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Archive for July 10th, 2008

Girl by house (c) Lynda BernhardtOne of my regular readers named TabbyCat writes her own blog called Trials and Tribulations. Last week, TabbyCat wrote about a situation in which she made a couple of mistakes with a friend. Both women are pregnant, so misunderstandings are bound to happen. (I joke that my pregnant friends are “slightly insane,” so I give them a lot of latitude because I know that they cannot help reacting to their hormonal filters.)

TabbyCat was beating herself up for making a mistake. TabbyCat said something that her friend “heard” differently than intended. Considering that they are both pregnant and dealing with major changes in their bodies, it is likely that what TabbyCat said came out differently than what she meant and the friend heard what TabbyCat said in the most negative light.

Because TabbyCat is a survivor of child abuse, the problem is compounded. She is “feeling terribly guilty and miserable for something I didn’t even do.” That is her child abuse history compounding the problem.

I relate to this “need to be perfect” all too well. I spent most of my life holding myself to the bar of perfection and then seeing myself as the world’s biggest failure whenever I fell short of the bar. Because I am human, of course I fell short a lot, and I would hate myself for this.

It has taken me a long time to learn at a heart level that I do not need to be perfect. I am precious and deserve to be loved exactly as I am, warts and all. I do not expect my child to be perfect, so why do I expect that of myself?

I do not expect TabbyCat to be perfect, either. I deeply respect and admire her for enduring all that she did in her childhood. I think it is great that she has the courage to reach out in friendship to others – many child abuse survivors have a very hard time doing this. It is okay for her to make a mistake. It is okay for all of us to make a mistake.

There is a line in the movie Cadillac Man that I have tried to embrace for my own life. Robin Williams’ character visits with his mother, who is pressuring him to reconcile with his ex-wife. The son reminds his mother that she never even liked the ex-wife. She says, “So, I ain’t perfect,” in a tone that says she does not give a hoot that she made a mistake in misjudging the ex-wife.

I want to have that same level of self-acceptance. I want to release the expectation that I can live my life without making mistakes. If I never make mistakes, then how will I learn and grow?

I have also found that the people who are truly my friends are okay with me making mistakes. They might call me on a mistake. I apologize, and they forgive me. That dynamic is new to me, too. It sure feels good to know that my relationships are not dependent upon my being perfect.

Related Topic:

Trauma Thursday: Traumatized Child and Compulsive Truth-telling

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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