For as long as I can remember, I believed a gigantic lie.
I believed that in order to be loved, I had to be perfect.
My quest for perfection was endless. Everything from my eyebrows, to my personality was under scrutiny. I wanted to be the smartest, the most organized, the most well-liked, the funniest, the one with the best hair, and the best clothes, and the best butt. Grace was nowhere to be found, no part of me was safe from my scrupulous dissatisfaction.
I thought if I could just get it right and all at the same time, that I’d be worthy of love, that somebody might actually love me.
(Saying that out loud is hard, isn’t it? Have you ever had that thought?)
For years I tried and tried and performed and performed, always coming up short, and always believing that if I could just work harder, download one more productivity app, and hit the gym one more time that I’d get there. I’d be the plate-spinning, world-changing, delightful, beautiful version of myself that I’ve always wanted to be—perfect and therefore loved.
It was an exhausting way to live. It was so exhausting that one day, I just fell apart. It was too much to carry. I couldn’t do it anymore.
My perfect facade cracked and then shattered, and I came face to face with my imperfection in front of the person I was most afraid would leave when he saw it — my boyfriend (who’s now my husband)
Not only did I fall apart, but I fell apart BIG, in the middle of a crowded restaurant with sobs that couldn’t be contained with a quick dab of my napkin.
And as I sat there, an embarrassing, snotty puddle of tears, Carl (my boyfriend/husband) did something that changed everything.
He said, “Steph, I know you’re not perfect. Do you know that I know that? Did you think you had me fooled?” He was joking, but also deeply serious.
He continued… “I love you. Stephanie, I love you and your bad days and your messy hair. I love you when you’re crabby, I love you when you don’t make sense. I love you when you’re sad or mad or angry. I love you when you’re frustrated. I love you when there doesn’t seem like there’s any sparkle in the world—or like you forgot to be sparkly in it. I love you when you’re lost and confused and can’t figure it out. I love everything about you—everything.”
He looked at me, his eyes full of resolute love, showing me something I never imagined I’d see.
He knew I wasn’t perfect, and he loved me anyway. And that kind of love changes you. It changes you, because it’s a human, flesh-and-blood representation of something God’s been saying all along.
“Perfection isn’t the point, kiddo. You’re perfect because I’m perfect, because I gave you my perfection and took every bit of your mess. Oh, one more thing… you’re loved more than you could ever imagine — exactly as you are.”
That was the first day I began to understand that perfection isn’t a requirement for love. It isn’t from God, and it isn’t from other people either!
We don’t want perfection from each other, and we certainly don’t need it! Perfection is creepy, Stepford, inauthentic. Nobody is perfect, and when we try to be, we’re keeping people from seeing the best parts of us — the quirky, off-kilter, slightly nerdy things — the parts of us that are so special, and so entirely lovable.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to grow. We should absolutely keep growing, and changing, and becoming. But perfection has never been part of the equation, and has never been a prerequisite for love.
And so with that reminder fresh in our minds, I have a challenge for us this week — single, married, dating, in our friendships, in our families, with God, and with ourselves.
I want us to practice a new belief this week, and here it is:
We are not perfect, and we are so, so loved.
But that’s not all. I want us to follow that belief up with some action. I want us to give it a shot, step out on top of that idea and see if it holds.
I want us to take down our facade a little bit, allow someone into part of our world. I want us to tell our story in a way we haven’t before, or to be really honest about a struggle when we would have normally said, “Oh, I’m fine!”
And I want us to watch what happens. What we’re afraid will happen is that people will back up, move away from us, think badly of us.
But what really happens (with people we can trust, of course!) is that those people come closer.
They fall more in love with us because they know us even better, they feel trusted, honored, and safe. They might even open back up to us because now they know that’s allowed.
They know that perfection isn’t a requirement in this relationship, so they can put their guard down too.
Sweet friend, we don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved.
So this week, let’s stand tall and bravely step out in a new truth: We are not perfect and we are so, so loved.