On paper, I’ve lived the perfect life. I’ve always had everything together. I got great grades in school. I married an amazing guy from college. We bought a beautiful house. And, in 2008 I became a mom! Of twins!

I was so excited and blessed for this privilege. The first few years of being a mom are kind of a blur between sleepless nights with our twins to documenting every “first” in our new life. Nothing could have prepared me for how amazing life could be, but also how difficult life could be.

In 2012, we had another daughter. Everything. Was. Perfect.

It was the life that I had always imagined that I would have, and I fully embraced my new “Mommy” role.

I poured every ounce of me into my children. Partly because I love them, of course. But, partly to ignore all of the other past and present issues that I had going on in my life. I used my children to keep myself busy enough to avoid my problems.

But eventually, the avoiding caught up with me, and in the spring of 2014, I finally cracked and had a full-out, legit breakdown.

Recovering Perfectionist

I used to think that being perfect was, well…. perfect.

Until the point of my breakdown, I had used every coping mechanism out there to hold everything together. I rationalized, minimized, and suppressed. I cleaned up any and all messes to make everything look perfect on the outside.

I never wanted anyone to see the real me. I was someone who was not quite perfect. Someone who struggled with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and was constantly worried what others thought about me. My self worth depended on approval and validation from others, and if I didn’t get it, I would be devastated.

But, I became a master at hiding all of this.

And then, that one spring day when I woke up I was literally shocked to what I had found.

I had come to the realization that my life wasn’t perfect. And, my problems weren’t just going to go away on their own.

It was like I had experienced every trouble in my life all in one moment, and I couldn’t hide behind the perfectionism anymore.

I can’t really explain it other than that I had an awakening.

My truth had been revealed to me. And, I had no choice but to deal with my issues. People were going to know the truth about me, but I got to the point where the pain of staying the same was worse than the fear of change.

It was simultaneously the hardest and best thing that I’ve ever gone through in my life.

Giving myself permission to be me

Avoiding my problems actually caused them to get worse, not better. I might have tried to forget about them, but they didn’t forget about me.

We are all familiar with the saying, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

Well, that was my life. Running as fast as I could, but I couldn’t hide anymore.

Constantly seeking approval from others made me get to the point that I didn’t even know who I was anymore and what I wanted in life.

This all led to me answering a call from a friend telling me that I needed to go to counseling.

My breakdown forced me to begin my journey of intense personal development. I went through counseling, coaching, I read dozens of self-help books, began exercising, meditation, and overall learning how to take care of myself and make myself a priority again.

Finding myself became an obsession.

At the end of my time with my counselor, he told me that when I first came in to see him, I looked like a deer in headlights.

I was in a state of shock and fear back when I first met with him.

But, the process of finding myself, and more importantly accepting myself, brought me from a place of looking like a deer in headlights to having the piercing eyes of a woman who is unstoppable.

I took everything off my plate and I started fresh.

I reinvented myself.

I’ve lost some friends along the way, but I’ve gained some new ones too. I stopped doing some of things that I thought I loved. And, I found new activities to love that benefited my family and I even more.

I became determined to end the cycle of abuse and depression in my family so that it never even comes close to my three daughters.

Now, I’m on a mission to tell others that they are enough. Period.

If you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated, I understand.

I understand because I was there.

But, there is hope.

Embracing the imperfection

As it turns out, having a breakdown back in 2014 was a critical turning point in my life.

I’ve learned so many valuable lessons in the past couple of years. Things like building meaningful relationships, taking time for myself, learning to be free from the need of approval from others, and creating a life that I am excited about every morning when I wake up.

Having a “perfect” life on the outside means that you forfeit authentic relationships. It means that you say yes to things that you don’t really want to do. It means that you are actually sacrificing the present for the unpredictable future.

So, let’s come out from hiding and embrace the crazy, messy life.

Let’s live imperfectly.

PS — Have you taken the Brave & Bold challenge yet? Your life is waiting.

Originally published at www.bridgettepetrino.com on October 23, 2016.

Originally published at medium.com