Letting go of "Perfection"
PERFECTION: Tighter the grip, deeper the pain. I learned this the hard way. There are times when we become so enamored with an idea or a specific outcome, that we completely disregard everything else. We are taught from a young age to choose what we believe is right based on conditioned cultural beliefs and ideas, rather than how it truly makes us feel.
Having grown up in a very chaotic family, the idea of one day having the chance to perfectly create one of my own was one I held on to for dear life. I controlled every aspect of my life to make sure things fell into place exactly how I wanted them. If only I knew how damaging and unhealthy my controlling behavior was, and the additional pressure and anxiety it would create. It became so bad, that moments where I felt peaceful and relaxed, my body and mind desperately craved chaos, anxiety and fear again. This behavior was of course an unconscious one, derivative from my upbringing. My father, an aggressive alcoholic, and my mother, the passive aggressive peacemaker. Being exposed to this environment instilled in me to act out of fear but keep a smile on at all times. To harvest sadness and make everyone else happy, to undermine my needs and just suck it up. I put my “happy mask” on every day, and the strong and tough persona became my facade. I became so good at it that I completely lost the essence of my true nature. I no longer knew how to be real, how to feel, how to express myself; I became numb. I could honestly describe myself as a functioning human robot; perfect at doing no wrong. Apologizing of course was never a necessity, since I was always right. This is something I now know was a tactic to avoid feeling pain for having caused it to someone else. Admitting I was wrong would also solidify that I was not perfect, and that in fact, I was just as small as I had grown up feeling; that I was less than everyone else.
I spent my teenage years seeking validation and love from boys; an emotional void left from my father, who was hardly ever sober enough to have any meaningful connection. My mother was too busy trying to keep the peace and the image of a "perfect" home intact. She was emotionally drained and in pain. She stopped connecting and I think she forgot how to love; especially herself.
My quest to find the love, respect and validation I was seeking was never found. I would quickly get bored, and while never alone, I still felt empty, sad, and lonely. This all changed when I turned twenty. He was charming, good looking, smart, funny, sweet and most importantly, he made me feel safe. My perfect match! We had also attended the same high school and had been friendly for a few years.
We got married seven years into our relationship, and as planned, had our daughter Emma when I turned thirty. Life was beautiful; it was perfect.
The birth of our daughter was the beginning of the true test in our relationship. A relationship that was already shaky; founded on doubt, immature arguing, and full of insecurities we both carried. I struggled to identify with my new role as a mother. Another layer to my facade; the load was now getting too heavy. I felt guilty for constantly feeling like I was failing at a role that I believed would come so natural to me. My idea of parenting also clashed with my husband. I was the "go with the flow and feel it out" parent. I wanted my motherly instincts to show me the way. His parenting style was strictly based on books and research. We argued, we bashed each other's styles, we struggled to find a middle ground. Unknowingly, at the time I was also going through the baby blues and everything was becoming too overwhelming. My insecurities grew, I stopped voicing my opinions all together (too tired of fighting and arguing). The blues started to become darker each day, and I fell into depression. Asking for help was hard for me; frankly, I did not even know how to. I felt ashamed and like a failure for feeling like I was falling apart while every other mother seemed to have it all together. My trained smile would tell the world a different story; an expert at painting the perfect picture.
From the start, I now realize that we were both deeply wounded from childhood trauma and we acted on them in different ways, none of which was healthy for us or our relationship. The heavy baggage we each carried, we expected the other to fix, to make it lighter, to heal it. The thing that no one tells you in looking for your fairy tale story is that you must become strong enough to defeat your own dragons, before finding the magic we seek in love. When we come to understand that we possess within ourselves the power to feel complete, happy and unconditionally love ourselves, then this is when we are truly ready to share with someone else the abundance of love we learn to nurture within ourselves.
We were not whole and so we started to fall apart; our weak foundation started to crumble. Our hurtful words only triggered the pain more and we started to grow apart. We knew it was over, but it was too painful to admit. In recognizing the end of our marriage, it would also highlight the loss of our perfect family. We had grown up in chaotic homes ourselves, where we saw our parents try for years, but still ultimately ended up in divorce despite their best efforts. So, we held on tight, we tried, and we gave it our best. We got help from professionals, who initially had hope for us, but towards the end it was obvious that we were only causing more harm.
Our marriage was over, and before damaging our friendship as well, we decided to put all our efforts into saving it. It has not been easy. We had gone through many therapy sessions, read many books, done a lot of talking, grieving, crying…it has been a roller-coaster of emotions to say the least, but we will make it work.
We of course wanted to stay in the marriage for our daughter. We wanted it to work. Also, taking our parents as example, and being the product of these unhealthy marriages with poor communication, I could not justify inflicting on our daughter the same pain and trauma I have personally had to face. I know she will have scars, as we all do. My desire today is not for her to have the perfect parents or the perfect family; but rather for her to be raised in an authentic way. I want her to grow up in a place of understanding and unconditional love. My hope is for her to be fearless of expression and to always be open to the world. As she goes through life and encounters heartbreak and pain, I will be open to listen, I will hold her, and will cry with her because my heart too will break. On her own she will come to understand that those painful moments are blessings, lessons, that they help us grow and help us see what we truly want out of life. She will cry and she will heal.
Letting go of the idea of perfection has not been easy. My current goal is to continue to shed away old conditioned cultural and societal norms, labels, pressures and finding my inner voice. Finding my authentic self, doing things that make me happy, surrounding myself with people that see me and inspire me to continue to grow.
As we navigate our new “normal” and redefine our new family structure, dismantling the negative labels that come with the word “divorce”, we will do so from a loving and real place. We will find light in places where darkness once existed. We will find what truly makes us happy.
***My intention in sharing this post is truly to keep everything on this site as unfiltered and authentic as possible. In going through this process of divorce and discovery, a lot of old wounds have come to the surface and I have had no choice other than to face them head on. It has been painful. Reliving the pain of feeling small and not good enough to keep a marriage together. The shame felt for failing at my "perfect" life. Emotional abandonment and the fear of being alone. In facing these hard and painful emotions, I've been also learning to look beyond the surface and dig deep to detach from the beliefs we are raised with and detach myself from the illusion of it all. Changing perception to find love and forgiveness for myself and those who never meant to cause pain. Learning to love myself and feel emotions in a genuine way rather than letting them be fear based. Staying stuck will only give me permission to repeat the cycle again; and both for myself and my daughter, there's nothing more I wish than to set an example: Starting with self-respect, self-love and forgiveness***
In starting over from a new place, so will April's Bloom. I ask you, our beautiful AB community and followers, to join us as life unfolds and we expand to other natural categories with much passion and love!
.....more to come :)