There’s really only one secret to being 100% perfect.
Over the last ten years or so, I have held myself to an unwavering standard of perfection. If I did not meet this 100% golden standard, I was worthless, should die, wiped out from the world forever. These were two extremes in my mind, and extremes are awfully hard to meet, let alone sustain for long periods of time. So how do I do it? How did I attain this seemingly unattainable formation of perfection that we all strive to?
Simple: I quit.
I did a really good job of brainwashing myself for years and years and years, hoping and praying that there would be something to fix me, make me perfect, and attain that ultimate happily ever after. It didn’t help that I had a huge amount of support from the Jesus gallery. If Jesus is the ultimate standard that we should all set for ourselves, then we should die for any small step out of line, right? For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory. I mean, that’s why Jesus came in the first place, to save us from ourselves. So we spend our lives trying to be the best people we can be, following Jesus’ rules and molding into his perfect image.
But did Jesus really intend for all of us to turn into Jesus clones? Where’s the diverse city if everybody looks and thinks and feels the same? That’s a shame on the world God has made, because if you look around, you can see He’s made it diverse, and each and every single one of us along with it. And if you don’t believe God made the world, then you KNOW the world’s diverse, because the underlying science in the DNA and hormones and structure makes it so. Each and every one of us is unique, and the idea of worldwide perfection is nothing but a fabrication.
Now, before you get into the “because we are all unique, nobody’s actually special” rigamarole, stop for a minute and chew on that. If you think nobody’s actually special, then you probably think you’re not special. And what’s that doing to your self-confidence?
I Am Special (And So Can You)
I was the poster child for perfection. I knew that I had a gift, that I was ‘special,’ but I also knew that if I didn’t do something with this gift, I would lose it. There was an immense pressure even from elementary school to do great things, no matter what those might be.
And so, I did what I thought everybody else wanted me to. I got A’s on my report card and beat myself up when I didn’t get one. To me, that was the equivalent of a failing grade. I went to countless rehearsals and shows, performing and listening and intending on mastering my craft, wanting to be the best I could be. But for what reason? To enjoy the talents that I had been blessed with? Or to exploit them for everybody else’s sake?
Whenever anybody asked me what I really wanted, I told them “I don’t know.” But I knew what I wanted. All I wanted to do was to fulfill everybody’s expectations so then I could be left alone. If I was alone, I could do what I really wanted to do. I could sit in my room and relax, be free from expectations, dance while nobody was looking, work on my stories and sleep in and craft and paint and be free. But I could only do that when all of my other obligations were met, and the biggest obligation of all was be perfect, or else.
Everybody feels this at some point or another. Everybody wants to say “I don’t know” because they’re tired of giving the ‘right’ answer. “I don’t know” is a noncommittal, a placeholder. It means, “I want to speak my mind, but you will punish me either physically or emotionally for doing so, and therefore I will have no opinion whatsoever.” And we suck it up and do as we are told while, inside, we just want to be left alone.
People often complain about the hamster wheel of everyday life. You know how we got to spinning our wheels? A lot of “I don’t know”s. When you say “I don’t know,” your parents pick your career for you instead of you having a say. When you say “I don’t know,” you give your significant other power to walk all over you, in one way, shape, form, or another. Saying “I don’t know” defers your power to other people. But what would happen if you decided you were taking that power back? To choose your own career, how you spend your time, to be assertive in your relationships?
That is the secret to being 100% perfect: to use your power to choose what perfection is to you.
Take Back Your Power
When I was younger, I gave a lot of my power to my parents. General conditioning tells every one of us that our parents are looking out for our best interests (99% of the time), even when their daughter is an unexplainable musical prodigy. As we grow older, that same conditioning tells us to submit to our teachers, our professors, and later our bosses and our peers.
And you know what, maybe that’s okay for a while. In order to make society work, children do have to go through a learning phase while they figure out the system. But we should be reminded (constantly!) that childhood does not last forever. Eventually, we will take back that power, grow into adults, and claim our lives as our own.
Except so many of us do not do that. We hide out in our rooms, afraid of our own power and expectations. We remember the days of childhood and want them to remain forever. Why can’t life always be that simple? Why do we have to go out there and claim our power? It’s a scary world out there. We might get hurt. People die. Nothing is certain. Life is too hard. And so we do the exact opposite of what we should do. We take jobs we know we can do instead of pushing ourselves. We live close to home, regardless of whether or not we want to be there. We buy ourselves toys because toys made us happy when we were younger, and so they should make us happy now, right? Before we know it, we’ve totally forgotten we had any power to begin with. There are bills to pay and laundry to do and reports to finish, and we convince ourselves that we’re happy.
