My friend’s daughter, K, recently had her very first test at school. It was a spelling test, and she got 9 out of 10 correct. Having never done that well on a spelling test in my life, I was quite impressed.
But K was devastated. Other kids in her class had gotten a perfect score. And she hadn’t.
I really felt for her. I’d been there. I know what it’s like to feel not good enough. I know how painful that is. But I also thought to myself, “C’mon, kiddo. It’s a first grade spelling test. It’s no big deal.” (Yes, it is a really good thing I’m not a parent.)
A couple of weeks ago, I received a request to speak at a high school. I was asked to talk to 150+ kids about the entertainment industry, being your authentic self and choosing your own own path in life, even if that looks a little different.
My knee-jerk reaction to this request was “No.” It was “(expletive), no” actually. I can’t do that. I’m not good at public speaking and I would be nervous and uncool and I’d just have to be….you know….my authentic self.
See the problem with my logic? I was not going to talk to kids about how it’s okay to be themselves because I wasn’t going to seem like a perfect person.
I love that for a moment there, I thought I was wiser than a five-year-old.
Clearly, I have some perfectionist tendencies. Some are specific to my old LA life, like the idea that perfect stops at 105 pounds. Or the idea that what other people (producers, media, movie-goers) think of me is of the utmost importance. But it seems like my little friend K already feels a similar pressure, even without being part of the film industry.
Regardless of where the pressure comes from, those feelings are tough to wrestle with and sometimes I get pinned to the mat, flopping uselessly under the weight of that perfectionist ideal. But I didn’t want to get pinned this time, so I decided that I would pick my ass up and go talk at the school.
I’m probably going to look nervous and I will likely not express myself as well as I would like to. I might trip on my words or my feet. But there is also a chance that I say something that is helpful. In showing my vulnerability and humanity, maybe I can connect with them more easily than if I just glide right up there and spout perfect prose like some sort of Public Speaking Angel.
All I really want is a moment to say that it’s okay to let down your guard and be who you were meant to be. It’s also okay to change your mind about who that person is. Yes, it’s scary and sometimes it hurts, but it’s worth it. And I can only say that with any honesty if I actually live it.
Because there is no such thing as perfect. Anyone who portrays themselves as such is LYING. We all have something that we try to hide, something that we fear someone will reject us for. If we could just let go and embrace our imperfections, we would give others permission to be themselves as well.
And what a beautiful thing that is.
It’s even better than getting 10 out of 10 correct on a spelling test.
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