I Am Not Perfect

Perfectionism distorts realistic expectations, but by accepting the phrase “I am not perfect,” we can grow stronger.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Even among great success, one flaw becomes the sole focus for a perfectionist due to a fear of not being enough.

Anna Parsons, Senior Staff Writer

Perfect. Even the word itself is perfect with an evenly distributed number of tall and short letters that are very pleasing to the eye.

But apart from the symmetry comes a mental distortion of what a human is capable of. A condition so self -destructive, so harmful, yet so ignorant to the reality that a person is. But no medical remedy will destroy it — only a person’s own understanding of the truth that “I am not perfect” will wipe the expectation clean. 

Everyone strives to achieve success to exhibit the most ideal version of themselves. And having a mindset that expects that high level is effective in achieving that success. Elements of perfectionism can be beneficial to its inhabitants. Wanting to do one’s best in life should never be frowned upon.

But it’s when perfectionism takes over like a parasite and manipulates the realistic expectations a person has for themselves that it becomes destructive. 

When a balloon is filled with air, pressure builds up, expanding the flexible latex, but sometimes there’s just too much pressure being emptied into the balloon that all of a sudden it pops. Perfectionism is the same as air pressure in a balloon. Sure, some level of holding oneself to a high standard to ensure success and hard work ethic is necessary. But, when so much stress, so many unrealistic expectations are placed on one person, they too pop.

An expectation is created that can never be fulfilled which causes the perfectionist to break down at the first sight of imperfection. Rather, the imperfections are what should be the expectation. There’s a definite fear that arises from perfectionism. Not just a fear of failure, but a fear of being seen as less than perfect. 

A constant feeling that one wrong step will lead to an endless pit of mess-ups that will never leave. 

There’s a sense of upholding an image of perfection that a perfectionist believes they must keep intact not only for themselves, but for how they believe other people see them as well. A fear of having “bad” grades, taking pictures that aren’t completely pristine, even a fear of just having a bad day are all elements of being seen as “less than perfect”. Mentally distorting the idea of what it means to be a human being, perfectionism manipulates someone into believing they cannot possess such imperfections. 

Perfectionism is healthy until it takes over, creating a sense that nothing is good enough. It creates sometimes unmanageable levels of stress based on highly unrealistic beliefs, a constant feeling that one wrong step will lead to an endless pit of mess-ups that will never leave. 

But combating perfectionism can be done. Yes, there are ways to destroy the vicious cycle. Though there is not a single thing easy about breaking down a built-up web of expectations, it can be accomplished with an understanding of “I am not perfect”. 

“I am not perfect.” may sound like a straightforward phrase, but under the simplistic words are an array of interpretations. 

Accepting comes from experiencing imperfection and changing the response to it.

“I am not a pile of straight-A papers.” 

“I am not always happy and smiling.” 

“I am not just an ideal body type.” 

“I am not experiencing success all the time.”

Realization is the first step; accepting that realization occurs next — the most difficult part. But without acceptance, perfectionism still has a grip on a person’s mind. Acceptance comes from experiencing imperfection and changing the response to it. Instead of beating oneself up, one must see the imperfection as a way to improve or an aspect of one’s character that is part of who one is. It takes much practice, and great strength, but defeating perfectionism can be done. 

No perfect specimen exists; no one is without flaws. Trust me, I know how accepting that truth is so very difficult. Every day I have to overcome an unrealistic expectation that I put on myself. But changing the seemingly overbearing voice is not impossible, which is what I have learned. So spoken from one perfectionist to another, you can break the pressure, expectations, and stress of trying to be perfect. You are allowed to have flaws. You are not perfect, and that is amazing.