Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"There Is A Crack In Everything. That Is How The Light Gets In"

   Another week of class begins. I have a little saying I'm borrowing, with a personal improvisation.

      I shall be saying this many times this week as we tackle the subject of perfectionism. Someone surely has heard me say, "I am not a perfectionist". I believed that until Brene Brown started defining terms.
    "Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism 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 a shield. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight. Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance."
   I witnessed this belief in action years ago as my college roommate launched a program of having "perfect days". I watched her frustration and self- doubt as time and again she failed at something and thus had an imperfect day. As an observer it looked crazy. But, most of us act and live in ways to minimize blame, judgement, and shame. For example, I am and have been a martyr about the housework. I do the cooking, cleaning, washing, so don't mess with me. Some years ago, my husband started doing the wash on Saturdays. My twenty ton shield took this action on his part as an attack on my role. Was he telling me that I was doing a poor job so he had to pick up the slack? I know what you are thinking. She is crazy! Let him do the wash already. But perfectionist actions can't see accurately. They are not motivated by wholehearted living. It took time for me to see his efforts as wholehearted because I was protecting my position as a homemaker to avoid blame and judgement. You will be happy to know that he does all the washing, folding, and putting away without being asked or without my irritation. It has nothing to do with my worth but everything to do with wholehearted help.
  As I sail this sea of the gifts of imperfection, I do value them so much more. What are the gifts? Courage, compassion, and connection make such uncomfortable yet life affirming rewards for opening the doors to our imperfect selves.

   Along this journey, I will open my sails to self-kindness, mindfulness, and the knowledge of the common humanity of my imperfect self. Now, on to a very emotional assignment. I have to find two pictures of me at a time when I could have used some compassion. A time when I was struggling and needed self-kindness. Who takes pictures at those events? There are, however, pictures that were taken around the approximate time of those events. I see them on my desk and know it will take some effort to look back without judgement and blame. 

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