The Crippling Pursuit of Perfection

What is perfection really?  It is a stubborn mistress that we court, but are never quite found good enough for the Ball.  Perfectionism is different from striving to be better, because that is a competition with ourselves.  Perfectionism is more about proving/convincing to yourself and others that you are good enough. It’s a stifling and oppressive way to live life.  It is often much safer to not go for it, and say I am not going to even bother because it won’t be good enough for insert here (usually yourself when you really dissect the reason).  The threat of rejection and disappointment are far greater than the reward of showing the progress of discovery.  This is some of the most self-destructive things people can do to themselves, not including bodily harm.  The void of rejection catapulted my self-esteems issues even further because I didn’t think I was even worthy of presenting my skills if it wasn’t perfect.

barriers-to-love

Self-Pressure
Perfectionism is like having to pee in the middle of the night.  Stay with me here, I agree it’s an odd analogy.  You are slightly uncomfortable with the pressure, but you are so warm and cozy in your bed you hate to get up.  You’d much rather stay under the safety of the blanket until it becomes too much and you give in.  Except there is no safety blanket, and eventually you choose to show yourself and your talents to the terrifying world.  Or you pee in the bed, and shrink into self-loathing.

Take this entry for example, I had so many good ideas and lines when I started the concept, but I can’t think of a single one.  And they were good. You know what happened to those ideas I had five minutes before writing this?  I said to myself, “ooo, I like where this is going.  Let me get downstairs and get settled into writing mode before starting to write this entry.” POOF, gone.  I could have written them down where I was, but I didn’t.  I am going to publish this anyway to prove a point because this is an important topic for me.

Judgment
Perfectionism isn’t really about presenting your perfect work.  It is using it to hide behind your excuses, self-doubt, and flaws so people don’t know your vulnerabilities and insecurities.  To have your “best” self always on display, scared of being judged of not being good enough is a crippling mindset that weighs heavily on every decision one makes.  Every decision leads back to “am I good enough to reveal this?”  It’s much easier to show something that you believe is your best effect and have them bring judgment, than it is to show a work in progress and have it ripped to shreds (e.g. first draft of a paper).  It’s the same with my Arbonne business, photography, writing, paddling, and now art.   I used to get ashamed if I swam (it’s where you fall out of your boat in a rapid) while paddling, but it has a become a source of pride because it means I tried something and pushed myself.  Fail your way forward.

Roy and I hitting a rock - hard - in the rapid. Good times. Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Roy and I hitting a rock – hard – in the Cucumber Rapid on Yough River.  Photograph taken by Ohiopyle Adventure Photography. We kept going.

Self-Validation
The projects don’t have to be physical in nature; they can be emotional as well.  Or the most vulnerable of all, when it is the combination of both.  The vulnerability of art for the world to see, which is always an express of an emotion of some kind, oftentimes gives me the most pause in sharing it.  And being completely vulnerable with all of you, my latest self-discovery is how much I like to doodle.  I like drawing the lines, the shapes, and all of it coming together to make something kind of beautiful in its own unique way.  Art is terrifying to me, so this is a huge discovery.

doodle

One of the hardest things I have worked on in the last 4.5 years is to make an effort to kick my self-judgment to the curb.  It means you have to confront yourself, which is another entry altogether and discover some of your inner demons.   Be real with those closest to you, and I was surprised by the outcome of this.  In my experience, I discovered those who truly love me for who I am becoming and embracing my true self.  I also discovered those who will always see the old me, and who have a hard time accepting the self-confident version of myself.  It can be a brutal wake up call. Give perfectionism an eviction notice from your mind and soul, and be a vigilante when it comes to visit.

Codependency and Responsibilities

The two biggest lies about adulthood is that your life is now your own, and that you should live your life to be “comfortable”.

