Today, my superior shared an article about our “result driven society and demanding culture.” It explained that people these days are exhausted, because of a constant pressure to be perfect. I want to share my thoughts with you, because this text upset me. I got mad, not because of what it taught, but because of what it didn’t say.
The authors big example throughout the article, was that she’d let a subordinate leave the office because his son had fallen down the stairs and needed medical care. That was the moment, she proudly wrote, she stood up for a more empathic leadership.
Obviously a worker should be able to leave home early when his child is sick! What the…?
However, between the lines of the article I read that: the employee was allowed to be “imperfect” at his job, because it made him a more “perfect” parent.
And sadly it’s true:
Imperfection is only tolerated in one part of your life, when it adds perfection to another.
Any other: your talents, your house, your family, but NOT your soul. Even in our so preciously hyped “me-times,” we’re supposed to do something fashionable or productive these days. You’d better be good at it, too. And preferably, post something on Facebook when you’re finished.
Recently, one of my good friends lost her father. Needless to say, his death hit her hard. It hit her harder than most people are able to see. They’re not allowed to. You should know, my friend is the proud type. Reputation matters to her, and so do social expectations. She feels like she’s expected to keep strong. To show up at work and apologize for her (far too) brief absence. To do the same amounts of work at the same pace and perfection as before. To tell people she’s alright and avoid emotionality. To “not give up.” To “not give up on perfection.”
But what I see, is someone who is crumbling inside. Someone who doesn’t allow her own emotions even when she is all alone. Someone who keeps herself busy every second of the day (and night) to avoid thinking. To avoid feeling. To avoid a single moment of “weakness.” Someone who loses a dramatic amount of weight due to stress and sadness, but gets complimented on her figure daily. Someone who’ll always tell you she’s “doing alright,” and therefore gets praise. “You’re so strong,” people say, “I admire how you deal with things. You’re doing such a great job.” I, however, see someone who is scared to drop that fake image of “perfection,” afraid of what will happen when she does. And then I sit there, hearing people praising and complimenting her: but they make me want to cry. And shout. And fight the idiot bastards that shape such reality. Punch them in the face. I want to do all that, at once. And probably binge-eat something while at it.
Let me tell you straight: I am what they call a “weak” person. I have a little flame inside, like every one of us. A fire that sometimes burns so brightly it can light a whole building, but sometimes is no more than suffocating smoke and ashes. Unlike many people, apparently, this fire doesn’t fuel itself. I need to pay attention to it, constantly, to get the most out of it. I guess many people know how to do this mindlessly, living the life their fire desires. But with mine, it’s different. And I don’t have the desire to keep up appearances. I don’t have the energy, either. While growing older, I’ve learned to cherish my flame and every day I keep discovering more about it. I keep finding new ways to stoke it higher. I might be a weak person, but I’m no longer ashamed of it.
Those articles that talk about “a more empathic society,” they only defend the people with an “automated flame.” They defend people who need empathy because they are going through something traumatic, who need to be with their family, who have health issues,… They tell us it’s okay to fail as long as you do something else perfectly: keeping strong, raising children, eating healthy.
And you know what?
I’m sick of having to bargain for the right to be emotional. I’m sick of needing leverage in order to be granted a dash of imperfection. I’m tired of needing excuses for who I am and how I feel.
When will anyone, for once, defend people like me? People who try to just work on themselves, who try to live! Weren’t we born to do just that, after all?
But no one will, really, if that “working and living” doesn’t involve a sparkling career, lots of money or a best-selling book on mindfulness.
I live alone. I don’t have kids, pets, nor a partner to leave my job early for. But I travel. I work out a little. I draw and write and sketch, I dance around the room. I decorate cakes for myself, and take my inner child out to go swinging in the playground. I keep my fire burning.