I recently read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection. The book and the experience of reading it has profoundly changed me. She connected dots of lots of misplaced information in my muddy mind.
I never realized how I had been misinterpreting simply striving to do my best with perfectionism. Brene Brown describes perfectionism:
“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.”
She goes on to say, “Perfectionism is, at it’s core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance…Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it…’What will they think?’ “
Shit. It was like she wrote this for me. When I read those passages, I felt exposed. I hadn’t realized how much of my life was rehearsed, perfected and practiced in order to avoid being judged harshly.
Brene goes on to say that her research shows that perfectionism hampers success. She says that it is often is what leads to depression, anxiety, addiction and many other horrible life impeding things.
Shit! Shit! Shit! Now what?
I have spent everyday since hyper aware of the way I speak to myself – incisive complaining and self-doubt. This has shocked me! I would like to think of myself as a pretty positive person, but these actions are clearly not those of the person I think I am.
The clearest example of this is a few weeks ago (prior to reading Brene’s book) I was at a friend’s business grand opening. She and her husband have opened an amazing business where people paint paintings (Pinot’s Palette - Paradise Valley ). Yes, paint. Lots of people in one room take a lesson with an art instructor and attempt to paint the same painting.
At the opening I was so happy to see so many friends and people I know all here to celebrate their grand opening. We were all set up ready to go. The instructor gives the first instruction – paint the entire canvas black.
Everyone picks up their brush and starts to paint. Not me. I looked around in horror. You want me to do what? I start thinking, “Ah…you didn’t give me enough information…I have never done this before…I will screw it up.” I look around trying to be cool. How are other people doing it? Once I see how others are painting I pick up my brush and begin.
This is exactly what Brene talks about – “I will screw it up.” Is code for, “What will they think?” Oh my goodness! Ya, what would my friends think if I painted a terrible painting? They would think nothing. This was noise in my head.
I have embraced Brene’s pledge, “I am imperfect & I am enough.” It has helped me in so many ways.
This week as I prepared for my morning walk, I looked in the mirror and saw that I was wearing a bright blue tank top and black pants. To this I immediately think, “Oh no. This will not due. You can’t go for a walk in that – black and blue don’t match.”
Not even kidding!
So what did I do? I heard Brene’s words in my head, “I am imperfect & I am enough.” I walked my ass right out the door for my walk. I wasn’t happy, but I kept walking. My thoughts continued, “I wore the wrong underwear – that are now riding up my ass…but ‘I am imperfect & I am enough.’ I might be late for work, but ‘I am imperfect & I am enough.’ I wore the wrong shoes – ‘I am imperfect & I am enough.’”
This went on and on until the sun hit my face. It made me laugh. I thought to myself, “Shut up! Look around! Its gorgeous outside and you are missing it!”
And so I did. It was a marvelous walk. I wasn’t late. My shoes did just fine. And no one gave two shits about my blue tank top and black pants.
I have been forever changed. I am grateful for Brene Brown and her work on shame, vulnerability, her books The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly and the online course I am currently taking. Please do yourself a great kindness and pick these books up as soon as possible, read them and share what you learn.
You can catch Brene’s TedTalks on Vulnerability and Shame below. Take a moment and watch. Beautiful and powerful.
The power of vulnerability
Listening to shame
My finished painting :)