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Happy Un-Birthday to Imperfect Me

Creative Commons LicensePhoto credit: jenny downing

Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.

— Ben Okri

Today, many people in Western countries believe in their ability to change, to improve themselves.  For me, the idea of progress through change is a fact of life.  It had never occurred to me that people didn’t always believe that change was possible.  But, as Martin Seligman points out in [amazon-product text=”What We Can Change and What We Can’t” type=”text”]1400078407[/amazon-product], it wasn’t always so.  Going back to the Bible, Seligman points out that God was the only character in the Bible who initiated change.  God caused people to take action.  They were simply acting at His command.  Even Pharaoh is portrayed as changing his mind about letting the Israelites leave Egypt because God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart.”

Over the centuries, our view of who we are has evolved.  For a time, the common belief was that what we did was unimportant because God was “pulling the strings” to cause whatever outcome occurred.  It wasn’t until the beginning of the 17th century that Jacob Harmensen declared that man had a free will and participated in choosing grace and God.  For his original thinking, they named a heresy after him. (This was not considered a good thing.)

As history has progressed, Western man learned that he could actually change/improve his lot in life.  Once we decided to leave Europe and strike out for a new land, we had moved to the evolutionary thought trail that led to where we are today – a belief that we can make changes.  And with that belief, we opened the Pandora’s box of perfectionism.  If we can change, we must change – until we’ve become perfect.

Never Enough

In the past few decades, we’ve learned that not only are we capable of change, but by making changes in our lives, we literally change our physical bodies.  Where before it was thought that our brain cells died beginning at a relatively young age, we now know that our brains aren’t dying off (unless there is a brain disease), they are continuing to grow and establish new connections throughout our lives.

In some ways, the opportunity for improvement is wonderful.  In others, it is awful.  It places a burden of continually improving ourselves.  We are never enough as we are.  We can always be “better”.  There is no rest for the imperfect… and in case you haven’t noticed, very few of us are perfect.

This issue of perfectionism is at the bottom of much of our pain.  In popular culture we have a belief that if we aren’t pretty enough, thin enough, rich enough, whatever… that our ability to change means that we should change.  So we set out on the perpetual quest for a better us.

And as we quest, we put off our lives.  We decide that instead of looking inside to find out what will make us happy, we’ll be happy when we’re thinner, debt free, minus our age spots (yeah, right!), better organized or whatever we’ve been criticized about most recently.

Perfectionism frees us from the one thing we really need to do: figure out who we really are and what will make us happy.  We will never be perfect.  Being imperfect is the way we are!  It’s time for us to take our imperfect selves and live our lives, as they are… as we are.

Celebration of Me

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to change… for ourselves.  I am on an eternal quest to actually have a clear desktop.  Recently, when I had company over I almost (key word) got there.  It lasted less than 24 hours. (Did you know that they deliver mail every day?)  No matter how firmly I resolve to handle the mail only once, I quickly flip through it looking for trouble and if I don’t find it, I simply put it on my desk until later.  It piles up and next thing you know, it’ll take me half a day to find my desk… again!

But I’ve realized one key thing.  Now that I’ve confessed this to you, most of you don’t care. (I know there are a couple of you who are horrified at my messy desk.  Too bad.)  Clean desk, cluttered desk – it makes no difference.  I prefer to have less clutter, but I guess not enough to really obsess about it.

In the end, what seems to satisfy me most is to know that every day (in every way), I’m becoming more me.  Some days I’m happy.  Some days I’m sad.  But every day, the face in the mirror is mine.  It’s got age spots and wrinkles, but it’s still me.

In the musical I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road the lead sings the following lyrics.  For me, this is true: (For the full effect, you can listen here)

I’ve got these arms that can reach out.
I’ve got these eyes that can see.
I’ve got this voice that can sing.
Celebration of me.

And I don’t know what’s coming
But this new day feels fine
’cause I woke up this morning,
and the face in the mirror was mine.

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday

I’ve got these friends I can count on
And they can love and let be
I’ve got these feet that can dance.
Celebration of me.

And I don’t know what’s coming
But I am my own design.
And my whole life is a poem
and the words and rhythm are mine.

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday

This is the day I was born
This is the day I begin
With the rain still tap-dancing on my head
The sun is starting to grin
(Happy Birthday)
(Happy Birthday)
(Happy Birthday)
(Happy Birthday)

And I don’t know what’s coming
But this new day feels fine
’cause I woke up this morning,
and the face in the mirror was mine.

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday

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