Writing is a very creative and cathartic process for me. Rather than pressuring myself to have timed and structured blog posts, it’s one of the very few things in my life I tend to do when the inspiration strikes. In my daily musings, ideas will come into my head, or I’ll hear a quote or saying that leads me to consider how I might turn it into a blog. So, I keep a running list of these ideas – an e-version of the overflowing recipes box your grandmother had (or still has).
In this season of the summer solstice, I find that it’s a time of self-reflection and illumination of things that can be released in order to get closer to emotional freedom. Expressing my reflections and thoughts through my writing is one way I do this. Writing what is rolling around in my head helps me to see deeply held things that may not have been otherwise apparent.
Today, I pulled out that recipe box of ideas and skimmed through the scraps of thoughts, quotes, words of inspiration I have stored for future reference. And I kept coming back to this one:
Accept the imperfection as a human and the war inside yourself changes. You then have the ability to work with your multi- dimensional self in mind, body, spirit to accept who you are and then the burden lifts. You are who you’ve been waiting for.
(I’m sorry to say that I neglected to note the source, so apologies to whomever should have the credit).
Why did my eyes continue to stop on this passage? What is in it that is giving me pause and triggering the voices in my head to write about it? It was that word “imperfection” that kept showing up as bolded letters in my mind’s eye. Why that word? What does it mean to me? What are the emotions that come up when I see it? How do I view it within myself and in others?
One answer that comes is perfectionism and all its trappings has been a struggle for me all my life. In contemplating these questions and what answers come up from the heart and without the left-brain logic, I know that my self-worth, or “multi-dimensional self in mind, body, spirit” is all tangled up in knots and that word is the thread weaving it all together. If don’t operate from the tidy, little box where everything is tucked away in exactitude, then I have failed. I have failed myself and failed in meeting what I perceive as the expectations of others. Then I’m the bad little girl who must fix it until it’s right. “It” being how I look, how I talk, how I do things, how I feel, how I create, how…how…how…anything that is a product of my being or my performance.
In this world where overwhelm and stress are now the norm and not the exception, it gets to be pretty damn hard to maintain this constant state of perfection. In trying to find a way to cope with this pervasive state and create more balance and joy in my life, I’ve been starting to pull at those stubborn knots of the tangled thread to try and untie at least a few of them. In looking at these knots and pondering just how to begin, I heard something that resonated and gave me that “a-ha” moment where it all began to make sense.
I was listening to one of the Ted Talks by Brené Brown and she spoke about this very subject of perfectionism. And the gist of what she said was, “…when perfectionism is in the driver’s seat, shame is often in the passenger seat.”
Dead center, right between the eyes. There it was. The start of the thread. Waving at me saying, “look – here I am. I’ve been waiting for you. Now what are you going to do about it?”
Wow. Ouch. Yeah…so just what AM I going to do about it? Why shame? What connection does it have to the constant drive for perfectionism that is the foundation of my very being?
I took a pause to consider this. What I realized is that shame is very connected to judgment. Self-judgment, but more profoundly, judgment by others of you as a person – who you are, what you do and how you do it. Ah…cue the knots…
Now we have this tangled mess of trying to be perfect while rising to the expectations of others, then we fail to be or perform to that level, then we are judged and then finally feel shame in our failure.
Consequently, we raise the bar. “I’ll try harder. I’ll be better. I’ll do it exactly ‘right’ next time. I can do this.” And so it goes. Every time we raise that artificial bar to meet the expectations of others rather than staying true to our own bar without that influence of outside opinion or societal definitions, we set ourselves up for that failure. And then we either shut down and stop trying or we tie more knots of shame around us and become these creatures of constant high stress and anxiety, chasing our own tails to create more perfection in our lives in order to mitigate feeling that shame.
This also helps us avoid self-examination of why we continue this vicious cycle because the constant busy-ness of making everything perfect subverts that shame to a place where there is no time to look at it. It gives a false sense of, “See? All is good with me because I’m perfect. I’m working very hard at doing and being flawless.”
Sadly, this is not an exception in our society – it is now the norm for most of us. This is why self-help, coaching, how-to platforms are skyrocketing in popularity. We are all trying to find a way out and how to untangle this mess of knots we have so beautifully woven around ourselves.
Unfortunately, many of these approaches look at examining the “problem”. You are asked to name your problem then pull out the book or subscribe to the YouTube channel that tells you just how to fix addiction, anxiety, being overweight, sleeplessness, struggle with parenting, work stress, and so on. Guess what this does? It puts you in a constant state of being in the problem. It’s counter-intuitive to working toward the life you truly want where the problem doesn’t exist.
Instead, I advocate for talking about and exploring the solutions, the desired life-outcome, the preferred future. Rather than focus on the problem, then give you a prescripted plan (which may or may not be within your realm of desire or ability), we instead work together and investigate what that preferred future looks like to you. While considering problems or issues does have its place, when we operate from only that realm and look to someone to tell us how to fix it, guess what? We are right back to that tenacious cycle of expectation-strive for perfection-failure-shame. Because when someone else tells you or directs you on how to fix your problem, you are now in the realm of the expectations of that other person. And you can become defensive, closed off, and perhaps eventually shut down to the point where change cannot happen.
So, let’s accept our imperfection together – let’s each tell ourselves that we have within us the ability to find that path back to the desired life we all dream of. We don’t have to be perfect in our rediscovery of that. We get to set our own bar without others dictating where that is. We no longer define our self-worth by the measure or the expectations of others. We can hold our heads up knowing that in each and every moment we are doing the very best that we can. And there is no shame in that – it is good enough.
Then the knots can start to loosen. The ties that bind start to fall away. We see freedom because by removing perfection from the driver’s seat, shame can exit from the passenger side.
If you desire or need a little help to shove that passenger and driver out of your life, l would love to be that person to help you open those doors – to assist you in rediscovering your multi-dimensional self that has the strength and ability to lead you back home to the YOU who has been waiting all along.