March 16, 2016

Tales of a Recovering Perfectionist: It’s Okay to F*ck Up.

Not for reuse.

I’m a messy person. I throw my clothes on the floor at night with the reckless abandon of a drunk wanderer. Hangers are an unknown entity to me. My car looks like a dump. I think the concept of putting everything in its proper place is hilarious.

Irons? Yeah, I don’t own one, and probably never will.

I bask in chaos, I dance in dust bunnies. Chaos breathes life into me, it swirls around me like a tornado and opens my mind wide to distant lands that exist only in the tangled evergreen branches of my thirsty, windswept heart.

Really, I was never destined for a streak-free, shiny, perfect little life.

But for so long, that’s what I wanted—it’s what I craved. I wanted everything to be tied neatly in pretty pink satin bows, situated in well-organized little compartments. I didn’t want my heart to get stained by pain or disappointment or agony. I wanted to be flawless, unbreakable, impossibly elegant.

It took so much energy to pretend I was perfect.

I avoided failure.

I played it dangerously safe.

Mistakes were the devil, they opened a floodgate of self-criticism so raw, it would haunt me like a bitter ghost for weeks.

I refused to put myself out there in love, I dipped my toes into relationships timidly, and kept my cards close to my chest. I covered myself in protective barbed wire so no one could hurt me.

So friends couldn’t betray me.

So lovers couldn’t disappoint me.

So I wouldn’t ever make a terrible decision and f*ck up royally.

So people wouldn’t talk about me behind my back or leave me or laugh at me.

But inside my strange little bubble, life wasn’t life. It was fake, plastic, artificial. My world became so small, a fragmented slice of the color and freedom that my wild soul craves.

Because nothing hurt more than trying not to get hurt. Nothing was more exhausting than trying to be perfect. Maybe there is no lonelier, lower feeling in the world than being so vividly afraid of being alive.

On the outside, sure, my life looked spotless, like a sparkling, clean window. Every hair in place. Every smile pinned to perfection. Every word said at just the right time.

On the inside?

Life was a churning f*cking volcano. It was acidity burning in my gut as I scrambled like mad to keep it all together; it was exhaustion deep in my bones; it was being on the verge of falling apart at every moment. Because really, I was broken in ways I couldn’t even talk about, miserable in ways I couldn’t face, scared in ways I was deeply ashamed of.

It takes so much energy to pretend we are perfect.

My god, we sit here, don’t we, just so afraid to live. Afraid to breathe. Afraid to be vulnerable. Afraid to sit in a moment of silence because our whole life could be blown to bits and be revealed as a pretty little sham. We sit here, afraid to get our hearts broken. Afraid to cry. Afraid of people not liking us. Afraid to speak our rawest truths because people could leave us behind.

We sit here, pouring over well-organized lists of relationship red flags, calculating our every move so we don’t make a mistake. So we don’t choose a “wrong” lover. So we don’t scare them off. So—gasp!—they won’t see who we really are.

But you know what?

Life is about getting our hands dirty.

It is about f*cking up.

It is about being vulnerable as sh*t.

It is about getting our hearts broken.

It is about being afraid, with shaky knees, butterflies in our stomachs and gut-wrenching uncertainty.

It is sometimes about making the wrong choice.

Hell, sometimes, maybe that is right.

I have learned so much when I f*cked up—when I didn’t listen to myself, when I made really stupid choices, when I put my needs dead last, when I muted the nagging concerns in my gut about relationships. I cherish those not-so-pretty times as breakthrough moments when I truly learned to be myself.

There is a huge cost of avoiding mistakes—it will cost us our life.

Because being alive is messy. It’s a disaster sometimes, a rollercoaster sometimes, a masterpiece sometimes, but it’s always a work in progress. Life is not about avoiding the messy, trapping ourselves in a bubble of false safety and protecting ourselves from the pain of the world. We can’t do that forever. We can’t do it for long, at all.

I mean look at us, we’re human—we’ve got scars on our hearts, scabs our on knees, dirt on our toes, sweat on our cheeks and shards of disappointment swimming in our souls. We’ve got tears dripping down our chins, mascara stains under our eyes and dirt under our fingernails.

We are so far from being flawless.

Thank goodness.

Because yes, we are human, we are vulnerable, we are breakable, but you know what?

We are also incredibly resilient—we can handle it when we mess up. We can handle pain. Heartbreak. Failure. Agony. Brokenness and betrayal.

In fact, our hearts and souls are thirsty for those experiences. Are they yummy or pretty? No. That sh*t hurts, but those tough times are often the moments that slap us awake and make us question everything. They are freedom. They are treasures and epiphanies. They are beauty.

Because whatever choices we make, whatever paths we decide walk down, we will learn something. Every experience, even the sucky ones, helps us grow, adding color and movement to the the living, breathing art we’re always becoming.

The only thing we can do is walk proudly with open hearts through every damn experience, especially the uncomfortable, shaky ones.

The only thing we can do is be human.

So here’s to the gloriousness of f*cking up.

Here’s to stains on our silk blouses and rips that split our jeans wide open.

Here’s the humiliating moments that make us blush like a ripe tomato and want to hibernate for an entire year.

Here’s to the loves gone terribly, strangely, incredibly wrong.

Here’s to failures—the gut-wrenching, crushing ones that catch us by complete surprise.

Here’s to falling flat on our faces.

It’s okay to f*ck up.

It’s okay to stop holding everything so tightly together and just break brilliantly open.

It’s okay to say the wrong thing. It is okay to not know everything. It is brilliant to make complete fools of ourselves.

Make a magnificent mistake.

Let go.

Open your heart.

Laugh a little.

Cry a lot.

And learn something.

Because the cost of trying to avoid mistakes, the cost of trying to have a flawless existence?

It will cost us our lives.


Author: Sarah Harvey

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Author-owned, via Shutterstock

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