Practicing Self-Trust: The Value of Being Perfectly Imperfect

Trying to keep up with the demands of daily life is exhausting. Developing self-trust and accepting a perfectly imperfect world can help you cope.


| January 2016



Imperfection

Trust in ourselves is not about feeling invincible, infallible, or in complete control of our lives. Rather, it’s knowing that the messiness of life is not our fault.

Photo by Flickr/Caroline

In an age of constant media messages and so-called expert advice telling us to be richer, thinner, smarter, and faster, we’re all dogged with worry and self-doubt. In her warm and inimitable way, author M.J. Ryan guides us to look at our lives from a different perspective in Trusting Yourself (Conari Press, 2015). This excerpt, which discusses the unrealistic expectation of perfectionism and how to embrace all of life’s imperfections, is from Chapter 2, “The Gifts of Trusting Yourself.”

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The Bonds of Perfectionism Are Loosened With Self-Trust

I have a friend, let’s call her Allison. Her house is always impeccable, even if you drop in unexpectedly. She is always tastefully dressed and coiffed, even to go to the park with her children. Her husband is an extremely successful businessman. She has an interesting part-time career as a freelance writer.

Sounds like a wonderful life, right? Yet Allison is miserable most of the time. In her eyes, her house is never clean enough, her accomplishments never good enough. She is perpetually fearful of making a mistake and constantly anxious that she is not measuring up to some standard that she can’t even articulate.

Does Allison sound familiar? Do you freak out if your child leaves a dirty sock on the floor? Do you hyperventilate if your layer cake is lopsided? Are you afraid to try something new because you are not good at it already? If so, you more than likely are caught by the demon of perfectionism. Inside that demon is the great fear that we are not enough in and of ourselves. If we slip up, it will be proof that we are worthless. So we try to control our fear by being perfect: perfect looks (hence all the cosmetic surgery), perfect parents (hence all the anxiety over whether our preschooler will get into Harvard in fifteen years), perfect spouses (hence all the articles telling us how to be hot in bed), perfect leaders at work (with the list of twenty or so leadership competen­cies that we are evaluated on yearly).


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Perfection is impossible. Each of us will stumble over and over; each of us will not measure up against the hypothetical yardstick of the quintessential parent, spouse, worker. Yet so many of us continue to try—and beat ourselves up relentlessly when we fall short.