever, there was no way you could succeed. The thing is, short of maybe Adele and LeBron James, no one can guarantee or know that they are the best. There is alway someone who has the potential to be better, faster, smarter than you. If you use that excuse to not try, to not do, it’s not that other person who is defeating you; it’s yourself. And for a long, long time, I defeated myself.
I never questioned it with myself. Why would I? But I remember, when my oldest started voicing those same thoughts, how quick I was to point out how he was wrong.
“I can’t get this right, Mom. I should just quit violin.”
“C, no one gets it right on the first time. You are supposed to make mistakes. It’s ok. The only way you won’t get it is if you stop trying.”
“Tommy beat me at a race. I should just quit soccer, because I'm not fast enough.”
“Sometimes people are going to be faster than you. That’s OK. That doesn’t mean you stop practicing. Maybe someday you will be faster than Tommy, but even if you aren’t, it’s still OK. You don’t have to be the best to keep playing.”
Once again, as a parent, I’m telling them to do as I say, not as I do. That may not be as noticeable for them at first — that I want them to try, but I am not willing to take risks myself. But eventually, they would notice. Maybe it wouldn’t stop them from trying, or maybe it’s the example they would use to start that same behavior.
Regardless of my kids, though, do I want to keep living a life of fear and fake perfection? Or do I want to take risks, be vulnerable and maybe even go after some dreams? Not just because it will be good for my kids, but because it would be good for me.
I like to think it says a lot about my own personal growth that I would not only have an imperfect picture, but also leave it as the major image on the site. I still struggle with the idea that since I am not perfect, I can’t do it. But, baby step by baby step, I am trying to show myself that my advice to my kids is right: You don’t have to be perfect to try. And, more importantly, you don’t have to be perfect to succeed.