Perhaps it's fitting that I wrote this post at the end of the year and am finally posting at the beginning of the year. As this crazy and, at times, awful year has officially come to a close, I am looking forward to embracing my intentions for 2018, and one of those is ending perfection in my life
I used to refer to myself as a perfectionist. Now, I'm doing my best to take it out of my vocabulary wardrobe. Why do I want to stop using the word perfection? Let’s just dive right in: When we strive for perfection, we put our value on our doing, instead of our innate value as a person. A perfectionist must have everything just so in order to be considered worthy. That was/still is me. This is not to say I don't want to do the best job I can possibly do. It's actually freeing myself to say if I make a mistake, or if I don't wrap that package perfectly, it doesn't define who I am as a person. We put so much strain on identity today. Knowing yourself. People quit jobs to get to know themselves better (looking at me here). But in this search of ourselves, we can find that we don't know the answers and that for a while, who we are has been wrapped up in what we've done. And being so closely linked with what we've done means that we forget that just being a person means we are valuable, and it has nothing to do with doing.
This is probably one of the hardest lessons I'm learning right now. I moved out of New York to get out of fashion and into wellness. And where did I land job-wise? Retail. At a bookstore and a clothing store. I very much enjoy both of these jobs, but it's not wellness. I've been so wrapped in my doing as my definition. If I didn't do something well enough, perform at the highest possible level, it meant I wasn't good enough. And this is for all things, not just my work. If I'm not the best friend possible. If I don't remember to call often enough. If I watch too much TV and don't do the things I feel I should be doing instead. The list could go on...
This post is probably for me as much as it is for you. This is the reminder that nothing I do gives me worth. In Christianity, there's an ongoing discussion of faith versus works. While many of you might not ascribe to this way of thinking, that discussion is similar. The Apostle Paul writes that nothing we can do can lead to salvation because Christ has already done it all. We must simply believe. James writes that without works our faith is dead. Contradictory and yet speaking the same language. Nothing I do will make me good enough, but it is the outpouring of who I am innately that leads to the way I operate, act, and do. I truly believe that when we stop striving, and start accepting ourselves as worthy and valuable, the doing will come much more naturally. It won't take all of our energy. It won't burn us out. It will help us feel full and alive and free. It is stepping into the flow of life by allowing yourself to be completely you.
I’ve been reading some of Brené Brown’s work lately, especially The Gifts of Imperfection, and it could not be more timely. Her work around shame and fear and true belonging go hand-in-hand with embracing your most authentic self and shedding the idea of perfection. She says, “The stories of our struggles are difficult for everyone to own, and if we’ve worked hard to make sure everything looks ‘just right’ on the outside, the stakes are high when it comes to truth-telling. This is why shames loves perfectionists—it’s easy to keep us quiet.” The shame of not being who you think you should be or doing what you think you should be doing can hold you back from experiencing the true joy of life when we allow ourselves to just be.
I have no idea what this looks like for me long term, honestly. Right now, it's been telling myself "I love you" or "I accept you" as often as I remember. It's also been opening myself up to doing things that feel good instead of forcing myself to do the things I feel I should. Sometimes that's yoga. Sometimes that's baking cookies and eating four of them before I put them away (don't worry, they're moderately healthy). I could talk about this topic forever and bring in so many more examples of the way we've promoted doing over being (#hustle, anyone?). Regardless, I'm hoping to have a better 2018 through ending the search for perfection in my life and embracing exactly who I am in this moment, perceived flaws and all.
As Brené would suggest, this wading through the “swamp of the soul” to the other side of worthiness is best done in community. Will you join me in challenging yourself to stop doing and start being this next year? What would that look like for you?