Painfully Imperfect, Depending on Your Vantage Point

Istock woman lost with map

Never give up on yourself.

Well, for an hour, or a day here and there, that’s fine, but you know what I mean–don’t ever commit to giving up on yourself.

No matter how imperfect we feel, no matter how painfully, obviously in-progress we are, our fight for our true selves must go on. We must keep deciding to grow up, face emotional challenges, and meet each day (or at least every other day) with a small bit of hope for our selves.  We must figure out how to believe in our ability to climb mountain after mountain towards self-acceptance–savoring the valleys and plateaus and remembering that it’s worth it to sweat and curse while tackling the necessary hills.

After years of work spent on healing, growing up, and becoming happy, I recently caught myself forgetting–like, completely forgetting–that I wasn’t done fixing myself.  [Insert belly laugh here.] How could I forget self-healing and maintaining happiness are an ongoing process?  There’s no Finish Line as with a 5K run, no point at which things are “all fixed” for damaged folk like me.  Of course, of course!  I knew that, I just…forgot?  I was happy, so I wasn’t thinking about how to protect my happiness, and asking for what I wanted, setting boundaries, and taking time for myself.  Oops.  But I remember now.  Oh, boy do I remember.

Don’t let me forget again:  healing and growing up is a practice, not a destination. There is no final arrival, as if I were driving to Portland, only the travel, the journey.

There are some very nice plateaus in the healing journey, long stretches of time where you really have the hang of things, a comfort with your emotional terrain, and on that plateau there’s not a lot of hard work needed to keep things going well.  Yo.u got good at asking for what you wanted (and how to know what that is), being honest, and letting down your guard in the arms of intimacy–and you’ve been enjoying those rewards.  That’s a nice plateau.

But then, something happens.  Change comes.  Your confident, happy self makes a life change (precisely because you became confident and happy)–you land a new job (the one that took guts to believe you were qualified for), or you begin a new major relationship (the one in which you’re behaving surprisingly mature), or you have your first baby/you become a family–and, whomp!  All at once your comfy, familiar plateau reaches its end.  You suddenly feel vulnerable and faulty again, like before.

How do you get your happiness and self-esteem back again…how do you sharpen your old skills in light of the new terrain?

For me, motherhood is the big change that has introduced me to new emotional terrain. I now need to need to re-learn a few old lessons in this new context.  One is my old habit (learned and perfected in childhood) to tend to others first, thoroughly, at the expense of myself.  Tending to others is all too easy for mothers to do, it’s what mothering is all about, but to extremes it can be very dangerous to their spirits.  (I now have insight into why mothers are often resentful of their families–and while I get it, I don’t want resentment in my heart.)  Since I am predisposed to being deaf to my own needs and perceiving the needs of others as if being yelled into a megaphone right into my inner ear, I must balance that out with knowing my needs.  Raising a child is wonderful and fulfilling, and it is demanding–it’s full-time and non-stop.  I am needed by a being who cannot meet his own needs.  And it’s an honor.  Time stands still in the most wonderful way when I am caring for my child.  And yet, in order to be able to give and give and give…I require time and space to recharge.  How do I get that time and space?  And as much as I’d like to be given that space and time before knowing I even need it (“Hey, go get a massage honey, it’s on me!”) the reality is that I am responsible for ensuring that I get that time and space–I must make it happen.

Whether it’s a new job that shoved you off your old, comfy plateau, or a new, serious relationship or a move to a new city–keep in mind that you owe it to yourself to be true to your continued growth.  If you got strong enough to make these bold changes, then you are strong enough to grow with the change. I am saying this to all of us, absolutely myself.

Change is scary initially, but then it quickly becomes routine. It’s essential that, while change is still fresh, to lean into any fear with as much hope and confidence as you can muster.  That will propel your growth and prevent old habits from taking hold and slowing you down.

Some things come to us without trying, but I’m beginning to understand that much of what we want in life for and of ourselves only comes only with effort–sustained effort.  If you’re feeling imperfect, as I am today, think of that feeling as a symptom of having grown up to a place, a place you’ve not grown comfortably into yet.

And go easy on yourself.


  1. Little M says:

    So very true and wise. Thanks for sharing!

  2. [...] of putting what you learn into action begins in this stage. It’s a stage with steep climbs and temporary plateaus. You begin to start saying “no,” to establish boundaries, establish needs, and [...]

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