Spinach in my teeth
“You know,” a coworker said to me the other day, “when you joined the team I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like you.” I had just flashed her a big grin and asked if I had spinach in my teeth
She shrugged. “I used to see you walking around really fast, looking so serious and busy and so...together.”
“Oh I like you a lot now--you’re not together at all!”
I laughed, and almost cried, because what a gift. We don’t often get to see ourselves the way others do, yet here was a window into how I came across to someone who, up until a few months ago, knew nothing about me.
“What did you think I’d be like?”
She scrunched up her face in thought. “Well, I guess I didn’t think you’d be fun. And I thought you’d expect me to do everything perfectly because you’re so perfect--except it turns out you’re not!”
“Definitely not,” I agreed, finally prying the offending piece of spinach from my molar.
I know I’m not perfect, but hearing from her made me realize that I often still try to act that way. Except it doesn’t serve me. It’s just one more wall I put up between me and the rest of the world. Like the ridiculously large sun hat and dark glasses I wear when I don’t want to talk to anyone at the pool, it signals “Unavailable. Do not approach.”
Turns out I’ve got it all backwards. Being perfect doesn’t make me likable. It doesn’t foster connection. If anything, like with my coworker, it makes people think I’m someone they can’t relate to, or worse--that they wouldn’t want to.
I’ve thought about this conversation with my coworker at least a hundred times since then. And I’ll be honest, I’m still wrestling with what to do about it. My desire to be seen as perfect runs so deep I don’t know that I’ll ever be completely rid of it. In the meantime, though, I’m at least living in awareness, and trying to ask one person every day if there’s spinach in my teeth.
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