Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Beautiful Imperfection

It wasn't until I became a mother, and failed so miserably at achieving Standards of Perfection that I found myself fully able to accept myself as I am.  The standards were mostly my own making, but they also came from the parenting magazines I pored over so studiously during pregnancy and from the usual societal pressures that we are all susceptible to.

See, one of the great glories of parenting is the honesty of the mirror that is reflected back at you by your own children.  One's babies are nothing if not the ultimate members of the Hypocrisy Police, and I love them for that.

I am not perfect.  I knew that already (though I didn't want to admit it) and you knew it too (though you were too nice to point it out), but the salient point is that both of my children are going to find out someday that they, too, are not perfect (even though I think they are), and when that happens, I want them to know that they are exactly as they should be.

Striving to be better at, well, anything is a valid goal; aiming to be perfect is not.  Wanting to be perfect sets us up for a lifetime of insecurities and crushing disappointments, and most insidiously, it gets in the way of appreciating who we are, in all of our glorious and beautiful imperfections.

Your soulmate does not love you because your skin is perfect; he/she loves you because of your charming quirks.  Your parents are not proud of you because you have the perfect job; they are proud of you because you found something you were good at and you started your own tiny business.  Your friends do not come to your house because your living room is spotless and well-appointed; they come over because they want to sit on your dusty, squeaky porch swing and pass a little time chatting, laughing, and sometimes crying.

I get farther from perfect, and closer to the me I want to be, with every passing day.  There is dog hair all over my living room rug, my cheeks are pock-marked with scars, there is cellulite on the back of my thighs, and I am pretty sure that we are going to have to slash our budget again before this month is over.  But I have a stack of used books on my nightstand that I look forward to reading, an educational plan for next year's homeschooling that we are all kind of excited about, two secure and happy children, and a regular yoga practice that keeps me strong and toned.

These days, my idea of a perfect day is rife with imperfections.  It does not include a perfect house, perfect hair, a perfect body, a perfect marriage, or perfect children.  My perfect day would be full of laughter and love with friends and family, moments of goofiness and learning with the children, time spent reading and practicing yoga, successful completion of a project that will help a client's business run more smoothly, and time not wasted in self-criticism.

There is no need to measure ourselves against the lives portrayed in magazines, in television and in movies.  The people that we are right now, and that we want to become, are interesting and lovely and imperfect, and therefore beautiful.