Chasing perfection has defined much of my life. I used to carry the title “perfectionist” like a trophy. Perfectionism always served me well in workplaces, in class, and in day-to-day tasks. Striving for perfection was something I was proud of, something I would mention in job interviews and cover letters, or even in a joking matter when people questioned why I liked to lose sleep working on projects for an A+. Doing perfect work was something I could control, but being a perfect person was not. So when it came to my view of myself, being a perfectionist proved to be not a source of pride, but a hidden burden. I struggled with body image issues throughout my pre-teen years, teen years, and even into my early twenties. It was only recently, within the past couple of years, that I began to consciously break down the unattainable and dangerous standards I was holding myself to. I’m still very much in the midst of my mission to love myself unconditionally, but it is a fulfilling one- though challenging. I didn’t realize how toxic my own thoughts were when I was younger. I would look in the mirror and see myself as someone who was too fat, too ugly, someone who didn’t have “good” hair or skin or teeth, and so on. I would tear away at my own confidence because I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines. And I STILL have my days where I feel “ugly”, but now I am learning to catch those negative thoughts and replace them with self love. It’s a process. And in my process, I have learned a few lessons that keep me going.
1. Imperfection is beauty. I have found this in my art, in myself, and in the world around me.
2. Gratitude is everything. I can’t hate on any part of me when I’m too busy being grateful for having a unique, beautiful body, mind, and spirit that are only mine.
3. Self love is most important. However, it doesn’t hurt to lean on my support system and fuel up on external sources of love, too. The people who celebrate my imperfection can provide that fuel. Others can not.
4. Perfection is an illusion- IT DOESN’T EXIST. The very definition (“having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics”) implies that it is subjective. Required for what? Desired by whom?
Being perfect is something I try to actively avoid now. When someone offers a compliment by saying “you look perfect” or “you are perfect”, etc., I respond by thanking them for the sentiment but insisting that perfection is too much pressure and something I don’t want to try to live up to. There are so many things about myself that I can’t control: sometimes I get a zit on really important days, sometimes my hair has a mind of its own, sometimes my laugh is too loud for people, my opinions too bold, my woman of color-ness too woman of color-y. These things will always come between me and the image of “perfection” that society holds girls and women to. And at this point in my life, I LOVE THAT. I am coming to learn that self love is a radical act when it stands in the face of a system built on dismantling it.
– Maya Morales. Actress. Perfection.