wisdom

The Lie of Perfection in a Shattered Society.

 

I prefer people to have low expectations of me. Doesn’t that sound easier? No striving for greatness here. Just me in my folly.

I have tried to be perfect, or at least appear perfect. The perfect body. The perfect life. It almost destroyed me. And then when I got a clue, I saw that it was all a lie anyway. This societal idea of perfection. The fit, has-it-all-together mother, smiling children, clean nice house. It’s all a lie. The lie of perfection leaves no room for my humanness, and I want to be human.

So I prefer people to have low expectations of me, so that I can be freely human with all my faults, warts and ugly bits. I prefer people to have low expectations of me, and I try to keep my self-expectations low as well. Low self-expectations somehow feel gentler, don’t you think? If I expect myself to be good and compassionate all the time, I know I will just let myself down. If I expect myself to do my job perfectly, I am setting myself up for failure.

If I expect myself to be a perfect mother who never yells or feeds her children fast food, then that would be another letdown. Life is too hard for all of that. The pillars of expectation, polished to a fine shine with shoulds and should-nots, are too unforgiving for my tender heart.

If I keep my self-expectations low, then when I fall down, when I hit the floor, when life has me on my knees, the drop becomes bearable. Just a slight slip off the lowest step onto the ground. Can’t fall further than the ground. Because I fall apart often.

I completely fell apart watching that sweet boy Omran being pulled from the rubble of an airstrike in Syria. The way he sat and silently stared, god, my chest hurts just thinking about him. I was useless for hours. I fell apart again recently learning what the TPP is. Seeing the viciousness of the current American presidential race. Feeling utterly betrayed by the Democratic Party, something that I identified with strongly until this year.

And when my children get let down, disappointed by injustice or cruelty, my heart breaks so completely that I can hardly make them dinner.

I would almost prefer people to say She’s a mess to She’s got her shit together. Nope, not me. Never have my shit together. And I am okay with that.

Having low self-expectations feels like kindness. And something magical happens when I keep my self-expectations low: I love myself, ugly messy bits and all. This self-love born of low self-expectations manifests itself in my life as spontaneous deep compassion, increased patience with my family, natural deep connection with others, a quieter mind, and more balanced life.

The more I love myself, the stronger I become. It may look like weakness — or laziness even — to have low self-expectations, but I have discovered a secret: it’s actually the source of incredible strength. I think it could be called authenticity. The more I live my life in a messy, true and authentic way the stronger I become.

The lower my self-expectations are, the greater my willingness to fall apart, to have my heart broken, to feel the plethora of feelings life offers, the more powerful I become. I have found my true grit, my fortitude, and it was found in the most unlikely place: the space I fell into when I completely fell apart. I found true self-regard by keeping my self-expectations low. And what a delightfully curious discovery it has been!

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Abby Pingree
Abby Pingree spent the first seven years of her life in a hippie commune. She is currently a hospice nurse, mother, and student of life. She has made friends with her own experiences with drug addiction, bulimia, dishonest and dodgy behavior by simply telling the truth. She now seeks an authentic life, and has the privilege of helping others. She writes for Elephant Journal and blogs for Huffington Post. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
Abby Pingree
Abby Pingree

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