Awhile back, a colleague asked me to speak in a series she was creating. She called it Women Daring Greatly: a 10-monthly Meetup for women, focusing on Brené Brown’s 10 Guideposts for living a wholehearted life.
I loved my topic: “Cultivating Creativity, Letting go of Comparison.”
I said Yes.
What a rich topic!
I had my own built-in and well-practiced self-judgement and comparison feature, so I recognized my opportunity to jettison some of this while developing the talk.
Self-judgment is a perfect strategy for staying safe. It’s been my go-to strategy over the years. Expand it to perfectionism in general, and there’s a reason to hold back from launching most anything.
Preparing for my talk for my colleague became my curriculum for seeing a pattern in a new way.
I picked up a copy of the book Daring Greatly. But I discovered I actually needed The Gifts of Imperfection, where Brene provides the 10 guideposts. I hadn’t read her work before that. When I started reading The Gifts of Imperfection, things began to click for me.
I remembered something about my first date with Larry (who later became my husband and still is). He showed up at our designated meeting spot with his Fisher MountainBike and a copy of a book just for me: The Perfectionist Predicament. “I thought this might be helpful to you,” he said. I was thrilled we were meeting for a date. I was not so thrilled about his diagnosis, though! And on our first date! I ignored the topic of the book and the diagnosis at that moment.
It wasn’t until I read Brené’s guideline #2, “Cultivating Self-Compassion, Letting Go of Perfectionism” that I really ‘got it’ what a deep thing this perfectionism thing can be. Brené told the story of a woman who’d contacted her, enthusiastic to join her book read-along group. This woman told Brené, “My friends and I know we struggle with perfectionism, but we don’t claim shame.”
Don’t claim shame?
That got my attention. What does shame have to do with this? What does it mean to claim shame?
I haven’t owned perfectionism – and certainly not shame …
“What we disown owns us.”
Who wants to own or acknowledge shame? No way! It’s dirty, vulgar, to be hidden, ignored and despised! Not gonna claim that!
For me, not resolving issues around perfectionism and shame was inadvertently having me repeat stuck patterns again and again.
It’s quite simple. Shame is part of being a human being. It gets into our lives, one way or another. I don’t think there’s a human being alive that doesn’t have some form of this in there somewhere. And accepting it and relaxing about it leads to transformation. Brené says as a result, we get to experience three fine gifts: courage, compassion and connection.
So you could say, as a result of my speaking gig, I’m a lot more okay with this shame thing now. I see that shame is the basis for perfectionism. I realize I’m not the only one who deals with it. Also, I appreciate that it’s way more fun to be imperfect and accept it. We’re more interesting when we’re not perfect.
All in all, quite a liberating experience!