They told me I was perfect.

The people who loved me the most, from my grandmother on down, told me how great I was. So smart. So beautiful. Funny, too.

As long as I did no wrong, I reasoned, they’d continue to love me so…and that felt great.

I always had a lot of friends. I figured they loved me because they thought I was perfect too. So I couldn’t show them otherwise. If they knew I wasn’t perfect, they might not love me as much. They might not even like me. I was terrified I’d disappoint someone if they knew the truth. That I wasn’t perfect.

So I kept it all under control. It wasn’t always easy, but I was a pro. I knew what I was doing.

For a time, at least.

But then, things started to change.

I couldn’t control everything anymore. I made some choices about people in my life, and suddenly not all of the people in my life thought I was so perfect. In fact, just the opposite. In some relationships, I was criticized, put down, judged. I started to wonder what exactly was so perfect about me. I started to think that maybe my family was delusional about my perfection, that my friends had fallen for the act but would soon know better. I started to feel that I was but a house of cards whose time to fall had come.

When you build your life on a premise that is not real or not true, and that premise proves to be unfounded, well, then you are shit out of luck.

If I wanted to love myself and to have the love of others who loved me for me, things had to change. I had to change. I had to accept all of my imperfections. I had to recover from the disease of perfection that had plagued me for my entire life. I had to get rid of the people who were so caught up in their own self-hatred that they wanted me to hate myself just as much, or more.

I had to coin a phrase that led to writing a book with the title, Love Your Mess.

I had to allow myself to be imperfect and vulnerable. I had to understand that what I thought was weakness, was, in fact, the greatest strength there is. I had to accept the true love of others and of myself. I had to stop seeing perfect as an ideal and start seeing it for the B.S. (that’s a scientific term) that it was.

I had to break open all of it in order to move forward and live the way I really wanted to live.

None of that happens overnight. It happens every single day, in every moment, with every thought and decision. It is a practice that doesn’t ever really end.

It starts with awareness, perhaps an admission, a realization. a switch.

However it starts, just start it. Go from there, but don’t worry about what happens next. Just start it.

My name is Allison, and I am a Recovering Perfectionist.