And when someone asks us what we really want to do, the answer is often “I don’t know.” Not because we really don’t know. The answer is still inside each and every one of us somewhere. But “I don’t know” now stands for “I gave my power away a long time ago.”
I challenge you, each and every one of you: NEVER again answer a question with “I don’t know.” That is a bad life decision waiting to happen. The moment you answer “I don’t know,” you give someone else your power. The moment you’re forced to think about what you want will be the moment you start becoming a little bit more perfect.
We are only perfect when we are aligned with ourselves. In order to be aligned, we must be empowered to do so. Embrace that power and your life will finally be yours, as wonderful as you have ever dreamed it would be. Deny your power and expect “I don’t know” to be a permanent part of your lexicon.
I knew a girl who, back in eighth grade, wanted to be a hairdresser and manicurist when she graduated. She told me, however, that she would never be one because it didn’t make enough money, and it wasn’t what she should be doing with her time. I thought those reasons were ridiculous even back then, and now I think I’m finally starting to figure out why.
Why 2012 Sucked
I often go around telling other people that 2012 was not a good year for me. And yeah, no matter how you slice it, it was bad. If the number one story of the year is how you got food poisoning on the Q train while heading to Coney Island, you’ve got a doozy. (Note to tourists: do NOT throw up in the subway station trash cans. They will make you sicker. Go for the tracks. Every time. Nobody cares. It’s quite humbling, actually.)
My year didn’t start out like that, however. My year started off with me feeling quite empowered. I was at a bad job, with a bad boyfriend, but I was confident I would get myself out of both situations. I was getting my confidence back, albeit slowly, when I got a swift kick in the pants regarding the boyfriend situation. Due to previous circumstances, and also due to this man’s influence in my life, I believed I wouldn’t find anybody else who would care for me, because I was so miserable and wretched and doomed.
Can we work together and find the fault in this? I could have taken my power back from this boy, but instead I decided to play the victim. I chose to believe him and the words he said for varying reasons. It wasn’t until November of that same year that I realized what I was doing, thanks to a friend. When he pushed me too far, I allowed myself to break, and while it has been a rough road ever since, I am glad that I haven’t given up my power again. I’m sure he doesn’t like that I’m talking about this on this blog, but so be it. If I can’t lead by example, then why am I writing in the first place?
That’s only the first thing that went wrong -- leading up to quitting my job for a start-up gone wrong, working odd hours and odd jobs, trying to fix the summer by going home (let’s not even go there) and, of course, the aforementioned Q train incident. But when you give up power once, you give it up in a lot of ways.
It’s kind of ironic how I dealt with all of this power loss -- I wrote about it.
Dancing The Rainbow
I felt like the world was up against me at the beginning of 2012’s summer. I no longer had a full time job and the security that came with it. Everybody expected better of me. I channeled all of those characteristics and more into a story I had first created in high school, in a sense creating a huge allegory.
Blue Impulse is the story of Miranda, but it might as well be your story. Her mother has taken Miranda’s power exclusively for herself, exercising control over Miranda, her likes and dislikes, and her future. As a young private school student whose every move is monitored, Miranda’s only free outlet is through a group of kids from the local public school who play rhythm video games, most notably the fictional Rhythm Buster 200X (it’s a lot like DDR), for fun. They provide the outlet, but it takes Miranda years -- all the way through college and into grad school -- to realize that she has given up control to her mother, and that if she wants to be free, she can not afford to act like a victim any longer. It’s a coming of age story, but it might as well be your story.
So how do we free ourselves? Not all of us will have rebellious high schoolers in sweatpants coming to our aid. Perhaps that’s where I come in.
Christians use a version of ABCs to explain how to become a Christian yourself. It goes something like this:
A: Accept that you are a sinner and that you have done wrong.
B: Believe that Jesus Christ is Lord (and get baptized, in some denominations).
C: Confess your sins to Christ and be committed to Him.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, we can use a similar mindset when reclaiming our power:
A: Accept that you’ve been misguided about this entire power thing in the past, forgive yourself, and let yourself move on from your self-abuse.
B: Believe that you do carry power, that it is yours to hold and nobody else’s to take from you, unless you let them.
C: Claim that power as your own and never, ever let anybody else take it from you.
