I was raised to always strive for perfection. I had to always be the number one in school, should be the prettiest, should be the most responsible for my siblings.
I walked everyday of my thirty-two years of existence striving for perfection. I’m not thirty two anymore but it was when my eyes were opened. Anything less than perfect was not worthy of any attention.
I am fully aware when this started. I was maybe six or seven years old, I remember walking giddily, hopping and running at the same time. I was so excited to come home from school and show my Mama and Papa my report card. Oh I did so well! As I was getting closer to our house, I passed by one of our neighbors. She’s an older sweet lady. Their house was right in front of this big Chesa tree. When it’s in season, my friends and I would wait for a fruit to fall, then we’ll all raise to get it. The fruit was tasty but the fun we had was even better.
I was passing that house, and I stopped to check out the tree, our neighbor called on me.
“Vanessa! You look so happy! What’s going on?”
I happily walked towards her and showed her my report card.
“Look Auntie! Look at my report card. My grades are so high, I’m so happy I can’t wait to show this to Mama and Papa!!”
“Well, let me see! Wow, Math -97; English – 99; Filipino – 88; PE – 92; Religion – 95! You did so well, I’m proud of you!” Auntie then walked to her sister and showed my report card, “Look here, look at Vanessa’s report card. She did so well. Only if the teacher can give her 100, a perfect score, they would! Isn’t she so precious?”
I was so happy, and proud and it was the first time in my life I felt all fuzzy inside. That felt so good. It’s like sipping a hot chocolate on a rainy day. It made me feel all good and warm inside my heart.
I continued walking home, happier and jumpier this time. My report card was in my hand, and I finally reached home. Those few steps felt like forever!
I walked in our house and went looking for my parents. I saw my Mama and Papa in the dining room. Mama was wearing her favorite duster dress and Papa was there too, they had just finished eating lunch. I ran to Mama and I showed her my card. She looked at it. I looked at her face, eager to see her reaction. She gave the card to Papa before she knelt down…
She started speaking..
“So…. why is there an 88 there? Next time, make sure they are all in the 90’s and then strive for 100. I bet next time you can.” She tap my shoulder then stood up. I was so confused but I had hope. Papa is still looking at my card! I bet he’d be so proud.
I looked at Papa, but this time less excited and my eyes were less happy. I was more nervous than happy.
Papa spoke “Yea, I bet you can do better next time.” He handed the card to me.
And that was it. They didn’t share the same excitement that Auntie showed.
They went back to talking adult things. I was left wondering. What happened? Why are they not happy? I looked down at my card and I saw my grades. I saw it very differently this time. Now, I saw a failure, with my six year old eyes, I saw someone who did not try enough. I told myself, “I need to have higher grades to make Mama and Papa happy. This was not good enough. But this was all my fault.”
Suddenly, all the happiness inside were replaced by hurt. My young mind did not know it at that time, but that’s when I made a promise to myself to always be perfect. That is the only way people around me would love me. Maybe if I was perfect, maybe, my parents would love me. It is not enough to just DO my best. I should BE the best. I HAVE TO BE THE BEST! In my six year old mind, I believed I was not good enough.
As I grew up, I walked around the world striving for perfection. I wouldn’t talk to my closest friends about my struggles, about my failures, about the bad things happening in my life. I only showed them the successful and strong version of me. “You can count on me! I’m strong” all the time is the message I would send. I was afraid that if they discovered the part of me that was less than perfect, I would lose them. That they will stop hanging out with me, or being my friend. At work, when I do less of a perfect job, I’d beat myself up to no end.
Then one day, I got tired. I got tired of believing I needed to be perfect. I woke up one day, my life was not the way I wanted it to be. Do I even know what I want other than to be perfect?
That’s when I started living. Accepting my imperfections were not easy. Still is not. But I can be more vulnerable now and tell myself.. It’s ok to have an 88 in your report card. It’s ok to not always have a perfectly cleaned house or to have a zit on my face. You know what? No one’s even grading me anymore.
I would tell myself, “It’s ok my little girl. You are good enough and everything you do is good enough.” Not aloud and in public, of course!
I am not blaming my parents, I do believe they love me. That they want me to be the best version of myself and that they were acting, projecting from their own expectations of the world. It was passed down to me and I took it.
I try not to see the world in “my perfect” lense anymore. Life is more enjoyable and colorful!
How about you? Do you strive be perfect all the time, to be perfectly instagrammable all the time? I bet that’s tiring, huh?
Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from it. Life is too short and that’s true!
I’ld like to know your experience too!
Till next time.