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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Present, Not Perfect...

I am a textbook perfectionist. 

But only when it comes to myself. It's fine for everyone else to make mistakes, but I expect way more of myself. I am overly concerned with details, and I am my own worst critic. This is a very difficult way to live, and this way of thinking causes a great deal of pain in the end. The fact of the matter is, no one is perfect. The goal of perfection is unachievable, so attempting it is only bound to lead to heartbreak.

What we need to keep in mind as MS patients is, our family and friends do not have the same lofty expectations of us that we have for ourselves. Our friends and family love us unconditionally, and basically just want us to be around. I am so hard on myself sometimes. When I am invited to an event, I find myself thinking, "This is a happy occasion, and no one is going to want to deal with me and my illness. It is just baggage, and it is so depressing. I just won't even go."

Here's the the thing: Those thoughts are damaging, and they are entirely untrue. What I have found after years with MS is, those who care about me want me to be present, even if I am not perfect. No one expects perfection, and on the contrary, many friends have been so understanding, so helpful, and so supportive. Would I have ever known this had I simply stayed home in fear? Don't waste your time feeling like a burden to others, because you will end up self-defeating. You will end up stuck at home, shut in, and deprived of the happy life that you deserve. 

This pursuit of perfectionism will steal your life from you, trust me. It will paralyze you, leaving you terrified that you aren't "good enough." This fear is real, and it is a killer....We must remain aware of it's potential to steal our happiness. Each year with MS may bring a new disability, a new deficit, or a new symptom. We have to remain in a state of constant evolution, changing our approach to life, changing how we perform our daily tasks. Included with this, we need to change our self-image. From day to day, our external and internal image may be entirely different. We may need a cane on Monday, but by Wednesday, we are walking just fine with no assistance. With those changes, we must learn how to change our perception of ourselves. Do not allow any symptom, any deficit, or any disability to define who you are, or stop you from attaining your goals. Remember, the goal is to be present not perfect.

Your illness does not define you, but it is a part of your reality. The people in your life who truly care about you will not leave your life simply because of illness. Granted, you may lose a few "friends" you had before your illness, those who cannot handle the issue and would rather leave your life. The truth is, it is their loss. It is about them, and not you. It is not your business what other people think of you, as they say.

Try not to allow worry, perfectionism, or self-consciousness drive your life. You take the wheel, instead. Don't miss out on opportunities to experience and enjoy your life simply because of your illness. The people around you who truly love will not mind if you carry along your "baggage," and they may even offer to help you carry it once in a while. 

I believe that the source of my perfectionism is actually a self-esteem issue. I attempt to be perfect out of fear that others will not love me if I am anything less than perfect. Of course, this attempt is futile, because we all know that perfect is not possible. With an MS diagnosis, we feel even more of a need to hide our symptoms, pretend that everything is just fine, and carry on with the struggle for perfect. This illness has a way of making that endeavor impossible. You aren't perfect, I am not perfect, and no human being on the planet has ever been or ever will be perfect. Such is life.

Try to have faith that those around you will understand that you have flaws, you have an illness that is incurable, and you are doing your very best to cope with it. I would venture to guess that you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. By letting go of the attempts at perfection and being brave enough to show our flaws, we find real love. We find out who will be there, no matter what. And that is a beautiful discovery.

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