The Perfectionist’s Lament
I will forgive anyone for anything except myself for not being want I to and should be. How I hate the foibles, flaws, and faults I try so hard to hide but all my efforts cause me nothing but frustration and angst. When I fail to measure up to expectations, especially my own, I need no one to cut me down to size for I will readily cut my legs out from under myself- not in humility, but in humiliation. These two words come from the same root word but their roots produce fruits that either give life or corrupt the soul. The scars, internal and external, may no longer hurt, but they never fade, their imprints ever on and in me. Shame is a shadow ever trying to overtake and consume me, trying to hide me from and prevent the glory of God.
Shadowboxing with my soul has long been a pastime of mine. When I look in the mirror, I see no reflection I want to embrace, just the things I want to change. The harder I try to improve, to finally be good enough by anyone’s definition, the harder it seems to become. More importantly, I have no faith I will ever be good enough for myself. No matter what any good anyone may think or say of me, I find it impossible to believe them. No matter how sincere they may be I wholeheartedly doubt it could be true. After a lifetime of being misunderstood, rejected, or abandoned, it is hard to imagine life otherwise. Even if I open up and let people in, sooner or later, they see what I see, and my flaws are held against me despite my honesty and desire to change. My honesty is not wanted as much as just a façade of perfect equanimity. “Please leave your feelings at the door- we don’t want your personality, only your performance” they seem to say.
Most people are harder and less merciful on everyone else then they are on themselves. Not me. I am harder on myself than anyone else could ever try to be. So, with every new failure, every new fall, every reminder of every imperfection, I look in one of 3 mirrors: the mirror of glass and rue who is staring back at me; the mirror of the perception of others who have no mercy on the reasons I need it most; or worse, the mirror of my expectations and disdain myself again for falling short. And when I fall short, I fall hard inside, even if not outside. Physical pain is a triviality compared to the emotional pain of falling short. Yet again, I wonder, what does it take to be good enough for anyone else? After all, I have virtually no hope to ever be good enough for myself. Am I only a caricature of what I once was and a glimmer of what I have always wanted to be? Black and blue bruises on the outside are trivialities compared to the wounds on the inside, inflicted by others and me.
But what if there was another mirror that accurately showed me who I am- both in weakness and strength, good and bad, failure and triumph? What if it cut to the core of the truth but also healed the wounds it both caused, and all other wounds inflicted by me and others? What if this mirror wasn’t a punching bag that fought back but a source of truth that heals and changes my perception of myself to what I was always intended to see? Could a mirror with that much hope even exist?