As published in the Woman Express - Sunday Express Magazine, Trinidad and Tobago on April 8th 2012
Feel relieved? Someone needs to remind us right? Yet how often do we measure ourselves against some perfect life that we could never attain? Think. How many ‘shoulds’ are floating around in your head right now? Let me list a few…
I know I SHOULD meditate every day
I know I SHOULD wash those dishes up one time!
I know I SHOULD prepare the night before for work
I know I SHOULD get up a little earlier
I know I SHOULD make more time for my kids
I know I SHOULD go back to school
We read our feel-good magazines and books, we devour the articles in wellness and personal-development blogs, and then we measure our successes against the standard set before us only to come up short. We know what we “should” do. We know what our happy and perfect life SHOULD look like. So why do we struggle to achieve perfection?
BECAUSE WE’RE NOT PERFECT! And that’s wonderful to know because we’re not asked to be. That’s a decision we made on our own. Trust me I know.
I find myself in pursuit of a perfect day- EVERY DAY. Sometimes I manage getting up at the right time, reading something inspirational for one hour, and planning my day and then it’s downhill from there.
I take a phone call that I know I shouldn’t but I’d definitely enjoy, that keeps me detained longer than I need to be and then I check email. And that’s the end of that! For the next hour and a half I am clicking and checking and reading and absorbing. But wait! This was NOT in my plans. I need to prepare the agreement/write the article/prepare for the radio show. OK. OK. Now I am quite flustered and then the voice in my head gets loud “why can’t you just do what you had planned to do? You loser! You could never get it right! Look at Jack, Geoff, Janine…how come they have it together and you don’t? That’s because they completed their University degree and were more disciplined than you – that’s why.”
With all this “head” talk another hour and a half has slipped by. “Ah well, it’s time for lunch. Let me see if I can get back on track after one o’clock.” Of course by now I have the motivation of a car driving on fumes! So instead of ‘trying to get myself back on track’ I call it a day and tell myself that I’ll try again tomorrow. You get the picture? Yes – call me Giselle hamster on the treadmill of my life.
So as I remind myself often – let me remind you – we are not perfect, nor were we meant to be.
But our wrestle with wanting to be perfect isn’t so simple. It isn’t just about the benchmarks and standards. It’s really about our fear of disconnection otherwise known as shame. Speaker and author Brene Brown explains this disconnection best in a talk she gave called “The Power of Vulnerability” – “Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it. What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough,” — which we all know that feeling: “I’m not blank enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.” The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”
We live so much outside of who we are, desperately trying to prove that which we are not. We yearn to be ‘a part of’ so much that we would do just about anything to be accepted into ‘the club.’ We wonder often about what ‘they’ would think. Who the hell is ‘they’? We come home from get- togethers feeling angry, depressed, emotionally drained and weirdly competitive. We spend a tremendous amount of our downtime trying to figure out and anticipate what someone in our group is going to say so we can craft our responses accordingly and project the most perfect image possible.
Have you ever had a situation occur where you felt comfortable enough to share something that you thought you would never let see the light of day. And then right after you shared it the person you shared it with made a disparaging comment and you felt small. And you struggled to make a comeback, to say well it wasn’t EXACTLY like that but with every step forward, your ‘friend’ continued to be condescending until finally she says something like “gosh I didn’t realize this was such a sensitive issue for you. Let’s talk about something else!” Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. That made you mad didn’t it? And then what do you do? That’s right – you go work on becoming perfect so that stuff like that won’t EVER happen again!
There is only ONE you and you’re not perfect but you’re here and not by chance but for good reason. Sure you’re going to mess up and make mistakes and chip your toenails after applying the perfect coat. Yes there will be cobwebs in your house and occasionally dishes will pile up in the sink. And most of all there will remain stuff on your To-Do list that you never seem to get to, but that doesn’t make you a failure does it?
Today, I would like to ask you to give yourself permission to take yourself off the hook. Nobody thinks you need to be perfect but you. And any time you feel overwhelmed by your struggle to be perfect, remember these words by Brene Brown from her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ – “AUTHENTICITY is a daily practice. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the COURAGE to be imperfect, to set boundaries, to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the COMPASSION that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle and connected to each other through a loving and resilient human spirit; nurturing the CONNECTION and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we are. Authenticity demands WHOLEHEARTED living and loving – even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it. “