The other thing that people don’t tell you about adulthood is that it is Fraking Hard. You essentially have two choices once you reach the pinnacle moment in adulthood: to stay or create a the cloud of comfort known as mediocrity or change into something bigger. The something bigger is almost always painful, and often times brings you into positions that you’d never thought you would have to fulfill or want to fulfill.

two-options

Responsibilities

This is what being an adult comes down to responsibilities. This is why I love certain aspects of my life, because I have none in one of my jobs. I still do them because I have a strong work ethic, but it’s not expected. And if you don’t, there really aren’t consequences that are noticeable at first. Depending on where you are in your life, those consequences may not surface for a very long time (raises hand).

This is what has separated my apparent adulthood from actual adulthood, codependency. I paid most of my own way for most of my life, except college, which will be forever grateful for, except living space. It was easy and comfortable, and I settled into a cloud of mediocrity. I am sure that my parents thought they were doing me a favor and I am grateful for them, but they didn’t realize they were doing me a disservice.

My life was not ultimately up to me. If I didn’t make “rent”, it’s not like they were going to kick me out. So I stayed, and I stayed far longer than I should have because of the cloud of codependency and comfort of mediocrity allowed me to.

As I am making epiphanies as I write this, it is evolving as I write it. Here is what I have learned about being comfortable in a fog of mediocrity: it is comfortable, but truly unfulfilling. You begin to question your own self-worth, as well as so many other things about your life.

Decide to Thrive

The word Decide means to literally cut off. Who wants to cut off a portion of themselves? Nobody. If a person has gangrene, and it was up to them most people would let it fester and spread throughout their bodies. Why? It’s easier that way. The pain of surviving that pain is often worse than living in their current state.

Changing sucks. It just does. What I have learned about change in the last year is that it happens, and often at odd times in one’s life. It forces you to grow into a role that you didn’t expect to ever take on. Roles that you never wanted to take on, sometimes. Circumstances dictated you to be the rock., be the one to ask questions, and be the painful truth teller in your family.

It would have been so nice if your journey had stopped there. But it doesn’t.

The Choice

fear pass, regret not

Growth and change never stop in the world of responsibility and adulthood. When it does, a person starts sinking into the mediocrity of comfort. I was used to love being comfortable, until one day it wasn’t. I craved more. It was easy. I am OVER it being EASY. Nothing good happens there, bring on the pain.

Here’s the choice that we adults get to make every day: be comfortable or grow into something better. There is no judgment for being comfortable. I lived in comfort for about a decade, and I struggled sometimes in the mediocrity of comfort.

I spent the majority of my life being “comfortably” uncomfortable. It was easy, it was being meh, and it ended up not being enough. I have written before that most of my life was spent trying to be invisible. One day someone saw something in me, and suddenly that was not enough. It shouldn’t be enough.

The pain and growth I experienced in the last 4.5 years was worth all of it to experience the journey of self-discovery.

The regret? It will suck worse than any of the intensely person growth I have experienced in the last 4.5 years. It is about being an inspiration to not only others, but more importantly yourself. Choose your inspiration.

Hiding and Discovery

The only thing I really wanted out of life was to be invisible. I was damned good at it, until I wasn’t. Over the course of the past couple of years I have become anything but invisible. Whether you realize it or not, people watch you. For me, it’s weird to not only be noticed, but also recognized for being myself. Most of the time, it’s amazing and I am always so grateful that I have created the life I have. There are times I still struggle with it, mostly during transitions and self-doubt. This has been a hell of a transition period for a number of reasons.

Realization Uncovered

The odd thing about being invisible and hidden is when it comes truly time to what you are looking for and want, you don’t know what it is. And even if you know what it is, it scares you beyond just about anything you’ve ever done before.

Why? Because it’s finally the real you. It’s not the goofy pretend extrovert; it’s not the aloof woman made of steel, and it’s not even the meek, self-conscious introvert. It Is You. And people knowing you, the real you, is the most daunting thing you’ve ever done. The most daunting, exposing, scariest thing I have ever done.

