Escaping My Prison to Free Myself and Fly
I am not perfect. I’ll never be. Never.
That’s it, I finally said it.
My name is Catherine, I am 44 years old, and all my life I have tried to be perfect. Perfect for my parents, perfect at school, perfect for my husband, perfect at work, perfect with my children, perfect with my friends. Achieving perfection was the central goal of my life, because without it, I thought that I was unworthy of being loved by others and by myself. My friends and family loved me, but only because they could not see some parts of me. Certainly, they did not know me completely, otherwise they would have rejected me. At least, that’s what I thought in the depths of my soul.
In my illusory quest for perfection, after the momentary vague sense of pride, the recognition of others generated stress and anxiety within me. How was I going to live up to the expectations of others now that I had accomplished this or that? How was I going to do better? I asked myself these questions repeatedly in the middle of so many nights. To my dismay, I had no other answers than to double my efforts and my work.
Thus, each compliment, each congratulation, was transformed, at nightfall, into a debilitating fear, and at dawn, into an obligation to do more and more. Like an addict who needed her drug, I was in constant pursuit of the recognition of others, because it was in others’ eyes that I would become perfect and lovable. Trapped in this vicious circle, I worked more and more. I did not have the right to stop despite the extreme burden. Relentlessly, I persevered. I was not yet perfect but, I was trying with all my heart.
Despite my sleep deprivation, I did not pay attention to the warnings sent by my body, begging me to slow down. At one point, I was diagnosed with mental illness—panic disorder—but this was not going to interrupt my quest! Even in sickness, I was going to be perfect. Refusing the medications prescribed by my doctors, I convinced myself that I would be able to heal on my own. Compulsively, I read everything that was written on the subject. With my therapist, I tried to remain in my role as the perfect patient. But all my efforts were insufficient. I failed. I was not a perfect patient. My body was going to make me understand this in an extreme way.
One night, I woke up as I needed to go to the bathroom, but I was unable to do it alone. Heavy breathing, heart palpitations, abundant sweat, and fear had me lose all contact with reality. I collapsed, tired of this endless marathon. Tenderly, my husband took my hand and accompanied me. It was the first time in my life that I accepted my imperfections. A new beginning. That night, a window opened and a gentle breeze blew in, which brought me a moment of calm. For the first time, I agreed to rest.
Since then, although it brought me luxury and prestige, I have left a professional career path that was incompatible with my values, to embrace a path on which I feel I am making a difference and I do good for others. Instead of doing what people expect from me, I am doing what my heart tells me. My husband says that I have begun to smile again.
Sometimes I return to my prison of perfection, even though I know that happiness is not there. Will it always be a reflex that will accompany me? Maybe. But it does not matter. I have now opened the door of my prison, and I allow myself to leave it more and more often. At each exit, I dream, I fly, I am free! That’s wonderful!