By Nicole L.
I’ve wasted many hours of my life trying to be perfect.
Growing up, my parents taught me to do my best. For some reason, in my little head “best” equated to “the best,” which came to mean, for me, not the way that other people did something, but how it was theoretically meant to be done. And that is how I wanted all things to be: perfect. I honestly thought that in order for life to be meaningful and worth it, I had to do everything perfectly.
This mindset helped me develop repulsion to anything imperfect—a hideous sentiment that crept its way into everything I did. It started with things as simple as my clothes and school assignments. If I made an origami frog and the lines didn’t match up perfectly, it was “ugly.” That’s not what it was designed to look like. If I wore clothes with two shades of blue that hinted at different, I wouldn’t wear them; they didn’t match, so I would “look weird.” If I had to write an essay, and it wasn’t visually pleasing in every aspect and perfectly organized, I spent excessive hours formatting it; otherwise, it would “not even be worth handing in.” I loved studying Spanish, but I wouldn’t speak with native speakers because I didn’t have perfect grammar or a perfect accent; I spoke “awful” Spanish.
This perfection complex wasted my time on stupid paper projects and unneeded details in everything I did, but the problem was bigger than that. When I made mistakes, my life felt meaningless. If I was just going to keep messing up, what was the point? I wasn’t content, I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t satisfied because the only person that I never let grow, mess up, or try again, was me. My self-expectation meter was set to “perfect,” and I definitely didn’t measure up. Imperfection? I hated it. So you can imagine how I felt about myself and about my life.
Eventually, I became tired of it. It’s not very enjoyable living a life where nothing is quite adequate – especially yourself. I recognized that there was a better way to live, because I saw it in others who seemed to have purpose in their life, and who weren’t afraid to make mistakes. I knew that I needed someone to help me. So, I turned to one of the only people I could really be open with: God.
I began to pray to Him sincerely each day to overcome my fear of imperfection. I pleaded to know how to find real meaning in life. I did all I could to be close to Him: attended church, read the scriptures, studied and contemplated the Atonement (the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins) and pondered what it could mean for my situation. Finally, I received an answer as I read in the Bible: “…be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
I learned two lessons from those inspired words: one, there was only ever one perfect person, Jesus Christ; and two, He overcame ALL things for me. The whole purpose of His perfect life and His sacrifice was to help me get back up—not to keep me from falling. He didn’t send me here to have a perfect life, He sent me here to learn from my mistakes and to improve, not to be perfect. He wanted me to know that the purpose of life is progress, that growth brings meaning to life, and that imperfections and mistakes are not the end.
My belief in and understanding of Jesus Christ has led me, through His glorious gift, to accept that life is a process. While I sometimes still struggle with wanting to be perfect, I know that, because of what He did, I am acceptable to Him if I am moving forward, rising above my mistakes, and progressing. And that knowledge is what enables me, each and every day, to feel meaning and purpose in my life.