I’m sorry. These two words can be so powerful when delivered with authenticity. And we all make mistakes. I certainly do. As a perfectionist, I used to find it very difficult to apologize. It’s not that I didn’t realize that I had made a mistake, screwed up, or hurt somebody, it’s that part of me wanted to believe that if I didn’t acknowledge it, then it would just go away. Then I could cling to an illusion of “perfection.” Ridiculous.
I almost lost one of my best friends because of that.
She noticed a pattern in me that she didn’t like. Sometimes, when we spent time together, I wasn’t in a great mood because of whatever reason, and I would allow my agitation to affect my behavior. I would be short, snippy, or impatient, and it was not ok. She knew I loved her, and we would also really enjoy ourselves when I would get past my crappy mood. So she would let it go. But at a certain point, the pattern became too frustrating for her. Her issue was not that I was sometimes in a bad mood and let it affect my behavior. That happens to all of us sometimes. Her issue was that afterwards, I did not acknowledge it, own up to it, and apologize for it. And she was completely right. I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t there and hope that if we didn’t acknowledge it, that she wouldn’t realize I’m not “perfect.”
Of course, that’s a ridiculous concept. Jeez. And it’s horribly embarrassing, to be perfectly honest.
This negative pattern became very evident to her when I was going through the most tumultuous time of my life; the end of a very important romantic relationship. My mood was unpredictable and I was emotional. And none of it was about her. But she felt it from me, and it wasn’t ok. And she wasn’t really clear about what she felt, so she wanted to take time to figure it out. She was confused about how somebody who clearly cares about her so much could also behave in hurtful ways, without self-accountability. So she went quiet. At that point, I didn’t know all of this. All I knew was that something was wrong, but she wouldn’t see me and wouldn’t talk to me until she had her own clarity.
I struggled with that silence. It was brutal. I felt shut-out, rejected, lost, confused, unworthy. Brutal.
I persevered, moving through life for the next few weeks, feeling broken. In her silence, I told her I loved and appreciated her, and promised to be as patient as I knew how to be. And then, after some time, I reached out again, and we reconnected. I picked up the pieces of myself, and with as much strength as I could muster, I accepted her feedback. And I apologized. And it was so genuine. It hurt my heart to know that I caused her pain. She is a dear friend, somebody I love and care about so much. And even though I had no negative intentions – none – I hurt her. And that wasn’t ok. And the beautiful part is that she forgave me. She saw in me an ability to shift my pattern. And she felt my love and care for her as a person.
Today, she is still one of my best friends. I’m so grateful for her. Her kindness, patience, love and support. She’s been one of my best friends for 13 years now, and that is an incredible gift.
So….I’m a recovering perfectionist. All of this…it’s all about how quickly we can recover from the mistakes we do make. I don’t need to be perfect. In fact, when I can stop focusing on myself and stop trying to be perfect, I’m able to be there for others. Focus on them. What do they need? What do they want? How can I be their friend, their partner, their teammate? Nobody expects me to be perfect. That’s all in my head. Personal development is a recovery model, not a perfection model.
I still have moods that I don’t like, and my behavior is not always as other-focused as I want it to be. I’m still not always self-accountable as quickly as I want to be. I’m a work in progress. And, my ability to see myself clearly is improving on a regular basis. As I become more self-aware, my lens is less cloudy and I have a clearer view of reality. And I’m grateful for all the people I have in my life who accept me as I am, and also care enough to give me the feedback I need to see myself. It’s a gift.
Also published on Medium.