HOW TO LIVE HAPPILY IMPERFECT

Ginny strived to be efficient, polite, cheerful, un- demanding-- in short, perfect. She had a dozen dodges, all designed to shelter her from admitting mistakes or negative feelings. When the perfect image developed a crack that Ginny could not patch fast enough, she would sink to the depths of depression, replete with long silences, frequent crying spells and endless self- recriminations.
Though hopefully not to such an extreme degree, many of us fall into this "perfection trap." Our strict self- demands make us hide the bad part of ourselves. For many people, perhaps this is a function of family histories in which the faulty assumption: "If I make a mistake, it means I am inept", was reinforced. Under these conditions, striving toward perfection may be viewed as defending against failure and its consequences: Social disapproval. Such defensive strivings restrict our lives in a variety of ways when they work; and plunge us into despair when they don't. But cheer up! It's so much easier to learn to live happily imperfect. After all, some of the finest garments, most beautiful works of art and luxurious furnishings contain flaws...so why shouldn't you?
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> First, use your imagination. If you fear showing anger, for example, review a recent situation that made you feel furious. Possibly you hid your feelings, or at least disguised them to some extent. In the safety of imagination, exaggerate the scene to the point of being ridiculous. See yourself yell, scream, threaten. Throw things. Now look at the effect of your behavior. Will anyone else in the scene wish to fight? Will he or she be frightened? Disgusted? Play it out in your mind-- feel the effects of this unbridled anger. It will probably be all the bad things you fear. Someone hates you! You have overstepped your bounds! In a moment you will run the scene again. But first, try something interesting…
 Get in touch with a time in your life when you chose to "forgive" someone for a particular "faux pas" or transgression. Take considerable time to allow this feeling to well-up inside of you, intensely, and then, while holding on to it, review the scene from before. See yourself expressing angry gestures while simultaneously having feelings of forgiveness. Pay attention to how this alters your perception of yourself as you tell that person how you feel, calmly, but in no uncertain terms. You might even see yourself saying that a hot temper is one of your worst faults. What are the consequences now? Chances are, anyone else in the scene doesn't hate you, and you will feel better for honestly expressing this negative part of yourself. When you move from imagination into the real world, you will have these rehearsals to help you live with your imperfections.
 For a set period, perhaps ten days, make a deliberate effort to avoid hiding mistakes or negative feelings about people or things. Look for them. List four or five mistakes you are afraid to make and imagine yourself trying to commit them. Then do so! Consider some people or things about which you have negative feelings. If the occasion should arise for you to have the opportunity to express them, go ahead remembering that it is possible now for you to do so honestly without fear of incurring irreversible negative consequences. Notice that your world hasn't fallen apart because you contemplated acting angrily or ungratefully toward someone; or making a clumsy mistake. And neither have you! Weaknesses have not eliminated your strengths. You are still the same person you have always been: Courageous and timid; strong and weak, loving and selfish. And Good and bad. With practice in both your imagination and the outside world, you can learn to accept your imperfect self...and open new doors of experience in the process.