It is so much easier to hide; to be the person that everyone expects you to be, or to be the go to person for whatever than be truly you.

me training 2-1-16

Expectation

I have not been truly myself since I was a kid. I was always trying to live up (unknowingly) to the expectation, the image, and later try to cover up the vulnerability of what is me. I buried by myself for so long that the real me was incredibly painful and difficult to unearth.   It is like an archaeology dig. Where the past is buried so deep and so painstakingly preserved, it is difficult to unearth without destroying the very being you are trying to make whole.

The End

It’s a misnomer. There is never an end to discovering yourself and your own potential. There is only the willingness to dive into the personal change, gratitude, and submission that there are those who know how to achieve greatness and you must accept and “bow” to their knowledge and expertise. Only then will you truly grow, learn, and become yourself. Regardless of how scary and terrifying that is.

Being vulnerable sucks. It just does. It is also necessary in order to grow to your greatness. Find a mentor. Grow. Be. Do.

Exercise, Music, and Pushing limits

I will admit that I am totally, 100% addicted to exercise in a way I never thought possible.  If I go a two days without it, I’m like Jonesing for a fix.  It’s weird, but it’s a good weird.  Every time I go to Sphericality, I reminded that I made a good choice.  I finally had the chance to take a class with the owner of said gym, Dorian, and she did not disappoint.  Like most of the other classes I have taken there, there was a focus on form.  Dorian seemed to take it a step further, and went around the class and tweaked our movements if need be.  Kelly also did this.  This is one of the reasons I am coming to love this gym.  It’s almost perfect for me.

I love music.  I don’t play it, or sing it, I just thoroughly enjoy it.  It is apart of my soul.  Yesterday, my friend Jenny had her first open mic at her place in Bath, PA.  There were a couple of firsts for me.  I read poetry (okay, I had done it once before), and I played music for a genuine first.  I played the cymbals.  Yes, I know that’s not much.  For me though?  It was HUGE.  I have always thought I didn’t know how to keep a beat, at all.  Yesterday I proved myself wrong, because I was according to Jenny able to keep a beat.  I also felt like I could before I asked her.  It was a night of firsts, bonding, and just celebration of a new, eclectic space.

I pushed through a few boundaries, reading my poetry in public and playing music.  For me, there are very few things more vulnerable than those two things.  Reading my inner-most thoughts out loud to the public is something that I am working on overcoming this year.  This was a first step.  Was it uncomfortable?  Hell to the Yes.  Was it worth that feeling?  Hell to the yes.  Happiness and freedom lay outside your comfort zone, and that is where I am pushing this year.

I am a different person than I was last year, and I’m pushing myself to be even more different next year.  When I say different, I don’t mean a caricature  of yourself.  I mean that you are becoming the best version of yourself, and finding your true calling in life.  Which may be so different than you ever thought it could be (like mine).  Be in love with who you are, or at the least be working on loving yourself.  I know it sounds weird (guilty) and new-agey, but trust me when I tell you when you feel peace with yourself and your mission, there is a peace inside of you that rivals no other.

Pinnacle Moments

This is my life.  I have chosen it, pursued it, tasted it, lost myself and it briefly on my way journey to this moment.  A series of life-defining moments have led to this Bold Act of Vulnerability that was unparalleled in my lifetime.  I sang karaoke it was the song, “Invisible” by Hunter Hayes.

Brene Brown wisdom

I had written about a series of shifts a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t enough for my psyche.  Which is rare for me.  Writing is usually enough of an outlet for me, along with nature.  However, a combination of lack of outside time, stress, and little sleep led me to this moment of badass bravery.

It was cathartic, it was bold, and it was terrifying.  I could feel my heart racing not at the beginning, but about halfway through because that is when I realized what I was doing.  I let out a lifetime of pain, anger, sadness, betrayal, and shame, and let it leave my soul.  Which is what I do with my writing, essentially.  Except this time, I let other people see and hear my emotion in my voice in a way that was as a friend of mine put it “the bravest thing you’ve ever done.”

My mind is blown by this revelation, and I suddenly understand the power of music.  I have always loved music, and know I understand why it touches my soul so much.  It’s the vulnerability of the words, the performance, emotion, and letting people see that aspect of you.  I did not care what others thought of me in that moment, and I went with it.  It was one of the most inspiring, magical, pinnacle moments in my lifetime.  Even better was my friends were there to experience it with me, and embrace me once I got off the stage.

