“The real struggle for women is that we’re expected (and sometimes desire) to be perfect, yet we’re not allowed to look as if we’re looking for it. We want it to just materialize somehow. Everything should be effortless” ~ Brene Brown
So when this Perfectly Imperfect t-shirt showed up on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago it sparked a little somethin’ in me. I mean, I am the first to admit that I love me a good graphic tee, but the message resonated with me – and one I feel as women we should be willing to proudly own a little (or a lot) more.
There is an expectation (or maybe a little self-induced) to be natural beauties (insert 45 minute YouTube video on applying makeup to get the “natural look”), natural mothers (does screaming at them fall into the category of “natural”? I’m just asking for a friend), natural leaders (I actually love leading so there’s one box checked), naturally good parents (I already “kind of” admitted I scream every once and a while), to be naturally perfect in basically every category of our life. Whether you are conscious of it or not (I can assure you that your sub-conscious definitely is) we live in a complex world of expectations that suggest (ah hm, I think “expectations that suggest” is an oxo-moron – non?): who we should be; what we should be; and how we should be.
I actually couldn’t help but laugh (but also cringe) when I came across this in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly. In a US study on conformity to feminine norms, researchers listed the most important attributes associated with “being feminine” as:
“Being nice, pursuing a thin body ideal, showing modesty by not calling attention to one’s talents or abilities, being domestic, caring for children, investing in a romantic relationship, keeping sexual intimacy contained within one committed relationship, and using our resources to invest in our appearance”.
In short, we have to willing to stay small, sweet, and as quiet as possible while using any time that we do have – you know, outside of cooking, cleaning, rearing children (seriously – is that still a thing?), working out and being romantic – to look pretty. So my friends, if this is what being a perfect woman means, I’m not entirely interested. And note: this study was completely before the Trump Administration so I’ll just let you sit on that one for a bit.
Start by ditching any desire to be perfect, as determined by any ridiculous study or picture that you have in your head. Because let me fill you in on a little secret, perfect does not exist. So the good news is that IF you are still chasing it you can cut yourself some slack, breathe a sight of relief and for goodness sakes ditch the 45-minute YouTube video already. And if you do think you are perfect, great – you probably need to do some crazy ass internal work on yourself. And by internal I mean figuring yourself out (gasp! good news – I have Workshops coming for that!).
As Brown indicates (and somehow now that I am quoting books I feel like I am back in school writing a paper):
“Most of us fall somewhere on the perfectionism continuum. In other words, when it comes to hiding our flaws, managing perception, and wanting to win over folks, we’re all hustling a little. Regardless of where we are on this continuum, if we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from what will people think? to I am enough” ~ Brene Brown
Because here is the thing. You are enough. What if you dropped your thoughts about what people think – from what you say, to what you wear, to how you dance, to how you act. How different would your life be compared to what it is? Listen, we aren’t ever going to be perfect at the “non-comparison” thing – a little healthy competition never hurt anyone as long as you are using it for good. For self reflection, growth and realization that whatever amazing quality you are noticing in someone else is already inside of you. Yep, that’s right – you know that saying “it takes one to know one”? You can’t identify with a quality that isn’t already inside of you. In fact, I’d go as far as saying if you do get caught comparing yourself to a quality, I’d suggest you get quiet and listen to what might be whispering inside of you to screaming to get out.
We have to be willing to give ourselves a break as women. To appreciate the imperfections that make us, us. To be kinder and gentler with ourselves and for heavens sakes, with each other.
Cheers to you my perfectly imperfect friend. What steps are you going to take to start to reclaim a little bit more imperfection in your life? after you work out, make dinner and rear children of course 😉
p.s. Many thanks to my new friends at Brand Squawk for not hesitating for a second sending me this shirt after commenting on their Instagram post! Check out their website here and shop this awesome Canadian brand.