Dear Fiona: Be Imperfect

In my previous letter, I wrote that I hope you are better than I am at letting go. This is one area where I’ll be less equipped to help you than in some of the others I’ve mentioned in these letters, for a few different reasons.

One is that, as I mentioned, the emotional scars and issues that will need letting go of look different for every person, as do the means of moving on and growing past them. I can talk through all manner of things with you – and I hope there are times when I end up doing precisely that – but I can’t necessarily be the one to tell you the best way to handle a particular solution. I can offer opinions and advice, but like I wrote a couple letters back, I hope to raise a strong and independent and wise and thoughtful daughter precisely so that you don’t have to rely on me to tell you what to think or what to do.

Another reason I may not be in the best position to walk you through the “letting go” process is the simple fact that, because I’m bound to make mistakes, at least some of the emotional scars you wind up with are likely to have me at their root. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t plan to hurt you. But I know myself well enough to know that eventually I will hurt you.

I’m sorry for that. And I hope that we can work through it and both come out wiser and better and healthier for it. Because those will be moments I need to learn how to let go of, as well . . . moment that I need to talk through with you, ask your forgiveness for hurting you, and also learn how to forgive myself.

The reason that’s so incredibly hard for me is also the biggest reason I’m not always going to be the best person to help you in this area: I’m a perfectionist.

That does not, of course, mean that I always do everything perfectly. By the time you’re old enough to read these letters, you’ll be old enough to know that through painful personal experience.

What it does mean is that when I fail to do something according to my own satisfaction, it eats at me. It bothers me. It sticks with me for hours, days, weeks, sometimes even years afterward. It haunts me, in a way, until I can learn how to . . . well . . . let it go.

So my message for you in this letter is: Be imperfect.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t have standards or hold yourself to them. It’s not to say you should let everything fall apart around you.

But perfectionism is just as perilous as its antithesis. When you’re a perfectionist, often you don’t start something because you know how daunting it would be to do it in such a way that you would consider it “done properly.”

Other times, you start many, many things, but never finish them because they are never “quite right.”

Still other times you let things fall through the cracks that really need to be taken care of, because you’re trying to get that one thing you’ve been working on “exactly perfect.”

As a result, you end up with . . . not very much, at times. I know all three of these pitfalls very well, because . . . yeah . . . perfectionist.

And of course, being a perfectionist and being bad at self-empathy feed one another if I let them: My brain bothers me if I don’t have something exactly where I want it. Then I feel guilty because I haven’t lived up to the standards and desires I’ve set for myself. Then I feel ashamed that I can’t just let it go and move on . . . and so on and so forth.

So my hope for you is that, as part of learning how to let go of the things that bring you shame and get in the way of self-empathy, you manage to avoid the pitfall of perfectionism. I hope you’re able to do the things that make you happy and bring you fulfillment, that you’re able to bring them to closure, and that you’re able to let them go out into the world and have an impact on it.

So I hope this is one you’re able to figure out more thoroughly – and a lot sooner – than I’ve done. And I’ll be here to help you in whatever way I can. And perhaps in helping you figure out how to do this, I can figure out how to do it for myself as well.


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