Monday afternoon I stood on the playground of the preschool where I work. All around me was the chaos of children screaming, the music of their laughter, and the sound of their sweet little feet hitting the playground as they bounced joyfully from one end of grounds to the other. I stood and took it all in. I watched them be so carefree and enjoying every second of their day. That’s the amazing thing about kids. They don’t care who hurt them earlier in the day, they don’t care about the baby fat that still covers their sweet, precious bodies, and they don’t care about being someone who they aren’t just to impress someone. They are just present in the moment. And while all this was going on around me I talked to one of the moms of a little boy in my class. She told me something that really hit me at the deepest point of my heart, and I haven’t stopped thinking about her words since. She looked at me and said, “Alissa, you are so real. And that’s what I love about you.” Realness. Authenticity. Those things- those two courageous, scary, wonderful things- they are what I have been trying to become. To be fully me. To be perfectly imperfect. To take off my shell and bear my heart and my scars to this fake world. To hear those words- it was better than the feeling of hearing how great I looked, or I look like I lost weight, or hearing how smart someone thinks I am. “You are so real.” That was the best compliment I could have received. And to hear those words, must mean I’m doing something right.
Perfectionism. A concept so many of us- especially eating disorder sufferers are all too familiar with. Merriam- Webster has two significant definitions for the word perfect. The first one which I believe we all try to unsuccessfully achieve states, “Having no mistakes or flaws.” In the society we live in, we feel the pressure from everywhere- from family, co-workers, friends, classmates, media- the list goes on and on to strive to achieve this ideal person. This person who may not even exist. In fact- doesn’t exist. We try to become this person with the perfect body, the perfect grades, the perfect hair, the perfectly successful lifestyle. Thus painting this false image of ourselves and in turn closing ourselves off to the true beauty of connection and hiding our true, beautiful, authentic selves from the world. We hide our scars so others can’t deepen them. We shield our hearts in an attempt to keep our glass worlds free from the debris of the imperfection that swarms around us. No wonder we feel so lost and ultimately not good enough.
Now, I want to take a look at the second definition. “Having all the qualities you want in that kind of person, situation, etc.” This simple definition says so much when we look at its deeper meaning. There is so much more to each and every one of us than our plastic shells we present to the world. Underneath all our striving, our searching, our glass walls, there are real perfectly imperfect hearts. There are hearts who care for those who are hurting, that long to be free enough and vulnerable enough to touch their scars and feel their pain. There are hearts that have the most painfully, beautiful stories to share that are longing to find the courage to be vulnerable enough to reach out and be honest. There are hearts fighting so hard against the battle of earthly chains longing just to feel accepted in their worldly “imperfections” and fully embrace the perfections God has given them. I know this heart belongs to me. Maybe that heart belongs to you too.
As someone who struggles so heavily with the idea of perfection, and how I want the world to see me, the second definition really opened my eyes, and I’m starting to see what my dietitian means by “the spirit vs flesh battle.” There is never going to be a day when we don’t feel like we screw something up, feel like we have failed, or just feel like these messed up broken people. But those imperfections- that brokenness- our sins- I believe God takes all of it and transforms it, and transforms our hearts into good. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is an unfixable mistake. Nothing and no one is completely lost because his grace saves.
So, as we go into this new week, I am going to work to let go of striving for the perfect body, grades, lifestyle, job or whatever else may flood my mind. Instead, I want to work towards accepting my Godly perfections. I want to open my heart, be honest, be caring, share compassion, and bring hope. I know it won’t be easy, but is anything ever?