Claire asked for a rubber. Her circle was not perfect enough. She threw down her pencil and started to swing backwards on the chair while making clicking sounds. Faces turned towards me to see what I was going to do. The last thing I was going to do was give Claire a rubber. The whole point of the exercise was to forget trying to be perfect.
“Claire, do you think God needed a rubber when he created you?” I asked. “I don’t believe in God.” Claire retorted. I refused to be drawn away from the focus of the lesson so I continued. “If you could, what part of you would you rub out…your eyes…legs…arms?”
“I would rub out my hair. I hate my hair.” Ciaran said from the back of the room. “Least you don’t have stupid freckles. I would rub out my freckles.” Julie piped up.
And so they were off—a bunch of troubled teenagers who were attending my personal development class on Perfectly You—sharing their personal stories and vulnerabilities. Inevitably, at the start of the discussion, they beat themselves up and highlighted all their inadequacies.
We all do it. We all beat ourselves up for not being _______ enough. (You can fill in the blank: smart, pretty, thin, good, rich, talented, loved, strong, admired, successful etc).
Finding the courage to move from “I am not enough” to “I am enough,” is not easy. Somehow we have to recognize and accept that we are enough—that we are worthy right now instead of lugging about a mental list of prerequisites to worthiness: I’ll be worthy when I lose two stone. I’ll be worthy when I have a job. I’ll be worthy when my parents approve. I’ll be worthy when I succeed with x y and z. I’ll be worthy when I have an iPhone 5, a tattoo and a ticket to the moon! Letting go of our prerequisites takes courage.
Courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line and learning to accept ourselves just as we are like Claire and her classmates. Interestingly, half way through the discussion Claire picked up her pencil again. When she handed her work in she said, “It’s not perfect but I did my best.”
There are days when I am a bit like Claire—when I think my humble offerings are not good enough. Not only do I not finish projects because they are not as good as I want them to be, (i.e. perfect) I also prevaricate on new projects for the same reason! It has taken me many years to realize that my best is good enough. Living with an autistic child has also helped. His unpredictable condition makes a laughing stock out of perfection. I’ve lightened up considerably on myself and I’m not too concerned about what other people think. I just try to do my best.
If we want to live and love with our whole hearts and engage in the world from a place of worthiness, our first step is to know we are worthy and practice the courage to own our stories and tell the truth about who we are. Like Claire, I know this piece isn’t perfect but I hope you get the gist. If you always try to be perfect, doing your best is never going to be good enough. So forget trying to be perfect. Your best IS good enough. As Dexter Morgan said, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be lived.”