Around 2 years before I was born, my mother had an infection which almost killed her. No one thought she would ever be able to conceive another child, and I remember hearing tales growing up, of how she had actually lost hope of that happening again. And then voilá! She was pregnant. Some called it miraculous, and every test was done to make sure I was okay. I came into this world having had my whole family perceiving me as both a miracle and a cause for concern. As it was family tradition, my second name is Jesus, and so I was literally a little miraculous baby Jesus. No pressure, really! Where does one go from there, but down?
Oddly enough, however, I was a child of tantrums. My family’s mythology is filled with stories of my terrible behaviour, and according to those stories, I tended to get everything I wanted. And then I changed, I think during pre-school. All of that went away, and I became a quiet, respectful, behaved child. I began to fall into place with what was to become one of my most insidious life narratives and scripts: perfection. I’m not going to lie here or play it down, but I was one of those kids who just did most things right: school, sports, arts. All these things which I naturally did well, played very well alongside this implicit message I received from everyone around me: I was great, I was amazing, I was perfect.
The perfect part has honestly been one of my greatest personal blockages. First of all, through the years, I grew up thinking I was perfect, I could do no wrong, etc, which has meant a weird sense of entitlement and delusion about how life should be for me. Obviously, when things go wrong, I tend to have disproportionate reactions to them because of this. The indoctrinated part of my self goes: “But, you are perfect, why is this happening? REACT!!!!” These reactions have greatly calmed down over the years, at least externally. Internally, I often still go through quite the rollercoaster. Secondly, even though I’ve carried this script of perfection, I never actually sat down and tried to define what this actually meant. What is perfection? What is it actually like to be perfect? What does it mean?
Can you imagine going through life following something and making choices based on something that you have actually never defined for yourself? It’s like I’ve been living life completely blind, following ideals and rules that I didn’t make, or even believe, for that matter!
On the other hand, I also followed a life narrative and script, which ran parallel to the perfection one. This other script was directly attached to my otherness, my gayness, and it came from peers. It was so brutally intense, that I ended up internalising it, even though it is in absolute conflict with my original scrip. This new script told me that I was unworthy of even breathing. I received this message during my adolescence, where I retreated from the world and became a bit of a recluse in my bedroom, where I used to spend every minute of spare time, either reading books, watching movies, watching MTV, dancing, and singing. Looking back, I think I escaped so deeply into these things, that I began to associate certain things with perfection: types of relationship I would watch or read about, types of jobs, types of success, types of homes, other places around the world. And so, I started dreaming!
Dreaming of the education, jobs, locations, relationships, and success that would make everything perfect again. And if I didn’t get to have those things, it would be proof that I was indeed unworthy, and not perfect. Moving away from Portugal and to the US was totally all about this! Changing my name? All about this! Granted, my 17-year-old dreams did not materialise and actually morphed and changed into what I’m doing now, over a very active period of more than 14 years of trying new things, following instincts, and maintaining an open mind and heart about change. But somehow, through all the feedback of how great I was doing or being from others, I carried this void for many years, where I couldn’t appreciate any of it. My dreams, and the drive behind them, always led me to a place of lack, of not enough, of wondering what else I could do to make it better. No matter how many things I accomplished, I always felt like there was something missing. I was always looking ahead into the future, chasing this feeling of perfection, of finally being “there”.
I’ve been working on my “unworthy” script for a few years now, but it wasn’t until very recently that I became aware of the extent to which my life was led by my “perfect” script. In fact, let me correct this. Neither of these scripts are mine. They were given to me by others, and because I didn’t know any better, I accepted them. But yes, the “perfect” script is truly destructive. I can see so clearly now, how, for example, I kept so many potential relationships at bay because they weren’t “perfect”, and how, equally, I abandoned relationships because I wasn’t “perfect”.
These thoughts had been bubbling inside me, and then this morning, I watched this YouTube video by a former competitive swimmer, and it was so interesting to hear about the struggles of someone who never made it to the top. As she says in the video, we often only give attention to struggles of people who make it to some kind of top or recognisable success, but what about those who don’t? Are their struggles less valid, their journeys less worthy? Listening to her this morning, discussing her dreams and the many difficulties she faced trying to make them happen, really reminded me of the many dreams I used to have, and how, for me, they were so attached to this idea of perfection, of unconditional success and strength.
But none of those dreams came true for me either, and yet, I am still here. And I am still here, after realising and waking up to the fact that I’m not at all perfect, that I will never be, and that life isn’t perfect at all. This is not meant to be depressing or negative. It’s my reality now. I’ve realised that life doesn’t owe me a damn thing, and that being attached to perfection is actually very toxic. So, If I’m able to consistently and daily express my feelings, love myself, commit to growing from heartache, and connect to those around me, I think I’ll be just fine.
I will finish this with a quote, which I read this morning, and deeply resonated with:
“You are not here to sacrifice your joy or your life. You are here to live, to be happy, and to love. If you can do your best in two hours of meditation, but you spend eight hours instead, you will only grow tired, miss the point, and you won’t enjoy your life. Do your best, and perhaps you will learn that no matter how long you meditate, you can live, love, and be happy.”
- Don Miguel Ruiz, in The Four Agreements