Ever since I was little, I was told how I had such pretty hair: the color, the perfect little ringlets they were naturally styled in. To me, however, it was out of control and unpredictable—I never knew if it would be nice one morning or crazy and wild the next. So I decided I could just straighten my hair every day. This way, I would wake up in the morning and my hair would be close to perfect, if not perfect. Perfection is what I always strived for. But the outcome of it was disastrous.
I think it dates back to when I was a toddler. From an early age, I loved Barbie dolls: their perfect faces, their perfect lives, their perfect hair—everything for them was perfect. I couldn’t get enough of them, to this day I don’t understand why. My mom told me once how a relative of ours would object to her kids playing with Barbie dolls whenever my mom bought them one as a gift because she didn’t want to think that that was real life. I knew that their lives were unrealistic. But I know I’m not the only girl who wanted a Barbie life.
When I entered elementary school, the need for perfection came out in different ways. For one, if I had to draw something for a project, I would freak out if it didn’t look exactly the way I wanted. Even if it looked great, I would not be content until it was absolutely perfect, no exceptions. It would take me some time and a little bit of tears to face that I could not draw it exactly the way I wanted. Things like that happened often—not all the time, but often. And as much as I tried to hold it all back, my frustration would most always overpower me.
Then, later, there was a point in time when my need for perfection was on the verge of being out of control. It was difficult to cope with but in many ways made me stronger in that it made me come to several important conclusions. I found myself realizing that I could never be perfect. I could be the best that I could be, but I can’t use perfection to be a better person. If anything, perfection would ruin my life, not improve it. From my mistakes, my struggles, through liters of tears, wasted papers and countless eraser shavings, I now have learned to accept myself and everything I do—which I find to be more satisfying in terms of perfection than if I had wanted more out of it. That is what I believe; I hope all people learn to believe it too.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.