That’s it. That is, literally, all there is to it. However hard or easy it is is up to you. Let’s break it down just a bit more:
A: Accept that you’ve been misguided about this entire power thing in the past, forgive yourself, and let yourself move on from your self-abuse. This means you are no longer allowed to be the victim. This is probably the hardest step. Once you get over this one, the other two are easy peasey lemon squeezey. Each and every one of us has power. And if we don’t have it, if we give that control to anybody else, we lose it. So then what happens?
Christians would argue that it’s a good idea to give God all of your power. He will take care of you, they say. What they say is a self-fulfilling prophecy -- God will only give us what we need, so we will be content. We’re not supposed to be happy. We are supposed to put others over ourselves. If God is happy, we are happy, even through the storms.
Well, think about it this way. If God gave us power, then it’s a gift, right? You could compare this to one of the biblical talents. You can use that power however you want. You can become a missionary and spread His word. You can raise a family to claim their own power. You can teach others about His will, as long as it doesn’t involve them giving up their own power. But if you deny that power, you are denying one of God’s gifts to you, a gift that inherently makes you human and not an obedient dog. I’ve heard Christians say that God wants us to be obedient, but if we were all supposed to be obedient, then why did we get this power? (And don’t give me the “we should have never sinned in the Garden of Eden, ‘cause that’s how we got free will” argument. If God knows everything, He knew about the Garden of Eden from day one.)
Stepping down from a more religious standpoint (although feel free to challenge my view on this in a HUMAN discussion below), this requires a lot of forgiveness on your part. A lot of people don’t like to forgive. Grudges are kind of fun, aren’t they? They cause drama, and drama makes life interesting. But they lose a lot of their fun when you realize they’re a misuse of your power. If you forgive yourself, your power can be used for other, more productive things. Let go and move on. There are better things to do than to physically hit yourself in the head with a plate when you do something wrong.
B: Believe that you do carry power, that it is yours to hold and nobody else’s to take from you, unless you let them. We don’t like talking about power, because with power comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes frustration. But the idea that our life should be ‘easy’ is not only archaic, it’s inhumane. It compares our lives to the dog days of summer, as if we should be lying around all day drooling on our floor like my roommate’s Border Collie. The only time he exercises power is when he has to go to the bathroom. Is that the only time you exercise your power? Certainly not! :D
Dogs are cute, but you are not a dog. You were born as a human, and therefore, one way or another, you were born with power. You can say, “I’m going to sit at home and wallow in my unemployedness and Medicaid,” or you can say, “I choose to claim my power back. I may not be able to work, but I can do something. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to start a garden, or start writing a book, or go find people who are interested in the same things I am.” You can insist, “I hate my job, and it’s never going to get any better, so why bother?” Or you can stand up and say, “I have power, and I deserve a job that treats me better, and I will do everything in my power to find that.” You can say, “She loves me for who I am, so who cares if she treats me badly?” Or you can decide, “I DO love her. That won’t change. But I will not let her take my power any longer. I refuse to be a doormat.”
The key word in this part is ‘believe.’ If you don’t honestly believe you can, nobody will do it for you, and you better start believing the floor’s a comfortable place to rest your head.
C: Claim that power as your own and never, ever let anybody else take it from you. You may think this is hard, but it’s not. Once you make a decision to finally do something (instead of “I don’t know”ing around in circles!) you can decide HOW you’re going to make it happen. This may require research, time, and money, but it will be so much easier because it’s actually something you WANT to do. I’ve found that when you honestly want to do something, the universe somehow conspires to help you get it done faster. I had wanted to move to New York City for years, often believing it was a goal I could never reach for various reasons. It was only when I put my fears aside and decided I would do it that things came together -- and six weeks after I made the decision to move, I was leaving Ohio on a jet plane. SIX WEEKS. Tell me who moves in six weeks? This girl.
The sooner you discover that nothing is impossible, the better. Your power is yours to hold and yours alone, and keeping it is the only way you will decide for yourself what parts of ‘perfect’ you want to hold onto and what parts can go jump in the Hudson River. If you feel your power slipping, ask yourself: who am I giving this power to? And snap it back before it’s gone. You may give it out to whomever you like, even to people you don’t know you’re giving it to. But it is always your power, and you always have the initiative to take it back. Do not forget this. With even a bit of faith in yourself, perhaps you’ll be the one moving your own mountains.
Christians often add a D to their ABCs:
D: Don’t wait until tomorrow.
I’d like to think we can borrow that letter as well.