 

 

Belief and Success

The image below hit me as I was reading it.

Definition of Success

Definition of Success

My definition of success is loving yourself, believing in yourself, and taking actions to get yourself to your passion and purpose.  I never thought I would find such a raw source of beauty, happiness, and purpose inside myself.  I have often relied on others for acceptance, guidance, and love.  This was in absence of any or all of those in myself.  I persevered, I learned, I dealt, and I hid from everyone my true self.  One of my close friends once said to me, “I’ve known you for years, I think I’ve barely scratched the surface of who you are.”  I took it as a compliment.

There is a relentless doubt to let yourself be known when you have hidden your true self for so long.  It is safe to be hidden.  There is no threat of bullying, no torment, no expectation of others (in regard to yourself), and no disappointment by your peers because you smile, do your work, and move on.  All of the preceding have to do with your expectations of others being there for you.  The true glimpses they get from you, if any, are fleeting.  And you survive.

Survive.

I was not happy.  I was insulated.  I was in a hamster wheel, of my own creation, and I was doing what I spent the last 3 years doing.  I thought I would spend the rest of my life doing it.

I unexpectedly found someone that believed in me, and more importantly, I LET them, gradually.  At the beginning, I had my usual coyness, and sarcastic deflection.  To their credit, they persisted, and to mine so did I, with questions.  It wasn’t a sudden reveal; it was a gradual awakening.  I slowly loosened my clutch on my heart and soul, and let myself out in tiny glimpses.  I grew to believe I was worth it, I could talk to people, I could help people and actually be noticed for doing so without it being narcissistic.

Then I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, those closest to me should know the “real” me.  I wasn’t coy, I didn’t sarcastically deflect, and I listened to why they believed in me.  The reinforced concrete in front on my heart and soul started to erode away, and constant personal growth that allowed it to flourish into a garden.  I started to change, and be vulnerable to let people in, little by little.

I wasn’t crippled by the vulnerability, which has always been my inherent fear.  I was free.  Free of the chains I had put on myself to be perfect and to uphold a standard that was not only unrealistic, but also quite damaging.  The barrier was gone, and let my friends and family in, even if it’s just a little at a time.

Vices and Victory!

There have been in the past very few times where I feel completely relaxed.  It is generally been paddling, in the outdoors, or when I’ve been slightly buzzed.  I emphasize slightly because I did not drink to get drunk…think what you will about this.  I drank to get comfortable in social situations, this was especially true when I was with people I didn’t know very well.  Yes, I am pretty much putting it all out there for the general public.  I think it will help people, and yes, I am really uncomfortable with it.  Also not sure if I should do it.   That is always a good sign.

Stolen from the interwebs.  I always reflect more when out in nature...just this pic.

Stolen from the interwebs. I always reflect more when out in nature…just this pic.

There are times where we do things that we don’t really consider because they make us feel better.  There are always things that make us act in certain ways and do things that aren’t necessarily in our character because we are trying to compensate for something in our lives that is lacking.  It was subconscious for me.  I did it to hide myself from others.  Something I have been  trying very hard to break myself from.  The deceit (mostly of myself), the hiding, and the shame that I felt for myself.  I didn’t want others to see ANY part of that vulnerability.  It’s about letting people see who you REALLY are.  It is an all-consuming fear of mine-to be known.  That for some reason unknown to me, I have made quite public on this blog.

I used to drink to relax, to belong to something bigger than myself, and to distance myself from that part of me that  felt “outside” acceptance from others.

I no longer feel the need to do that. I feel comfortable in my own skin.  I accept, usually, who I am.  I danced my little heart out a month ago in front of some very important people to me, and it didn’t matter what they thought of my dancing.  I just danced.  I let them in, just a little.

Accepting yourself is the best gift you can give yourself.  It took me a long to find that in myself.  I feel at peace more than I ever thought possible.