I was perusing the top stories on MSN today when I came across one that focused solely on how much makeup a woman should(n’t) wear to a job interview. Why? Because it may affect whether or not she actually got the job. I was so completely appalled by it. Of course there are shallow people out there that probably would hire or not hire someone based on how they looked or if they had lipstick on or not, but for MSN to actually post an article about it in the context of giving women advice made it ten times worse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of perfection lately, both in terms of the pressure society puts on us as women and in terms of my own self. A good friend of mine said something to me about a month ago that really struck me, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about the role perfection or perfectionism plays in my life. She said “Jackie, you try too hard to be perfect.” At first I thought, “No I don’t.” But the more and more I thought about various situations in my life, the more I realized how right she was. Whether it be in my appearance, or the way I act or at work, I really do try to be what other people would see as “perfect.”
I rarely let people see me without make up on because some (illogical) part of me is afraid people might think differently of me if they saw me without it and saw my imperfections. I get very upset with myself if I make a mistake at work. Even in dating, I try to be that “cool, non-emotional, fun” girl rather than being true to how I might really be feeling…to the point I’ll even try hide what I am feeling or not assert my feelings because I’m afraid it will make me look needy and scare the guy off. I even stress about something as simple as writing a cover letter because I want to it to be nothing but perfect so I can get an interview. I realized how often I think about wanting to say exactly the “perfect” thing or do the right or perfect thing.
I think I could attribute most anything I struggle with in life to my disability if I wanted to, but I think in this case, it’s very much a large part of why I strive for perfection. By definition (and not my own opinion), I am physically “imperfect.” I have a limp and I don’t have the same amount of strength other people do. So I think I try to overcompensate for that by always trying to look put together and act together so people will notice that instead of the limp or the disability. So people will think “Wow, she’s pretty” or “Look at that cute outfit” instead of “Gee, I wonder what’s wrong with her leg?” or “I wonder why she’s walking up the stairs like that?”
Some of this goes hand-in-hand with the previous blog I wrote about me being too nice also. Tiptoeing around other people so as not to hurt their feelings or cause a confrontation while in the meantime, losing myself and what I really need or want. So what I’ve been doing in the past month is slowly taking steps to literally allow myself to not be perfect all the time. To not even try to be perfect all the time.
I’ve been wearing less makeup (some days I’ll hardly wear any). If I make a mistake at work, I make a concerted effort not to beat myself up about it and move forward with my day. I’ve made a vow to myself to stop worrying when I’m dating a guy that I’m saying exactly the right thing or not letting on too much that I might like him or being afraid to ask for what I want in an attempt to be the “perfect” girl (just typing that out was exhausting so you can imagine how exhausting acting like that actually is). Even just in daily life, I’m getting less and less afraid of standing up for myself whether it be to my boss or to a close friend, even if what I have to say isn’t “perfect.” I’m trying not to put so much pressure on myself to always make the perfect decision (if such a thing even exists).
I’m focusing more on just being…and less on thinking. Old habits are hard to break so I know this is something that’s going to take me some time; maybe my whole life even. But I’m grateful to that friend for pointing it out because it opened me up to being able to recognize it, learn from it, and try to change it so I can be more of myself and not what I think everyone else or society might want me to be…and that’s a pretty awesomely freeing feeling.