My He(ART)-Full Life

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Letting go of..."perfect"

(Letting Go Takes Courage, mixed media)

"Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in"
(from the song "Anthem" by Leonard Cohen)

Dr Brene Brown has a week long Perfect Protest going on...and I decided to join! She just wrote a book The Gifts of Imperfection (it's on my reading list) that speaks of developing courage, authenticity and living to our full potential. She says "Being our best selves is about cultivating the courage to be vulnerable, authentic, and  imperfect. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It's that simple. Perfection is not about healthy striving or being our best, it's how we protect ourselves."
For me, my late teens and early twenties were the absolute worst time of striving to be perfect. In retrospect, it was absolutely devastating to my psyche; I felt like I was in a prison of my own making...perfectionism. This is what I know about striving to be perfect:
1. it alienates you from that which is raw, honest, authentic, lively, human
2. it cuts off a huge learning opportunity. If we never try or fail, how can we learn and grow?
3. it leads to making fear based decisions (which are never really great choices)
4. there is no such thing as "perfect"; it is chasing after illusion
5. the more "perfect" I tried to appear, the worst I felt inside
6. perfectionism stems from shame, not fully loving and accepting ourSELVES
7. we are not made to be "perfect"
8. we think that perfection can protect us, buoy us up or make us feel worthy but it has the opposite effect
9. thinking we have to be "perfect" sets us up for unhappiness and feelings of inadequacy...low self worth
10. it put a huge weight around my potential, creativity and humanity; it kept me trapped in a dark place
11.  I was unable to connect and relate to others in a meaningful and authentic way
12. it made my false self very strong and shrunk my authentic self

(a pic of me showing the keloid scar I have on my chest-no covering it up!)

There were so many things I didn't even try for fear of failing, so many things I left unsaid ("what would they think?") and so many people I allowed to hurt me. It didn't help that my pseudo tribe ("family" and community) was all about putting on appearances. There was no authenticity to be found and vulnerability was looked upon as a weakness. It look me a very long decade or so of soul searching, mending my soul and fortifying my spirit...finding out who I am and living to the fullness of my capacity.
At this time in my life I can embrace my frailties, imperfections and flaws and know that people who don't accept me as I am don't need to be a part of my life. I hope I can pass these gifts down to Tara so that she can fully accept all parts of herSELF. In letting go of "perfect" I can accept the perfection of...imperfection!

How about you...can you let go of "perfect"?


Carola Bartz said...

Yay to imperfection!!! And yes, letting go takes courage, but it feels so good as well.
I love Brene - did you read her book "I thought it was only me"? Brilliant. Love your sign!

lee said...

I have been trying to let go of perfect it is a work in progess...

Lis said...

I love your list ... especially the last line "it shrunk my authentic self." I am inspired by everyone participating in this protest!

As a mother, I find it painful to see the buds of perfectionism coming out in my daughter. I don't know if this is human nature, part of school and being a social being ... but i've been fighting back. I look at my behavior and wonder where the stain of perfectionism may be oozing out and I just don't know. I guess what matters is trying to reinforce the notion that perfect cuts us off from learning, living, and growing.

And bravo for sharing your scar ... our scars are part of our stories, they mark our journeys, our triumphs and challenges. i have two small scars on my forehead that i consider my badges of courage :)

xo Lis

Wini said...

Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story! I can relate, being a perfectionist myself. Agree its more healthy and important to be authentic and real. Its liberating to let go of perfectionism! I'm still in the process. Wini xo

Kelly said...

What a GREAT post! I might copy it down and hang it on my wall. Nice to meet you. :)

Avus said...

I find that age has significantly blurred "perfection" and this makes life so much easier and more enjoyable. The young feel they must strive for it and it takes wise maturity to realise that it is not only unobtainable, but undesirable.
(Anyone who quotes Cohen to advantage will always get my vote, BTW)

mansuetude said...

Have heard Only God is perfect-- however one chooses to believe, I am not capable. That is a good thing. A forgiving thing.

A beautiful post. I too have scar from surgery. I forget it's there.

peggy aplSEEDS said...

i have enjoyed my visit to your blog and this post reminded me of the word "Wabi-sabi" - "the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete."