We’ve all heard the phrase “Progress, not perfection”. Perfectionism is something I spend a lot of time thinking about because I struggle with it every day. It seems that no matter how much I do or how far I’ve come, I always feel that I fall short due to my constant plague of perfectionism. Striving to be great is a good thing, but, perfectionism can really hold us back in some instances, especially when it comes to dealing with an illness or a malady, like Scoliosis.
When my daughter was first diagnosed, I was overcome with anxiety – and experienced a lot of sadness for my child, whose body would never be perfect. I knew after that diagnosis that her life would change forever. I also felt overwhelmed by the many different treatments out there. I wanted to choose the perfect one – but, as we all know, there are no perfect solutions. And, there are no guaranteed outcomes. So, I struggled.
But, over the years, I’ve grown to expect less and less perfection from my life. I think that God honed me through trial until I realized that perfection is an impossibility. And, it can also be a hindrance. How many times do people feel paralyzed due to the overwhelming need to “figure it all out” before they start an endeavor? How many are afraid to start something because they feel they need to make things perfect or they might fail? If I had waited to start my business until everything was perfectly aligned, I’d still be waiting to start – because nothing is EVER perfectly aligned! People can hold themselves back from doing SOMETHING because they don’t want to risk falling short of getting EVERYTHING. But, life isn’t that way. It doesn’t exist in absolutes.
Now, when an overwhelmed parent contacts me with a new Scoliosis diagnosis, I try to point out that this disease is a marathon. It’s a journey without an end. It will be the new normal of LIFE. So, don’t worry if you can’t brace a perfect 22 hours a day from the start. And, don’t worry if you miss 1 out of 5 exercise-therapy sessions. Even 10 hours per day in a brace is progress toward that 22. And, 1 out of 5 exercise sessions is better than zero. My son gets stressed out when he is going to an overnight sleepover because he doesn’t want to bring his brace. And, you know what? I tell him to leave it home. It’s ok to take a night off. It’s ok to take a deep breath. Because our kids have to be in this for the long haul – they have to feel like every bit helps, but that one can still be successful when they get things maybe 90% right. Because the only guarantee in life is that we will fall short of perfection 100% of the time. And the only way they will believe this is if we believe this.
So, now when I look at my daughter from an angle that shows her a-symmetry, I sit and marvel at how what I viewed as an imperfection is really a very beautiful thing. My daughter taught me that she was proud of her surgery scar. She is proud of how strong she is. And, when my son comes at me with his frequent “hug attacks”, and I can’t fully embrace him because he is encased in his brace, I marvel at his tenderhearted strength through it all. And, now it’s impossible to see them as anything but perfectly imperfect. They are perfectly imperfect, our family is perfectly imperfect, and the reality is that I wouldn’t have it any other way.