It has been a year since I wrote and published The Disease Called Perfection. It is by far the most important post I’ve ever written. To me, anyway.
Today it has been read by nearly 2 million people and shared on Facebook well over a hundred thousand times. A day hasn’t gone by since posting it that I haven’t received at least one email from somebody who has read it, desperate to escape the disease. Most days I receive multiple.
Nearly 5,000 people have commented on that post. Most of those comments are beyond sobering. Many heartbreaking. The majority overwhelming. If you haven’t read it, please do. If you haven’t read it recently, please go read it again. I have no problem asking everybody to read it, and I will again and again. Why? Because I believe in that message. Writing that message freed me. Living that message empowered me. My soul is in that message.
My most powerful writing has come in my efforts to overcome those things which have consumed me the most. And nothing has consumed me more than that hideous disease “Perfection.” It affected me at home. At work. With friends. With family members. It controlled the vast majority of my life and my relationships. It was one of the biggest destroyers of my marriages. It was certainly the biggest destroyer of my ability to find contentment and be happy.
But perhaps worst of all, that ugly disease stopped me from ever overcoming the worst and heaviest burdens that I had been carrying for decades. It hindered any true progression for me. It got in the way of what needed to be done to shed my demons and clean my closet of its skeletons.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I wrote that post. For better or worse. I knew I was opening up a can of worms, but I did it anyway. I was at the point that I didn’t really have a choice.
Was I expecting the traffic I got (and am still getting) from it? Never in a million years.
Was I expecting the extremely positive response that came in from the vast majority of those who did read it? Never in a million years.
Was I expecting it to piss a lot of people off? Kind of. I just didn’t know it would piss a lot of very vocal strangers off. I didn’t know it would lead to me being called a fraud by some, a phony by others. I didn’t know it would cause me to experience some of the most stressful moments of my life. I didn’t know it would cause me to be… hated. Never in a million years.
I’ve gone back to read that post from time to time. Even one year later, I still need the reminder. In some ways the post has been very ironic.
On the one hand, writing that post freed me in my personal life. It opened up an entire world of spiritual exploration for me. It gave me the opportunity I had been seeking for the past 30 years of really deciding for myself what was right or wrong. It permitted me to finally question what I actually believed was morally right or wrong. It has ended some unhealthy relationships and taken the chokehold off of the more beautiful ones. It has brought me better friends, better relationships, and better moments. It has made me a better father. It has made me a better person. On top of all that, it has helped me to truly love others for who they are instead of who I believe they should be. It has stopped me from weighing others against my own insecurities. It has helped me see the real beauty in others.
On the other hand, and due to the nature of the post, it has attracted a great number of readers to Single Dad Laughing who struggle (as I have) with the diseased “Perfection.” Many of these readers struggle with dishing out “Perfection” as much as they struggle to breathe from beneath its crushing thumb. And because overcoming “Perfection” isn’t an overnight thing, the disease has occasionally carried itself into the comments of this blog and into my email inbox. Many harsh judgments and criticisms have come my way, many calling me onto the carpet saying I should be doing things differently, I should be ashamed of myself for writing something I’ve written, or that I am inconsiderate, rude, or immoral. Because I have written about stepping up my game as a parent and as a human being, and because I have written about taking the higher road, and because of the overall nature of Single Dad Laughing, it comes to the point that many of my readers somehow expect perfection from me. This in turn puts pressure on me to deliver that perfection.
And that is where the irony has really come into play. On the blogging side of my life, I get so burdened by “Perfection” that I often begin to suffocate from it. This in turn makes me occasionally “act out” and write something edgy or less than “perfect” on SDL. And, every time I do this, I get a number of people commenting or messaging me, calling me out again. Several people leave SDL for good. And so it pushes me deeper and deeper into the disease.
And perhaps the greatest irony of all is the uncanny pressure I feel to be perfect in public, especially as a parent. Because of the things I have written, and because of my book The Real Dad Rules, and because people recognize me in public far more often than I ever would expect, I have all but lost the perception of wiggle-room in the parenting department. Because of this, I often feel far more down or lost than I should.
And so, I have made it my goal is to spend the next year learning to free myself from the disease in my work and public life as I have in my personal life since first writing The Disease Called Perfection.
But all discussion aside of how the post has affected me, I know that the very reality of it is that it has affected others in great and life-changing ways. For that I am thankful. For that I am subdued. Of that I am always aware. I have received hundreds of emails from those who read the post and found the power from it to take significant and new directions in life. There have been those who have left marriages, unhealthy relationships, religions, and friendships.
The weight of this reality has hit me far too many times. I have heard of parents packing up their kids and leaving another parent in the distant settling dust. I have felt eternal responsibility as I have heard of people giving up on the religions they have been raised with their entire lives in order to look for their own truths. I have gritted my teeth as people finally “get the guts” to end relationships with their own parents that they know are damaging and abusive. The weight when I receive emails like that is immense and sometimes overpowering. I sometimes find myself pushed to tears over the responsibility I feel for having written words that would drastically change the lives of those who are taking such big steps. It’s a weight I never would have predicted. A weight I never would have wanted. I believe that this phenomenon alone has taught me more about my responsibility in writing than any other. It is also this phenomenon that has made me want to quit on more than a few occasions.
And finally, I want to talk about what this article has done for many of those in my personal circle. After writing it, I began hearing from some of those I was closest to about their own struggles with the disease. I learned that immediate family members, extended family members, close friends, cousins, neighbors, and many fellow church members were feeling completely trapped or smothered by “Perfection.”I was told in confidence by so many that were so close to me how free they wish they could be from it. Stories of “Perfection” were swapped. Situations discussed. Bonds formed.
And in the end, I also saw just how hard it was and still is for so many of those people to leave “Perfection” behind. Still trapped in lives of the ever-pressing need to appear perfect and stalwart to those they love most. Still living under the notion that it’s better to be unhappy than to ruffle feathers. It’s better to feel enslaved than to have others think less than kindly of them and their choices. One year later, I still see “Perfection” as rampant as ever, I still see people more desperate than ever, and I still see people as consumed by it as ever.
Which makes me wonder how many read that article and never felt anything more than great desire to be free from this disease “Perfection.” How many read it, immediately knew the actions they themselves must take to be real, and then did… nothing. Out of fear? Yes. And for what other reason than a fear of rejection. After all, it is the fear of rejection that pushes and feeds the disease “Perfection.” It always has been, it always will be. Those who push “Perfection” on others generally fear being rejected and left behind in their own ways of thinking, their own judgments, and their own beliefs. Those who are consumed by the “Perfection” being pushed on them by others generally fear complete rejection from those they love most should they leave their common ideals and beliefs behind. Most of us struggle on both sides of that equation.
And so, I ask you… have you read The Disease Called Perfection? Have you done anything to free yourself from it since first reading it? Has fear gotten in the way? Have you found your freedom? Have you started to witness the miracle of seeing only the true beauty in all others? A miracle that only comes once you’ve shed yourself of the disease?
I have a long journey still in front of me before I am truly free from the disease “Perfection.” It’s a journey more difficult than any other, but one that sees blessings every step of the way. I pray you’ll join me on it. Let’s all be a little more real together.
If you haven’t read The Disease Called Perfection, please do. If you want to help keep its message going, please like it again:
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing