I scroll through my phone like everyone else. I see the world filtered and duckfaced like every other woman does. And sometimes I’m almost convinced that’s real. But it’s not. The curated lives we see every day are fake. The perfect angles, the perfect outfits, the perfect lighting. That’s not reality. What is real are imperfections. What builds character and toughness is struggle. What makes us better and more human is attempting something, coming up short, and then trying it again. But for women the rules seem different. Men get the luxury of being able to specialize. Women are expected to be perfect at everything. Am I good girlfriend? Am I a perfect mom? Am I the best athlete? Am I wearing white after Labor Day? Am I dressed in the right brands? Am I dieting right? Am I manicured, blown-out and tanned? These little constant quests for perfection start pecking away at our attention. Perfect never leaves room for improvement. And perfect never lets us focus on what’s really out there for us to achieve. When we worry about perfection, our bigger goals are sacrificed. We can’t look up, work hard and kick ass. But having the confidence to ignore the perfection around us can be difficult. When I was growing up in North Dakota, before my family moved to Los Angeles, I was a tomboy. I wore jeans and a white T-shirt, but not the sexy kind. I wore it because I loved to run, jump, and play. Dresses got in the way of that. Then we moved to L.A., where I was a complete outsider. I went to a predominantly Spanish-speaking school, and never really fit in. My confidence sank faster than I care to admit. And like most girls, although women rarely talk about it, these feelings came to a boiling point when I stood in front of the mirror, looked at my changing body that I didn’t really recognize anymore, and cried.
I wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t like it.
I wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t like it. That’s when I found judo. When you practice judo, you have to have a partner. Suddenly the quiet girl had to talk or get thrown on her ass. That was a fast and effective lesson in confidence. Not every move I made was perfect, but I practiced a lot. And the world didn’t end when I talked or even yelled. In fact, I got better and people started noticing. Today I have a career built on something that saved me as a young woman. Many women aren’t afforded that opportunity. And when I see little girls rocking their jellies and tutus in the supermarket, I think about the unapologetic confidence I used to have in my jeans and T-shirts. That’s before I started trying to be perfect, and well before I found a passion that embraced my flaws and gave me shots at redemption. I’m not trying to inspire you take up martial arts or be anything you’re not. But there was a time in your life when you didn’t care about being perfect. Maybe you didn’t quite understand the way the world worked then, but you also didn’t care what anyone thought. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that you don’t need to be perfect to be valid. Your flaws — your unsuccessful attempts at greatness or even mediocrity — are real. They make you better. And that’s beautiful because it’s never perfect.