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Perfectionism: The Enemy of Our True Selves

I’ve been a wreck for a week. Shit’s been going down. Old wounds have been triggered and I haven’t felt at all like myself.

 

Mostly, I’ve been gentle and compassionate, done nice things for myself and given myself grace.

 

I’ve also been impatient and judgy. Tick tock. Am I done with this yet? I’ve got a blog to write about authenticity and liberation. I need to polish myself up and get to work.

 

Umm...wait.

 

There it was. I think of my true self only as bright and shiny, pure and joyful. I equate wholeness with happiness, authenticity with "good vibes only."

 

Despite my desire to show up authentically, there are still parts of myself I hide. Parts I don’t treasure or welcome. Parts I’d like to spin-doctor to manage the optics.

 

Life comes with zits; I’m not trying to pretend it doesn’t. I just want some really good concealer. I want to show you only the curated version of my messiness and confusion. I want to package my pain with wisdom and insight, to share it from the safe shore of perspective.

 

I want it to all look and sound good.

 

Authentic, huh?

 

 

Perfectionism

 

When I was dreaming up this blog, I got stuck trying to come up with a name.

 

The blogging course I took hammered the importance of the name. It needed to be creative, impactful, descriptive and rank well for keywords.  

 

There was a perfect name for me, and I was going to find it.  

 

But the more I tried, the more elusive it became. I couldn’t start without a name. I couldn’t begin branding or logos or taglines. I couldn’t pick colors or fonts.

 

I was paralyzed, stopped before I even started.


A friend gently asked, “Is there a way to just start somewhere? Some small step that you can do imperfectly just to begin?”

 

A great suggestion that I was immediately resistant to. No. I wanted the perfect name first.

“Maybe…” I said, hoping she had a better suggestion. (She always has the best suggestions. Like telling me perhaps this very struggle could be the topic of a post. Great idea, Jodie!)

 

And that’s when I realized: I wanted to create a blog about authenticity that was perfect.

 

I wanted perfect writing about being our imperfect selves.


As if you can write about authenticity without being authentic.

 

 

Perfectionism Is a Fancy Word for Fear

 

I’m not your average perfectionist. I don’t care about straight lines or exact measurements. I can’t cut a pan of brownies into even portions. I guesstimate and estimate. (It’s a loosey gooseyness makes perfectionists like my daughter quite uncomfortable. She used to close her eyes when I cut her waffles against the grid lines.)

 

But I am a raging perfectionist about my work. I burden myself with high expectations and a narrow scope for success. I’ll toil over a sentence for an hour only to return it to the original iteration. I will say nothing at all because I didn’t know how to say it perfectly.

 

I tell myself it’s about integrity, that this is what it means to be a serious writer.

 

It’s bullshit. Perfectionism is actually about being a total chicken.

 

The truth is, I fear how I will be perceived. I curate what I say. I check for tone, accuracy, and, of course, mistakes.  

 

(One of my huge fears is having typos in my work of which I have at least one, every time I post, and I scurry to fix it hoping no one has noticed. I’m sure you’ll find one in here. Feel free to let me know.)

 

Perfectionism is a trap I keep falling into. Even when I think I’ve let it go, I’m still operating in its clutches. Searching for the perfect name. The perfect blog post. The perfect string of words to make an idea come alive.

 

Even in writing about being our authentic selves, I sometimes shun my real self in favor of something more…palatable.

 

Perfectionism – also known as fear – makes me too careful, less honest and less real.

 

Much of writing this blog is about walking through this fear of letting people see my imperfection. It is an ongoing self-dare to risk showing up as my true self, zits and all.

 

It’s humbling how hard it is to do. I want so much for my own liberation, but I still want to control what it looks and feels like.


Why Perfectionism Leads to an Inauthentic Self

 

Perfectionism requires us to silence our inner voice, to favor adherence over inspiration and guidelines over intuition. Check all the boxes or it doesn’t count. Do it exactly as required or it’s worthless. Do not go off script. Do not add your flair.

 

The underlying message: follow external mandates instead of internal cues. Safety can be found only by following this established path.

 

Perfectionism leaves no room for self-trust, self-expression or growth. It overvalues outcome over process and leaves no room for becoming. It exalts the 10% of us that is polished and banishes the other 90% that is in-process.

 

But that 90% is our truest self - the living, breathing soul of us. Which means perfectionism and authenticity cannot coexist.


Perfectionism is a pair of pruning shears lopping off our wild branches, reigning us in, restricting our growth.


Perfectionism is the enemy of our true selves.



lush greenery lining a path

 

Allowing Imperfection

 

Would you believe me that once I followed my friend’s advice and just “started somewhere” inspiration started to flow?

 

I picked a name I knew I wouldn’t keep and made a logo I didn’t love. I used it as a placeholder on the backend of my unpublished website just so I could move on. And it worked. Within two days, my blog name (which isn’t perfect, but I love a whole lot) came to me out of the blue.

 

Imperfection isn’t just an inconvenience of being human. It’s not something to begrudgingly tolerate. Imperfection is where the good stuff happens. It’s the belly of possibility, the womb of all ideas, the improv of creative flow.

 

Tim Hiller said, “Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle.”

 

Perfectionism robs us of our beginnings, our origin story, the process of growing into something.

 

My unwillingness to get it wrong (especially where others can see it) chokes my creativity and has me stomping on the seedling babies of my ideas.


plant seedlings growing


We owe it to ourselves to be, wherever and however we are.

 

Does perfectionism prevent you from starting something you want to start? Does it impede your self-expression? Does it make you judge, rather than support and celebrate, yourself?

 

Choosing Authenticity Over Perfectionism

 

Authenticity is being REAL. It's being true to ourselves in whatever moment we are in. Be that sadness, celebration, anger, contentment or trust. Authenticity is about telling the truth to ourselves about ourselves, and being unconditionally allowed in whatever state we are in.

 

When our love for ourselves is conditional, when we only embrace the good-feeling parts of us, we cut ourselves off from own fullness. It’s like mistaking the ocean for only what we can see on the surface of the water.

 

Our authenticity is most challenged when we feel awful. And yet, that’s when it matters most.



Stephen Levine quote: "There are going to be times when you don't know which way is up. And that is one of the more advanced levels of practice, when you can keep your heart open, even to your heart being closed."

 

Imagine what it would feel like to love ourselves just as much when we feel sunshiny good as when we are rainy day blue?


What would it be like to be fully allowed?

 

Loving and caring for ourselves when we are hurting or lost or don’t particularly like ourselves, is the practice of authenticity.


Our authentic selves can be almost anything. They just can't be perfect.

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