“15 little ‘flaws’ the woman you love and call perfect should have.”

“No one is perfect Kylee.” This is the phrase I heard countless times from my mom growing up. Yet we live in a culture that prizes “perfect” women. A perfect woman has a hot body, beautiful skin, great friends, an attractive S.O., and not a care in the world. Never would you see a disheveled woman gracing the cover of a magazine or see a headline read, “So and so struggles to balance family, career and personal life and some days feels hopeless.” No. Most often you read articles about how female celebrities artfully balance every aspect of their lives while still maintaining their health and femininity. They give a pretty picture of what a flawed woman looks like. Maybe her guilty pleasure is eating Doritos or watching the bachelor. Those are not flaws. As the article title above states, women are only perfect if their flaws are little. “She takes too long to get ready.” “She takes care of herself and makes you look like a slob in comparison.” “She forces you to improve yourself, which takes a lot of work.” I don’t know when these things became flaws. I had the understanding that women who took care of themselves and had it all together were valued, but apparently if a woman cares TOO much about taking care of herself she is also somehow flawed. A woman who makes men look bad in comparison is flawed. This double standard is enormous. Women are expected to create this façade that they have their lives together, but if she is “too perfect” she is trying too hard and making those around her look bad. A woman can never just “be” without worrying about the reactions of those around her.

All through high school I would get, “Kylee you’re just perfect.” This doesn’t feel bragging, but like a dirty secret. I was the kind; compassionate, Christian girl who didn’t party and had never kissed a boy. To others it seemed as though I had my life all figured out because I didn’t fit the mold of a typical angsty teen. Every time I heard someone say this, it felt like a slap in the face. At first I didn’t feel it, but then the realization would sink in that this person had no idea how flawed I really was. Looking back, because hindsight is 20/20, I realized that in high school I was battling anxiety in the midst of the deterioration of my family. Yes, I may have gotten good grades, and participated in school activities, but I struggled with thoughts of inadequacy and I never felt as if I was doing enough to live a life that others expected of me. I felt I had to live up to the standard of “perfect, Christian girl” that others had set for me. I didn’t dare stray from that standard lest people see how flawed and broken I really was. I couldn’t become someone who had all these problems so that I would be labeled as the “psycho chick.” We all know what kind of girl I mean. A girl that constantly has so many problems going on in her life that she is deemed undesirable, especially to boys.

I continued into college with the same mindset and I only let a few people see a fraction of the messy parts of me. However, I always worried about their reactions and how they would treat me once I told them I was a child from a broken home. I thought that they would see me differently and realize that I was somehow less than. The only solace I found was talking to a counselor about all my fears and flaws, yet I still felt I wasn’t being honest with the people around me. I DID NOT have my life together, and most days felt like a battle. I wanted people to think I was fun and someone worth spending time with, and I feared that if they saw all the raw, emotional parts of me, they would run for the hills. My freshman year, I strove to be the perfect friend, perfect student, perfect daughter, and perfect Christian even if that meant denying my feelings of anxiety, worry, and brokenness. I wanted to be perfect in the eyes of others, even if it felt like a lie to me.

It wasn’t until my second semester this year, that this all came crashing down. With the continued negotiations surrounding my parent’s divorce I was struggling to cope. Most days I would cry in my room, or (I hoped very discretely) in public places. I felt so shattered inside and exhausted from keeping up the pretense that “I was dealing with it all.” I was on the verge of losing it for weeks and it wasn’t until I went home for a weekend that something inside of me finally broke. I was in the shower while my mom was in the bathroom getting ready for bed. It was then that I admitted that I felt like I wanted to have breakdown. When my mom asked me how come I didn’t, I said I didn’t want to become one of those girls who poured out their issues onto other people all the time. I was so concerned with maintaining my façade of perfection that when my mom calmly and matter of factly suggested that now might be a good time to start some type of medication I was devastated. Wrapped in a towel and with soaking wet hair I sat in the bottom of my shower and sobbed while my mom held me. I had never felt to fractured. I knew I couldn’t keep pretending that I was doing okay, but admitting that I wasn’t the “perfect girl” everyone thought I was, was crushing. I had to admit to myself something that I had been told all along, “No one is perfect Kylee.”

After my (much needed) breakdown in the shower and the process of starting medication for anxiety and depression I have had the most freeing semester of my life thus far. I have come to the conclusion that I have nothing to lose by showing others the flawed and messy parts of me, because that is who I am. I still struggle with feelings of hopelessness and anxiety but if that means crying in a public place and having others see that, so be it. (I have since found out that the KOSC basement is also a great place to cry, fyi) I am going through some painful things, and I want to be honest about that. Just because I am struggling, doesn’t make me less than. I am no less of a woman just because I don’t have my life figured out and I feel like a mess most of the time. It has been so freeing to let go of the unattainable goal of perfection and to be able to feel like a REAL woman who is flawed, not sure of what she is doing, and doesn’t pretend to have it all together, yet is valuable and more than enough.

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blueberry muffins

I remember making muffins. They were blueberry. I would say that was one of the  happiest moments I had with my dad. I think this moment is what made me love cooking so much. We were in our kitchen, I can’t remember if it had been remodeled yet (I like to think it hadn’t because that means I was pretty little) but my dad was teaching me to make blueberry muffins. I think back to that moment and it makes me happy because I know that at that time, I was truly happy. I don’t think there was any particular reason for us to be making muffins, but that made it even more special. It was just the two of us in the kitchen. I think it was a saturday or sunday morning. We both love the mornings. Often it would just be the two of us up at 5 or 6am on a saturday watching infomercials until actual programming came on the food network. We would suffer through the early mornings shows until the good ones came on. We especially liked Everyday Italian. I think my dad liked it more than I did, but I liked it because he liked it. We would make comments on what Giada was wearing that day or the food that she decided to cook. Sometimes we would print off recipes if they seemed especially promising.

We spent so many mornings together. We share so many qualities. In some ways I am more like him than anyone else.

I also remember waking up early on vacations where we would sneak away as not to wake anyone else. These mornings felt sacred. The world was still quiet and untouched. We were waking up before the world did. On one vacation in particular, we would get up every morning and take the carpeted,glass elevators down to the main floor where we sat in metal chairs and ate flakey croissants. I can’t remember if he did work on those early mornings, he most likely did, but I felt special none the less. I felt like we were the only people in the world. I got the untouched time of the mornings with him.

But I am not the little girl who needs to be taught how to make muffins anymore.