Let’s Be Imperfect On Purpose


I seldom feel like I fit into the affluent, competitive, heavily Type A suburbs of Washington, D.C. When talking to other writers and artists at parties, I hold my own. I even enjoy myself and feel a little sparkly. But my insecurities are high when I drop off my son at preschool. Those other moms seem so together, so chill, ordinary, and unsullied. A lot of them even wear makeup at nine a.m. How do they make time for that? I might be idealizing these women, but each seems to hand off her four-year-old with remarkable grace and aplomb, even if she has a baby strapped to her chest and a two-year-old trying to drag her down the hall. They just seem so … normal.

I wasn’t raised in normal. I had a screwed-up childhood, and I never felt like I fit in. On paper, I might look good. I have a decent resume and a master’s degree, I’m married to a nice guy, and we have a cute kid together. But I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to prove, to myself and everyone I meet, that I’m okay. That I’m better than okay. That I belong in the world of normal, successful, non-crazy people. I realize now that I’ve spent so long trying to be perfect, I’ve failed to see myself. To see what’s great about the real me.

I watch those expertly made-up, well-dressed mothers chat among themselves. It’s such an easy chatter. Unhurried, free of awkwardness or insecurities. At least that’s how it seems to me, on the outside once again, looking in.

But to be honest, I’ve taken no polls at the preschool. Maybe these well-dressed women don’t feel normal either. Perfection is an illusion, after all. Maybe some have crazy backstories of their own, or are going through rough times right now. Even the mom with the biggest, breeziest smile could end up crying in her car some days. I flatter myself to think that I’m the only mother at that school who has experienced real pain.

Maybe we—women everywhere—could reject the pursuit of perfection, and the need to fit in. Let’s revel in moments of glorious imperfection. We can fall down, get up again, and repeat the whole process in the morning.

I started to think deep and hard about myself, and the mothers I measure myself against. I don’t come from normal, but maybe that’s okay. I come from a place you only leave after you’ve been forged in a fire. It’s a surprisingly useful place to come from. Suffering makes you tough. Trauma gives you character and empathy. Do I need to fit into every group, or to carry on breezy conversations about preschool fundraising events? Probably not. Maybe I should embrace my story, and myself—flaws, cracks, and awkwardness included.

Maybe we—women everywhere—could reject the pursuit of perfection, and the need to fit in. We could embrace days when we’re neither productive, successful, nor even sane. And if we feel like we’re not good enough, we could tell our insecurities to go screw themselves. Let’s revel in moments of glorious imperfection. And revel in the pure fun of screwing up. We can fall down, get up again, and repeat the whole process in the morning.

Let’s all be less tortured. Let’s be kinder to ourselves. Let’s be imperfect on purpose. Because I think—I really do believe—that the beauty of this world lives in the cracks, the holes, the spills, and in the broken bones finally mended.