Do you love yourself? Do you want to improve yourself? And can these two things exist together?
The other day I walked into the gym locker room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman looking at me as she gathered her belongings. Then she said to me, “Your legs are absolutely perfect. Amazing.” All I could do was laugh. I see my legs (and body, for that matter) as far from perfect. I should have just said thank you. But instead, I minimized her compliment by disagreeing with her, pointing out how she can’t know since they’re covered with pants. She just repeated her comment in an annoyed tone of voice and left.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love my body. Today is my 45th birthday, and I’m more grateful to be alive than I am head-shakingly frustrated with my thinning hair, wrinkling skin, etc. This body’s gotten me through some serious health challenges. I would never trade my child for a flat abdomen with no signs of a pregnancy. And I believe we can strive for improvements while also accepting our respective present situations. Then why did I refute that woman’s compliment? I think what made me pause was her use of the “P word”. Why did she, herself a tall, thin, and beautiful woman in her 50’s, feel compelled to say this to me?
Perfection is a whole ‘nother story. “Perfect” is a word we should probably stop using for many things. None of us can have a truly perfect body, be the perfect parent, the perfect spouse, the perfect employee or business person. There is no such thing as a perfect home, a perfect job, or a perfect anything. Someone’s idea of perfect (in the case of my example, legs) is completely different than another person’s vision. Maybe you value strength and thus enjoy the look of muscular legs, while another person desires very thin legs. You can soften the P word by saying “this is perfect for me“, but I even have trouble with that. We’re never done learning or improving. Why do we spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people and trying to measure up to some sort of perfection endpoint? Endpoints are for fixed mindsets.
I want to improve the shape of my legs and butt. I want to be a better mom, a better wife, a better doctor. I want to learn more about finance. I want to spend less time looking at my phone. I want to be better at putting sunscreen on my face. But at the same time, I have no interest in being perfect. This Valentine’s Day, I hope we can all practice some self-love while still trying to improve on the things we value. And let’s stop chasing perfection.