The Struggle and Beauty of Imperfection

March 13, 2024
Christie Schmiemann is a graduate from NYU’s mental health counseling and wellness program. She has previously held graduate school positions at a university college counseling center and private practice in the NY areas. She is passionate about enhancing mental health awareness around the globe!
This story took place in United States

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(The author Christie – AKA Gaga’s Little Monster – having a blast with her mother at the Monster Ball in 2009).

Coming from someone who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling, I struggle with the concept of embracing imperfections and ‘going with the flow.’

When I first went away to college, it became transparent how obsessive I became with getting perfect grades, maintaining a certain physical appearance, and always keeping my room tidy. I noticed that I gave myself marginal room for failure and would decline social events if that meant studying for longer to get an A. This doesn’t mean don’t strive to achieve the best, but there is a fine line between trying your best and being in ‘shackles’ throughout life.

Oftentimes I found myself spending hours on small assignments, or hours fixing up my hair and makeup and cleaning. It reduced the amount of time I had to engage in other leisure activities with friends. It also posed major negative implications on my sense of self-worth. I never felt good enough because of how high my expectations were, and some of my friends were able to let their hair down and be free. I was extremely scared to step outside of the box, out of fear that I would be criticized.

My insight has now changed over the years. I’ve shifted from a rigid mindset of rules such as “I need to do my hair and makeup this way to look good” or “I need to ensure there are zero spelling or grammatical errors on this paper” to “I’m human. I am allowed to make mistakes. My self-worth is not determined by my mistakes in life.” This mindset gave me space to radically accept that life will never be perfect. I learned that no number of earned external accomplishments and achievements would make me feel warm inside and love myself. It was when I was able to mess up and still be loved and valued by myself and others that I could finally release the weight of my shoulders that had dragged me down for several years. At first, this realization caused me immense pain, and I felt a sense of grief to let go of such a strong, dominant, and influential part of who I was. You know the saying ‘It’s better to be with the devil you know than the devil you don’t?’ Well, I was able to push aside the devil I knew.

I hope some of Gaga’s monsters found inspiration in this story. Life is meant to be a bit messy and chaotic. Don’t strive for perfection, strive for fluidity and creativity. Strive to tap into hidden areas of yourself that you have been holding back from revealing. Go ask a random person to get coffee, draw a picture and have it be messy, go outside and sink your body into the grass or sand and realize that life is finite.

Life is way too short to fixate over appearance, perfect grades, always sounding articulate and proper, and always thinking you are right. Embrace the fact that no one knows everything in this world, and everyone is trying to navigate life’s choppy waters in the same way you are. Just as the weather changes throughout the days, we humans do as well. Free yourself from any mental rules or restrictions you’ve given yourself, and practice loving kindness to give yourself that space to mess up. 

I know I no longer want to be the impossible construct of ‘perfect.’ I now feel free and not in the confines of ‘shackles’ that prevented me from being my authentic self with all my idiosyncrasies.

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