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We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving…We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are on birth control, Prozac, and multivitamins…We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We are the daughters of the feminists who said “You can be anything” and we heard “You have to be everything.
—Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters – Courtney E. Martin
Here’s the thing about perfection, we hold two truths to be evident about it that we can’t seem to shake. The first is that it can definitely for sure actually happen, and if you try hard enough it’s going to, and the second is that it’s never is going to happen to you. What does that say about us, that we’re persistent as fuck or that we’re too dumb to get a clue? It’s probably a little of both, and way more complicated than that.
Speaking as a woman I can say that striving for perfection is webbed into every fiber of my being and I have no idea where it came from. My parents? Maybe. Society? Probably. Etched into every insecurity and scratched into my very soul, I can’t get it wrong. I can’t cut myself a break; I refuse to relent. And when I do I perceive it as weakness and I hate myself for it.
We are told to do. And when we try, we try harder than we ever thought we could. We break down. We repair. We never back down. And when rest comes, we wonder how we could have done better, do better. Next time.
The lesson isn’t in achievement. We know we can do anything. Seriously, we really can. But mistakes happen. That’s what they don’t tell you and especially what you won’t tell your friends. What TV won’t write, what movies won’t say, what the achievers rarely ever tell. Some do, on the celebrity level like Oprah and Steve Jobs. But do we tell each other? Do we fess up to our friends, admit our defeats and find comfort in our screw ups? Maybe our pride is holding us back, we don’t want to ruin the projection of perfection.
The real challenge is in the solace we find in ourselves through sharing with each other. The slack we give. The love we accept. The help we take. The relief we find. The projection of perfection is a false mirror: look back at yourself in that mirror and see the people standing behind you. They don’t care how badly you screwed up at work. Let them make you a drink and help you make up cruel pranks to get back at your boss on Monday because you’re going to need a couch to sleep on when you get fired.
– Kaley A