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Take the wheel from perfection

Do you chastise yourself when you make a mistake? Do you blame circumstances or other people for your missteps, faulty calculations, errors?

Brené Brown says, "If perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun and fear is the backseat driver."

About fifteen years ago I attended my first retreat with the late (great) Debbie Ford.* There were several hundred people in attendance. The majority of them stayed on campus at the Omega Center in Rhinebeck New York. I did not stay on campus. I rented a hotel room in Rhinebeck which meant that I had to drive a distance on winding country roads to get to the Center.

At the end of the first day, Debbie said to the participants "please don't be late tomorrow morning."

I prided myself on never being late.

So what happened the next morning?

I was late.

As I was driving along the unfamiliar roads, cursing my own stupidity and the unfamiliar landscape, I thought, What will people think of me when I walk in late? I was afraid to feel the shame behind my belief about "lateness." Then I thought, Of course! Of course I'd be late when I was explicitly told not to be late. It was as if Debbie said, "Now don’t be late" just so that I could have this encounter with the part of myself that was secretly desperate for approval for never being late.

Once I recognized what was driving my fear of shame, I was exhilarated because now I could test my assumption that being late was such a gigantic threat to my worth. Was I feeling vulnerable when I walked in? Yes, of course. But I learned in an instant that being late and the disapproval I feared didn't make me feel worthless.

There are parts of ourselves that express themselves in self critical thoughts, blame and confusion. As yourself: Who is driving? Is the driver seeking more approval?

This month, my daughter is graduating high school, I am selling my house, my book is launching, and I will be moving. There are many, many moments during any given day where at least a part of me is afraid of screwing up, being late is just one among many imperfections I will contend with.

But when I slow down and look for the opportunity to recognize what I am afraid of - then I can relax a little.

Every obstacle we encounter, every judgement, every stressor on our path is an opportunity to grow a little.

I missed my Tuesday newsletter to you last week. A part of me did not want to accept that. But, there it was. I let go of my attachment to perfection. And here I am to tell the tale. If I was missed, thank you for noticing. If not, no harm done!

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