Expressing Your Authentic Self
A blog post with ideas to overcome needing to appear perfect.
Growing up I received the message that appearance is important. On the outside others needed to think you are in control, that nothing is wrong, and that you are succeeding. I became a perfectionist, but only in appearance, as I always had to appear to be perfect. Perfect appearance prevented me from being my authentic self with myself or others, even with family and close friends.
I couldn’t be my true self, because I am not always in control, something is regularly wrong, and I do not always succeed. I am not perfect.
The dissonance between appearing perfect and the reality of my imperfection caused lots of unhappiness in both my professional and personal life. I felt anxious as the stress of maintaining the appearance, while managing reality, was overwhelming. I felt depressed, sad that I could not be myself because I felt I would not be accepted by others, and like a failure since I could not live up to the perfect appearance.
When and how did I change this to start being my authentic self?
Honestly, I reached a point where I just could not keep the appearance going. I did not have the energy to maintain both existences, and I decided that I was willing to accept whatever happened by showing my true self to others. It was a low point for me, the lowest ever actually, and from the bottom I had to learn to admit that I was struggling. I needed help to find tools and strategies to help me climb back up, not only out of the hole, but to the other side where it is ok to not be perfect.
One tool that was helpful is self-compassion. I learned to be kind to myself, to accept that I am imperfect like everyone else, and to be mindful of how I treat myself. I changed the narrative of “how dare you to not appear perfect, no one will love you” to “it is ok to not be perfect, you are still loved.” I may not have believed the corrected statement at first, but it eventually became the truth of my reality. No one rejected me because of my imperfection, and this opened me to understand the concept of unconditional love. Learning to be compassionate towards myself took time and it still takes practice to keep my thoughts phrased like the corrected statement in the most challenging of situations.
A strategy I used was to talk to those closest to me about what was going on and to ask for their help. Someone who strives to appear perfect usually does not ask for help, and this was a significant change for them and for me. I had to learn to let go and let them help. No, not all the things I asked for were done perfectly, but they would not have been if I had tried to do it all either! Everyone was willing to help and they often went above and beyond to do so. My first instinct is still to want to do everything myself, but it is so much better, and more fun, to have the help of others.
Learning to not be perfect has been challenging, and freeing, and is an incredible journey for which I am thankful every day.