Erik told me months ago about a powerful blog post, “The disease called Perfection,” on SDL (Single Dad Laughing). In the post, the author (Dan), writes of the pain-inducing illusion of Perfection which permeates our society and causes us to 1) compare ourselves with others (at least the persona of perfection we perceive in them), 2) assess (erroneously) that others are much better than we are, 3) feel ashamed to show the real, flawed parts of ourselves (since the ideal of Perfection shuns weakness), and ultimately 4) to isolate ourselves emotionally from ourselves and others. In a heart-wrenching plea, he asks us to start being real by telling others how perfect we aren’t. He writes:
“This is me, weeping as I write, asking the good people of the world to find somebody to put their arm around and be ‘real’. This is me, wishing that people would realize how beautiful they are, even with all of their imperfections. This is me, sad and desperate for the girls in this world to love themselves. This is me, a very imperfect man, trying to help others feel a little more perfect by asking you to act a little less perfect.
“Will you help me spread ‘Real’? Tell us below just how perfect you aren’t. You never know who might be alive tomorrow because you were real today.”
In an act of great courage, Dan listed 7 examples from his own life of things he hadn’t wanted people to ever know. He called it his “dose of real.” (I invite you to read his article. It’s very touching!)
Well, folks, I’ve decided to take his challenge. I’ll allow myself to share with you my own “dose of real,” with the hope that it will help even one of you know that you are not alone. [Note: Feeling extremely nervous even thinking about this. Hmmm . . . Why is this so hard?!]
* I’ve been talking with a therapist because I can’t figure out who I really am and why it mattered that I be born. (My spiritual life with God and buddies was a pretty sweet existence before, I bet–assuming as I do that my soul is immortal.) Why the need for mortal life and its temporal concerns and complexity? And who am I, ultimately–a set of genes, an immortal personality, the product of my education/early environment . . .?
* For years I domineered my husband, tyrannically making most family decisions and controlling our money (his income!) with an iron fist. He didn’t even feel free to run over and grab a hamburger, lest I berate him for that “unnecessary expenditure”! My husband went numb over time, in our marriage. (Glad he’s back!)
* Some days the seeming incurability of my depression has made the idea of life after death (the immortality of the soul) sound like a perpetual hell: ‘I’d rather cease to exist than suffer like this in the next life! If I can’t overcome my depression here, what guarantee is there that my mind will be free of it there?!’
* I have not valued nor enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom, even though it was my choice (duty-bound, for sure) to become and remain one. I’ve been tormented for years with illusions of grandeur, which have robbed me of contentment in domesticity and simple living. (Don’t ever tell your kids ‘They’re smart!” as they’re growing up; it’ll torment them as adults!)
* I had homophobia as a teen and secretly worried at times, ‘What if I’m gay and don’t know it?’ Almost never being invited on dates made me question whether I was desirable/feminine. (Thankfully I met a gorgeous hunk, Erik Andersen, my first day at college, and he flirted with–and kissed me–a lot that semester. Thanks, Babe, for being the answer to my insecurity at that time!)
* After our first child was born, I lost my libido for a time. Being exhausted and depressed, I’d deny Erik, with the excuse: “It’s not my need.” We’d go weeks between, and my homophobia caused me to again worry, ‘Does my lack of interest in sex suggest I’m gay?” (Oprah featured the subject “When Women Don’t Want Sex” on one of her shows that year, which helped me to learn that many other heterosexual women suffer from lack of libido as well. I wasn’t alone!)
* I’m not a very good friend: I get wrapped up in my little world/mind and make little to no effort to keep in touch with or care for my friends. Those whom I don’t see regularly (in the current context of my life) I tend to neglect.
* My insecurity has caused me to want others to be like me, but not quite as good as me, so I can feel important. I’ve judged others harshly who were not like me. I’ve had a hard time throughout my life admitting my mistakes out loud, or valuing others for the good people they are despite their human weaknesses.
*With unrealistic expectations, I’ve judged nearly everything in life for what it lacks. I’ve viewed the cup as half empty.
Writing these things makes me want to shrink up in a ball and go away. But perhaps acknowledging my problems is a necessary step to begin freeing myself up from emotional bondage. It’s hard for me to accept the idea that I’m limited as a person and that making mistakes and learning through trial-and-error is not only understandable but ultimately beneficial–because of the practical wisdom and humility such a process (and expectation) produces. The vast emotional realm of feelings can be scary, and never admitting mistakes or fears feels safe. But I’m beginning to understand that that safety is just a prison. Being real is being open to our feelings and being free to explore them and their roots. I’m excited I’m in therapy and am hopeful it will help!