Likely you have heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect.”
I have been searching for a perfect version of myself for most of my childhood and young adult life. Always in the back of my mind, I could see this version but I was never successful in completely embodying it.
The perfect me was delicate, thin, blue-eyed (I have given up on that genetic shift), intelligent in the way that was both cool and recognized in the eyes of my peers and in the traditional structure of academic learning (i.e., standardized learning through transmissive education).
I think that the perfect version was unattainable because a) it wasn’t really in keeping with who I really was and b) it was realistic, feasible, or even necessarily desirable.
I am not delicate. In fact, I am thankful when I know where the bruises on my body come from. At times of heightened stress, I am a walking disaster in waiting. I bump into things, drop things, break things.
I am also not cool, at least not the kind of cool I wanted to be when I was younger. I don’t say the right thing at the exact right moment. I don’t look and act with the grain of my culture.
I have hazel eyes. I am not tall and slender. I do not have big boobs. I do not think that I stand out in a crowd, unless it is because people take notice of the mass of chestnut curls that spring out from my head in every direction with little rhyme or reason.
And I am horrible at standardized testing, so much so that for many years (essentially, until I earned a doctorate), I did not think of myself as an intelligent person.
I like to think that there was a part of me that was clinging to the real self I was trying so hard to ignore and that now, years later, I am learning to embrace and even to celebrate.
I am 32.
Two years into the decade of my thirties, I am starting to think that I have had it all wrong for all of these years.
Do I need to have a flat stomach? Can I learn to love my body even more softness that I might desire?
Maybe I can just accept and believe the kinds words people share with me. In fact, rolling my eyes and responding with the words “really” and “seriously” might be taken as insulting their own intelligence and way of experiencing the world.
It is ok to be an introvert, even if it means spending a lot of time alone. Just because my boyfriend in the beginning of college accused me of being “antisocial,” this is how I restore my spirit and there is nothing wrong with solitude.
I am beginning to understand and accept that the perfect version of myself that I have been striving for was not my version of the self. It was a version I was trying to create to be accepted by an external culture—friends, family, peers, the “cool” kids, adults, and mentors.
I never stopped to think that perhaps who I was at each stage of my development was perfect already, that where I was and who I was in each moment was exactly where I was meant to be and who I was meant to be.
I know that there is always room for improvement. I can learn to move more gracefully through difficult experiences and situations. I can try to be less stubborn and more accepting of my true self.
I can love who I am not simply despite all of the imperfections but because of them as well.