"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." Brene Brown, PhD
You know you’re not perfect, right? You’re not struggling to be above reproach or beyond criticism. I know you’re not like these people who study English/Spanish or any foreign language for 20 years and never speak a word of it because they’re waiting to get it down perfectly before trying. Right? You do realize what happens to us perfect moms, perfect sons and perfect wives?
It’s not a pretty picture.
It’s a funny thing. We know we can’t be perfect, and yet we fear criticism and judgment soooo much that we distort ourselves into these highly uncomfortable weird pretzel shapes so that nobody can say anything negative about us. And God forbid we ask someone in a position to help us, actually do so. They could say "no."
I my case, I focused all my "perfection" on being the perfect wife so that my husband would never leave me. The problem was, that in the process of being "perfect," I became Ms. Doormat Without a Preference and With a Ton of Smoldering Resentment. You know the ending to that story. I am now a happy and highly-imperfect wife. It’s a lot more relaxed this way.
Here’s where Plato comes in. Plato said (it is said because Plato didn’t actually write down anything,) that each human person would naturally seek these 4 ultimate values: Beauty, Goodness, Truth and Justice.
No matter which age or culture, people prefer to look nice, however "nice" is defined. Cowards are never venerated. Our heroes are always the good guys, regardless of what kind of person is playing the villain.There is something in the human heart that craves perfection and yet can never attain it.
Yet I think that there is some point where our attraction to our ideals becomes a place to hide from criticism and judgment. It becomes a moving away from what is not wanted, instead of a moving toward something highly desired.
You could also say this fear of judgment paralyzes people like this:
A fear of failure keeps you from launching that new business venture on the side or moving to that place you’ve always wanted to live.
A fear of rejection keeps you from veering off the conventional path of your profession or playing outside the approved repertory.
A fear of looking really stupid keeps you from sharing the jokes you made up. Or composing that piece, or painting that picture, or trying that new sauce.
A fear of being mocked keeps your preferences hidden from everyone so much that you nearly forget how much you love hot sauce on your scrambled eggs. (Or whatever.)
A fear of hurting someone’s feelings keeps you from speaking what you really want to say to someone. (Until it comes out the wrong way.)
You know all this. I’m just reminding you. Write down all those preferences before you totally forget that you had them. Could be for an all-white (or all black?) bedroom, for Dries van Noten clothes (even if they’re off budget,) a hankering to see Thailand, doing nothing on Saturdays, hot yoga classes, hardwood floors, tulips, Rice Crispy treats and dark chocolate M&Ms. Write them ALL down.
Today is a good day to live a little on the wild side;let us know what daring and bodacious thing you do/write/eat/hear/plan!
Dr. Brene Brown, an expert on shame and authenticity has a book coming out in the next couple of weeks. It’s called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Really Are. Just saying.