A LESSON IN LETTING GO OF PERFECTION

All you perfectionists out there, raise your hands… Ah, I thought so. I’m in very good company.

I’m not talking about pushing ourselves or challenging ourselves to bring out our best effort. Many successful people are excellent at walking that knife edge. I’m talking about when we slip on the knife and the dark side of expecting perfection from ourselves leads to daring nothing.

 

PERFECTION DISSECTED

This is how perfectionism works me over… I’ve been writing about and promising to share my vision/feelingsboard with you since before the end of last year. And I still haven’t done it.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. I’ve been so busy with work (blessed with work) that I simply didn’t have enough hours in the day to get it done; and
  2. I feel like I’ve let you down because I haven't done what I said I would.

The perfectionist in me won’t let me do a half-assed job just to get it done. It needs to be really, really good because you’ve waited so long. I need to do all the work of figuring out my goals for 2016 before I do the feelingsboard BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT MUST BE DONE.

 

EXPLORE THE DEEPER REASONS BENEATH THE EXCUSES

Just like in a Writing From the Heart practice, my first excuse isn’t necessarily what’s really going on. When I wrote the words in the opening of this blog, several phrases stood out for me. And when that happens in a writing practice we know there’s something juicy there that can take us deeper if we ask ourselves the Go Deeper Question, “What do I mean by…”

What do I mean by, “I feel like I’ve let you down because I haven’t done what I said I would?”

 

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR INNER DIALOGUE

Could it be true that you are actually waiting with baited breath to see what I (a stranger to most of you) want to feel in 2016? Highly unlikely. Do any of you out there even remember a blog post I wrote a month ago?

The only person I’ve let down is me. How have I let myself down? I’ve been extremely busy for sure, but I’ve also been avoiding moving forward to creating goals so I can complete my feelingsboard. Goals make me feel icky inside. What if I don’t meet my goals? Worse, what if I meet the goals and fail? Ah, there it is…

What do I mean by “It needs to be really, really good because you’ve waited so long?”

It needs to be really, really good because I want you to be impressed by my writing ability because sometimes I still feel like a big fat faker. And dammit, I want you to like me.

 

JUST BECAUSE IT ISN’T PERFECT THAT DOESN’T MEAN IT ISN’T DAMNED GOOD

Perfectionism keeps us from engaging in challenging experiences. Because it lowers our ability to take risks, perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation.

The thing is, it’s okay that my feelingsboard will never be perfectly done because I’m a work in progress. Perfection means we’ve reached the point where there’s nothing further to do. Where’s the challenge in that? But, I also recognize that I do need to do a really good job of it – for me – not for anyone else – because I AM worth the effort.  

I want to take the time to explore how feeling FULL, SENSUOUS, INSPIRED, OPENHEARTED, and THANKFUL would work in all the areas in my life. What are the things I can do to make that happen?

Oh, and there is just a little bit of fear that I may have to change in order to meet my goals. Change is scary, even if the change is positive... 

 

REMOVE THE WORD SHOULD FROM YOUR VOCABULARY

What do I mean by “I need to do all the work of figuring out my goals before I do the feelings board BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT MUST BE DONE?”
The Queen of Hearts, from Disney's Alice in Wonderland

The Queen of Hearts, from Disney's Alice in Wonderland

I could have used the word should here but, MUST is Queen Kathy speaking. It’s a command. Sometimes Queen Kathy can be like the Queen of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland. “Off with your head!” she will decree when she’s not being listened to or anyone dares to contradict her. That side of my inner queen is showing herself less and less, but I’m actually grateful for even that part of her because she has shown me that I’m worthy of respect. We all are.

 

SHOULDING IS SHAMING

My good friend and mentor EagleSpirit has said many, many times in her Facebook posts and in her beautifully written blog, “Stop shoulding all over yourself!”

Shoulding is a way to keep ourselves in lack mentality. It’s the battle cry of the inner critic. It’s the voice of our parents who projected their own feelings of unworthiness onto us. It’s the voice of that teacher who made us feel stupid. And because we use it on ourselves, we often use it on others to project our feelings of not being good enough onto them. My back gets up when someone uses should on me, and I am working on catching myself when I use it on others. Give it a try if you want to raise your awareness and banish the shoulds (notice I didn’t say, you should give it a try).

 

FORGIVE THOSE WHO DON’T MEET YOUR RIDICULOUSLY HIGH STANDARDS — INCLUDING YOURSELF

Uh… read the sections on shoulding above. It’s all there.

You know what the worst part about being a perfectionist is for me? It’s how unforgiving I am. Does that resonate with you at all? Except, isn’t it the hardest thing ever to forgive ourselves? The way I talk to myself inside my head can be toxic. Try this… The next time you become aware of how nastily your inner critic is speaking to you, remember that voice is YOU. YOU are talking to that little child inside yourself that’s so in need of your love, she acts out. Would you talk to a child standing before you that way? Can you see the hurt in her eyes she is trying so hard not to show? That is YOU. Don't you think she’s been through enough in her life? Ease up already…

I know a lot of you will roll your eyes at the navel gazingness of the concept of The Inner Child. It’s so 1980s, right? But, I am putting it out there that she is the key to letting go of all the hurt, the pain, the anger, and the defiance. Stop punishing her and start treating her with respect. Start protecting her, as you would a child you love. She deserves to feel safe and nurtured as much as any child.

(Incidentally, for the men out there who are reading this, replace she with he, because he deserves to feel safe and nurtured too.)

Hells, let her or him out to play and have some fun on a regular basis! She’ll/he’ll be much happier for it, and so will you.

 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Many times when we criticize or judge ourselves we feel isolated. It seems as though we are the only one in the world with that particular flaw.

And yet, we are all imperfect. We all suffer. And therefore, we’re all connected by our shared imperfections. One of the wonderful outcomes of having self-compassion and kindness for ourselves is our enhanced sense of belonging, the feeling that we are all in this together. So, the next time you’re looking in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, or you’re hearing that critic inside your head chastising you for not being good enough, remember that you’re an integral part of the flawed, wonderful, wounded, miraculous tribe we call humanity.

 

REMEMBER YOU ALREADY KNOW THAT WRITING FROM THE HEART WORKS EVEN THOUGH YOUR WRITING ISN’T PERFECT.

One of the basic tenets of Writing From the Heart is that our writing is perfect just as it is because it captured where we were in a moment of time. Writing From the Heart isn’t about good writing, it’s about good listening. And as we become more relaxed and more forgiving of ourselves, we become more creative, our own unique writing voice rises to the surface, and our writing comes from the depths of our hearts. It’s a beautiful thing.

Do you think, perhaps, other areas of our lives will also work better if we let go of this ridiculous myth of perfection?