Escaping My Prison to Free Myself and Fly

I am not perfect. I’ll never be. Never.

That’s it, I finally said it.

My name is Catherine, I am 44 years old, and all my life I have tried to be perfect. Perfect for my parents, perfect at school, perfect for my husband, perfect at work, perfect with my children, perfect with my friends. Achieving perfection was the central goal of my life, because without it, I thought that I was unworthy of being loved by others and by myself. My friends and family loved me, but only because they could not see some parts of me. Certainly, they did not know me completely, otherwise they would have rejected me. At least, that’s what I thought in the depths of my soul.

In my illusory quest for perfection, after the momentary vague sense of pride, the recognition of others generated stress and anxiety within me. How was I going to live up to the expectations of others now that I had accomplished this or that? How was I going to do better? I asked myself these questions repeatedly in the middle of so many nights. To my dismay, I had no other answers than to double my efforts and my work.

Thus, each compliment, each congratulation, was transformed, at nightfall, into a debilitating fear, and at dawn, into an obligation to do more and more. Like an addict who needed her drug, I was in constant pursuit of the recognition of others, because it was in others’ eyes that I would become perfect and lovable. Trapped in this vicious circle, I worked more and more. I did not have the right to stop despite the extreme burden. Relentlessly, I persevered. I was not yet perfect but, I was trying with all my heart.

Despite my sleep deprivation, I did not pay attention to the warnings sent by my body, begging me to slow down. At one point, I was diagnosed with mental illness—panic disorder—but this was not going to interrupt my quest! Even in sickness, I was going to be perfect. Refusing the medications prescribed by my doctors, I convinced myself that I would be able to heal on my own. Compulsively, I read everything that was written on the subject. With my therapist, I tried to remain in my role as the perfect patient. But all my efforts were insufficient. I failed. I was not a perfect patient. My body was going to make me understand this in an extreme way.

One night, I woke up as I needed to go to the bathroom, but I was unable to do it alone. Heavy breathing, heart palpitations, abundant sweat, and fear had me lose all contact with reality. I collapsed, tired of this endless marathon. Tenderly, my husband took my hand and accompanied me. It was the first time in my life that I accepted my imperfections. A new beginning. That night, a window opened and a gentle breeze blew in, which brought me a moment of calm. For the first time, I agreed to rest.

Since then, although it brought me luxury and prestige, I have left a professional career path that was incompatible with my values, to embrace a path on which I feel I am making a difference and I do good for others. Instead of doing what people expect from me, I am doing what my heart tells me. My husband says that I have begun to smile again.

Sometimes I return to my prison of perfection, even though I know that happiness is not there. Will it always be a reflex that will accompany me? Maybe. But it does not matter. I have now opened the door of my prison, and I allow myself to leave it more and more often. At each exit, I dream, I fly, I am free! That’s wonderful!

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About the Author | Catherine Guillot

Catherine dreams of social justice and equal opportunities for all. As a college teacher, she is committed to her students’ success and developing their true potential. In 2019, she is realizing a dream: working as a volunteer for the empowerment of women and youth in Vietnam. Catherine usually lives in Montreal, Canada, with her husband, whom she deeply loves.

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4 comments to "Escaping My Prison to Free Myself and Fly"

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    Geneviève Pilon

    Bonjour Catherine, je crois que ce message, cette expérience de vie parlent à de nombreuses femmes et véhicule de l’espoir, mais aussi ce besoin d’écoute et de bienveillance que nous nous devons d’avoir envers nous. Merci pour ce partage où je me reconnais et qui m’interpelle.

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    Catherine Guillot

    Bonjour Genevìeve, merci d’avoir pris le temps de me transmettre ton commentaire. J’apprécie beaucoup. Souvent, nous croyons à tort être seules. En partageant et en échangeant, nous constatons toutefois que nous avons beaucoup en commun et pouvons nous apporter support et force. Ton commentaire contribue grandement à cela! Merci! :)

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    Jean-Charles Vincent

    Thank You for this inner analysis and the force to share without fear, albeit with the knowledge that your ”Fear Factor” might help other. Getting to know oneself is the greatest challenge and a never finished business and a superhuman endeavor. . As Camus once said:
    ””On appelle surhumaines les tâches que les hommes mettent longtemps à accomplir, voilà tout”.
    —- Albert Camus, Les Amandiers (in L’Eté, 1954)
    You manage to ”cross the chasm” and learn to live with it. Never loose faith in yourself, accept that you can make mistake: this is the great lesson on how to think out of the box and get out of the gilded cage.

    I will share this with a friend who is living the same battle everyday and even at 56 she is still learning the cues to the proper attitude when ”the fear dragon” gets moving. Thanks a million