You’re Not Jesus. So Stop Trying to Be.
Perfection. It means being free of all flaws–flawless. Faultless. Does this describe you? In any fashion? No. I can tell you right now, it doesn’t. You’re not Jesus. So stop trying to be.
I think it’s pretty clear you can’t walk on water. Being buoyant due to a lack of muscle mass is one thing, but there’s only been one person who has ever lived with the ability to walk on water. And it’s not you. I also think it goes without saying that you can’t turn water into wine. You can’t cure a leper. And hard as you might try to bend that spoon with the sheer power of your human brain, nothing is going to happen.
I’m not trying to make you feel bad about being completely inadequate. In fact, I’m here to do quite the opposite.
My point here is simple: don’t stress when you can’t do the impossible.
Humans are not meant to be perfect. It’s part of the beauty of being a frail figment of Creation: you start life as a helpless, crawling parasite that spends its time latched onto the chest of its mother for approximately the first 17,000 hours of its life. You slowly evolve, adjusting to the world around you. You might even grow confident in your ability to survive with each stage of development. Well, don’t. Even though you’ve survived thus far, you’re not invincible. Sure, you’ve grown teeth; they can chew through applesauce and maybe boiled carrots but they sure as hell can’t cut through diamonds. You can’t even walk on the legs that you’re given for the first solid year and a half of your life; your mother lugs you around like a sack of cat litter until you finally grow into your body. Nine months in the womb is clearly not long enough.
Point given: you’re weak. You have faults.
A few years later, you’re making your own outfits, toast, and works of art out of glitter and macaroni. You’re inevitably going to make considerable mistakes, but people will find them “cute” in this stage of life. Wearing mismatched socks, burning the toast, and screwing up the macaroni picture frame are all acceptable errors for a young kid.
But somewhere along the line, that acceptability goes away.
Mismatched socks will make you look unprofessional. Burning the toast will make you late. And if you’re still working with glitter and macaroni, God bless you.
As early as middle school, the obsession with perfection infiltrates the student psyche. To be better than everyone else is the key to ultimate success because if you’re perfect, no one can be above you. If you’re perfect, you’re worthy.
Worthy for what? That, they never tell you.
It’s seventh grade. You’ve joined the upper ranks as two elementary schools fuse into one junior high school. You meet about a hundred new students who have lived separate, parallel lives from you. One hundred new potential friends? Or are they one hundred new potential rivals? You weed out the competition. Who is weaker? Who is stronger? That girl over there looks like she knows how to get an A. The teachers like her better. Uh-oh. That’s the danger zone. You have to be liked, too–you have to become the favorite so that you get the A. She got the A. But you don’t get the A. This makes you hate yourself; you forget everything that you’ve ever done and only feel the regret of the mediocre. Angrily, you fight back, study harder, punishing yourself for losing your identity as “the smart one” to some other top-notch student. Your parents might push you to get better. You might push yourself. But seventh grade, so you’re told, is the time when it all starts to matter.
Now it’s freshman year. Yikes. Things are getting real. You now have classes with people from all over the school, from every grade. The graduating senior class looms above you, knowing all, their poker faces of complete self-assurance giving away none of the stresses that high school has presented them. You have to be like them, successful and confident. So you study, you slog, you learn to like iced coffee with too much sugar. Are you perfect yet? Are you like them?
No. You’re not.
It’s okay not to be. But at this point in your life, you don’t know that. You think a B+ is the end of the world. So you study harder, lose more sleep, grow more bitter. Drink more coffee.
Fast forward to junior year. Here you are: perhaps the most pivotal year in your development. The year before your future changes course, filled with SATs, National Honor Society, driver’s license, the AP exams. Your first SAT test experience doesn’t go well: stomach ache during the entire exam block. All those hours of preparation, wasted Saturdays–for nothing. So your tutor tells you to retake it. You do better the second time. But it’s not perfect. Do you take it again just to get those 10 extra points? Taking it three times just seems daunting. You’re tired and just want to be done with it all. So you decide not to retake it. And that choice haunts you for months after you’ve submitted your last college application. It could have been better. You had the chance to be that much closer to perfect and you didn’t take it. Shame on you. Then you get a 5 on your AP exam and shrug it off because it’s not a good enough achievement. Everyone gets 5s on their AP exams; it’s not enough to set you apart.
The words in your head… are they reflecting your own ambitions or are they simply what have been drilled into your destiny by pressures other than your own? During middle school, it’s “high school is coming; you’d better start playing a competitive sport. Nab the piano, while you’re at it. Ever learned Chinese? Ah, learn Latin as well. It’ll prepare you for the SATs.” Then it’s, “College is coming; I don’t want to see any curves on your report card. Are you in National Honor Society yet? How does your volunteer resume look this month?”
Now the real world is coming and you’re screwed. You don’t know the first thing about surviving in cutthroat environments like medical school or the publications industry. Happiness, sleep–they come second. You’ve been blessed with the opportunity for an education. Suck it up, accept the gift, and work for that damn success.
You get upset when you start to crack. Breaking is weakness. You can’t show weakness.
The pressure. The incessant pressure looming over you like a stormcloud of disappointment and regret threatens to crush you into the gravel of shattered dreams. Perhaps I’m being dramatic. But perhaps I’m not. Perhaps you truly feel this way and your self-expectations are driving you to hell.
Once you accept that life is meant to be lived and not to be achieved like a North Korean android, life will get much better. Once you stop comparing your abilities to those of other people, you’ll realize that it’s much more important to be happy.
Employers like happy people. Not robots. They look for someone with confidence in who he or she is–not necessarily someone who played piano and learned Mandarin Chinese in middle school.
Honestly, there’s more to life than being perfect. So what if you got a B+ in Algebra II? Your parents might have cried a little bit and doors might have slammed, but did you survive? Yes. Did you learn how to find the equation of a parabola? Yes. And so what if there was a girl in your seventh grade class who was smarter than you were? You thought she was taking everything that belonged to you. But didn’t you realize that she was a nice person and she had pressures on her as well? Yes. And so freaking what if your car got towed within the first three weeks of your having a license? Did you talk to the police officer and explain that it was a mistake? Did you pay the proper fee to the tow truck facility? Yes.
And you have been fine, with all of your inadequacies. It hasn’t been the end of the world since these things. You’ve grown from them in surprising ways. They’ve made you compassionate. They’ve made you realize the importance of leaving it all up to God because, ultimately, what the hell can a flawed human like you do? In the grand scheme of the universe, does it really matter if you obtained perfection? Will time stand still for you then? Would time stop if you failed? No. The world keeps spinning, through your ups and your downs.
The planet has 7.4 billion people on it. The chance of you being the singularly best person in the world is 0.000000000135%. Chill. You’re not Jesus. So stop trying to be.
All I can say is, enjoy the journey and have faith that everything will turn out the way that it’s supposed to. Life is a gift. Perfection is a curse. And you’re going to be fine.