Where Perfectionism Exists, Shame is Always Lurking

My good friend and I were taking our lunchtime stroll when I mentioned how my recent 3 week cough had gotten me to the point where if I coughed too long and hard—I peed a little. What’s that about, I pondered, since I had a C-section birth. Is it just typical aging? I’m only 40!

“They say we are supposed to be doing those kegel things,” my friend noted.

“Yeah, in the car at red lights or whatever,” I said, “I never remember to do those things.” Why can’t I remember to do things, I thought silently.

My friend sighed and unknowingly answered, “There are just too many things to do!”

I agree. There are too many things to do. And it’s pretty overwhelming when you insist on trying to do all of them.

Recycle or prepare to see your face on the wall of awful citizens,
Don’t use too much electricity and get those green lightbulbs, too.
Don’t eat too much sugar. Or carbs. Or meat. Or dairy. Or fat.
Eggs will ruin your life. Oh nevermind, eggs are awesome.
Drink tea but not coffee..oh wait coffee adds years to your life..who knew.
Walk 5 minutes every hour or come to terms with an early death.
Use sunscreen and make sure it has SUV protection..oh I mean UVA.
Get teacher gifts but no more apple items for pete’s sake.
Moisturize. Exfoliate. Condition. Floss.
Use glass, not plastic everyone knows plastic contains BPA.
Eat organic. You know, if you want to live and all.
Keep your photos archived, backed up and printed if you want to be a good mom.
Get your oil changed every 3000 miles ok how about every 5000.
Do your breast exams or it will be your fault when you get cancer.
Change your air filter do you want your kid to get asthma?
Clip the cat’s nails or you’re going to suffer the consequences.
Lift weights because you know you lose muscle mass every year after 40.
Read or stay completely ignorant.
Don’t watch too much TV because then you’re just wasting your life.
Keep up your gratitude journal because people who journal have happier lives.
Back up your files and if you don’t, your hard drive will definitely go bad.
Update your iOS if you want to be in the know.
Rotate your tires or you’ll have no one to blame but yourself for that blowout.
Cut the grass or the neighbors will think you’re bad lazy people.
Take these vitamins but not these or these, but yes these, no not those, these.
Register for PTA but only if you’re a good parent.
Remember birthdays or just be a thoughtless sucky person.
Meditate or just have that heart attack instead.
Drink 8 glasses of water and no diet soda doesn’t count.
Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

“You don’t have to do all of those things.” —People who live what must be a wonderful and peaceful existence.

Yeah. But.

Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.” —Brené Brown

Nailed it! That’s exactly how I operate.

I have often been criticized for being bossy, uptight and wanting things “just so”. Part of that I attribute to a bit of a roller coaster home life. I had no control then so, in order for me to feel ok as an adult, I need to have as much control as possible now.

But the other part, I had not considered. The not wanting to be judged. Not wanting anyone to tell me I messed up. Not wanting to look like I don’t have a handle on things. Because if I have a handle on things, then that means I am worthy and I am good enough for people to want me around. I am worth spending of their time and energy.

I know I am not alone in these feelings.

How many of us think:
If I don’t lose this last 20lbs, I am clearly not datable. If I don’t get these photo albums made, I won’t have any proof that I love my child. If I don’t remember a to ask my friend about their surgery, I am a self involved loser. If I forget to get back to a colleague, clearly I am incapable of handling my job. If I have a car wreck, it must mean I am a half wit. If I don’t play that game with my child, I am a terrible parent.

Brené talks about the usual “I am enough” type things, but what she says about permission slips caught my attention. She said a lot times, in order to stop beating herself up about things, she has to write permission slips for herself. I give myself permission to _______________.

I give myself permission to:
Be lazy.
Cry.
Take a break.
Let things go.
Be too tired to finish.
Not read a book.
Watch trash TV.
Slip up and yell.
Forget things.
Not be in the mood to deal with certain things all the time.
Let go of guilt.
Be ok with knowing I did my best.
Just get by sometimes.
Be silly.
Not sweat the small stuff.
Complain.

We are supposed to live in the moment. But plan for our future. And also learn from our past. Let’s give ourselves permission to do all or none of these things any time we damn well please.

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