The best thing I ever did for myself was to learn to let go of perfection. Later, I would learn that when I let go of perfection, it was the best thing for other people as well. It’s exhausting to try to have everything just right and please everyone all of the time.
Many years ago, I found myself constantly tired, anxious and angry. Why? Because I was so afraid of failure. I was terrified of not being taken seriously, of not being respected, of everyone knowing that I didn’t have it all together. What if they didn’t like me or think I was perfect? What if (*gasp*) they knew I was normal?!?
I wasn’t the star student, athlete or leader. I can’t dance, sing or juggle. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, and I have a terrible habit of biting off my cuticles. My socks don’t always match, I often say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I can’t bake cookies even if my life depended on it. I get stuff in my teeth, I snort when I laugh and I have a hard time remembering what I was just going to do.
I was just “ok.” At everything. How was I ever going to prove to people that I was worth their time? How can I prove I’m the best person they know? Then it hit me: I don’t need to. I can be me. I can save my energy for the stuff that really matters in life. It’s ok that not everyone likes me and thinks I’m the best thing on the planet.
Being un-perfect is very freeing. When no one expects me to be super human, I’m given more grace when I stumble and fall. When my friends, family and coworkers expect me to be normal and fallible, I get a lot more done because they come alongside me and offer help, encouragement and kindness.
I’m not gonna lie, this transition wasn’t overnight. It took time. It took time to like what I saw in myself. It took time to realize I didn’t need to know everything about anything. And much of the time, in my attempt to be perfect, I actually screwed up a lot and made it worse. I offended a lot of people and nearly ruined my sense of self. But slowly, I began to experiment with saying, “I forgot to do that,” or “I don’t know that answer,” “I need help; I can’t do this alone,” and “I’m sorry; I messed up.”
You know what happened when I tried out those words? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The world didn’t fall apart, my friends didn’t leave me and my staff still respected me. Of course, striving for excellence is always a goal. Everyone wants to be a success. But, make your goals realistic! When you’ve done the best you can, pat yourself on the back, smile and stop beating yourself up over not achieving an impossible goal.
Today, I work for Glendale Community College in Arizona as the marketing and public relations director. My name is Tressa, and I’m imperfect. I can live with that. When I launch into a new idea or project, I make mistakes, I ask for help and I only bite off what I can chew. When I hold team meetings, I sit cross-legged on the counter, crack jokes, forget my notes and usually have a food stain from lunch on my shirt. I love my team. We laugh, we plan and we share ideas. We some times whine or vent, but we always walk away being real. We discuss a project, and how we can encourage GCC students to strive for success. If it doesn’t work, it’s ok – we tried and we learned from the experience.When I met the awesome people that would be on my team here at GCC, one of the first statements I made in my very first team meeting was “I want you to know: I will, someday, hurt your feelings, offend you or make you angry. And chances are, I may not realize it. I’m asking you right now to bring it to my attention. I’m human; I’m going to mess up. I need your help to do my job. I can’t do it all by myself.”
You know what the best part is? I’m not exhausted. I embraced imperfection and it’s invigorating.