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Imperfect is perfect
Allowing yourself to be imperfect is the greatest liberation you can offer yourself
When I was in 3rd grade, there was a young new teacher in the school. She was our new English teacher that year. I don’t remember much about her, except that she hated me, but she loved this child in the class whose name was Sri Nitya A.
Well, the trouble was—I was Sri Nitya A. (I still am, LOL.) What a strange conundrum!
Why did she hate me? Because I was chubby, looked dumb, was timid, and asked her to use the washroom too many times.
Why did she love Sri Nitya A? Because she heard that that kid did well in class.
I don’t really remember a lot of what happened for the rest of the year, but immediately after the Quarterly exam results came out, her face was a sight to behold when she saw who turned up to collect my paper when she called out my name.
(Yeah, let’s not even get into her not bothering to ask me my name for more than 3 months into the school year.)
This was hardly a one-off incident. Throughout school, teachers would continue to make assumptions about my intelligence—and only begin to pay me attention after the first exam results came out.
To me, the indirect message this behaviour indicated was that being smart, and being top in class was important. It made me feel like I mattered.
Unfortunately, that has been a very harmful notion, not least because it pushed me down the fixed mindset path. Being good at school became important to me. And who would complain if I got good grades? No one. It was entirely coincidental and unbelievably fortunate for me that I also was someone with intrinsic motivation. Although I wanted to be good at school, I was curious and I wanted to learn. I enjoyed learning.
But I also became quite a bit of a perfectionist. Because if I couldn’t be thin, I sure as hell was going to make sure to be the best I can at the things that I was good at. Because that got me noticed by people. It’s like when people say, “Oh I wasn’t good looking, so I became the class clown.”
I scrutinised myself so critically. I often picked at other’s little faults. I genuinely thought I was “helping” myself and them, of course—which is the same as concern trolling if you think about it.
I was an insufferable grammar Nazi. As one of my friends was very fond of revealing to others, I once turned down an arranged marriage proposal because his grammar was poor. (Of course, I used whatever best excuse I could find to turn down proposals for arranged marriage.)
The problem with perfectionism is that it makes you believe that being “perfect” in some ways will magically right every other thing you perceive to be “wrong” about you. It doesn’t. After a while, though, it gets tiresome.
I remember the one of times I slipped up. I used “vary” when I meant “wary” in a conversation with that same friend and did not cringe at myself. Making this mistake did not change anything. It did not mean I was bad. The world didn’t come crashing down because I used one wrong letter. I had finally allowed myself to take off the shield of perfectionism.