Recently, I came across this quote by Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, “If you want to be loved, show more of your faults than your virtues”. I’ve spent the better part of a week ruminating on this quote and how it affects my life. This quote struck me as I already feel I am overly candid about my faults in the first place. In fact I would attribute that as my greatest fault: I’m a perfectionist and I find fault in nearly everything. I create extremely high expectations to the point that my goals are unobtainable. I think a good example of this occurred a few weeks ago. While in conversation with my coach, I told her I need to relax more on the field. Specifically, I remarked that I’m not holding myself accountable to having a more lighthearted attitude. She laughed and told me even in that statement she could hear how much pressure I put on myself.
Since at least high school I have been aware that I possessed this fault. I remember a friend of mine telling me I constantly seem to have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I have a great sense of pride that pushes me to strive to be the best at everything. Even publishing these articles for the Odyssey have been a challenge for me as I doubt my own writing skills. Nearly every week after I submit an article I feel a deep sense of agitation because I never am satisfied that my articles are good enough. This same sense of frustrated agitation is a constant in my life as I feel it after every lacrosse practice and after every test I take. It’s not just that my athleticism, or my intelligence, or even my work ethic is not enough but in my essence, Iam not enough. This is how my fault really wounds me the most.
Recently, my sorority got together to do an activity where we stand in a circle and read statements that will impact each individual in an extremely personal way. If the statement applies to any of us, we take a step into the circle for a moment. One phrase read was, “I am proud of myself.” The girl to the left and to the right of me stepped forward but I remained in place. In fact, most of the girls did step into the circle. The thought brought tears to my eyes: Why aren’t I proud of myself? I work hard, get good grades, support my friends and family, and although I do not always succeed in my endeavors, I’ve never failed at the very least to try my best. I am constantly reminded by my parents, my mentors, and those I hold in high esteem that I in fact do make them proud. Each time they impart on me this sacred praise, I hold it fondly with immense gratitude. I’m grateful that they recognize I am working hard but to me, my work is never finished. The perfectionist in me won’t grant the satisfaction of feeling complete. I recognize that this is a terribly stressful way to live. It makes nearly everything I do–my sport, my school work, my job– harder because I often get in my own way. I fear failure in all areas of my life.
In my time spent in reflection, I have also concluded that I need to make peace with my inner perfectionist. I don’t think she’s going anywhere and I wouldn’t want her to since she’s a large part of who I am. But I do think every now and then I need to look myself in the mirror and say, “You are enough. I am proud of you. I love that you work so hard but give yourself a break, girl!” Then maybe one day, I’ll actually start to believe it.
Did it work? Do you love me now?
I guess if I’ve learned anything from this activity, it’s that I shouldn’t really care what you think. No offense, I’m sure you’re a lovely person with very nice opinions but I realize that no amount of outside validation of my hard work or accomplishments will ever make me feel more complete. I will say that sharing my faults with you has been very cathartic for me. There’s just something very liberating that comes from the admission that I’m not actually very perfect at all. I would challenge you to take a moment and meditate on your own faults. What makes them faults? Why are you shy to talk about them? Do they only inhibit or do they also empower you? Can you make peace with these faults? You might be surprised with what you discover about yourself along the way.