rejecting perfection

g452

Vulnerability is difficult. So difficult, that most of us spend our time avoiding it at all costs. We throw up defenses, guard our hearts, put in electric fences and moats filled with alligators… anything to keep our inner (vulnerable) selves “safe” and from being seen.

Perfectionism is one of the many, many defenses we use to avoid vulnerability. Dr. Brene Brown elaborates that perfectionism is essentially the avoidance of three things: shame, blame, or judgment. In its root form, we attempt to maintain a perfect facade, or force ourselves into an impossible mold of perfection that will, in reality, never come into fruition. Because the concept of “perfect” does not exist, especially as we apply it to humans, who are designed as imperfect.

I am a perfectionist, so Dr. Brown’s words resonate with me very hard. As I chewed and chewed on this idea, I came to see how my “I have it together” facade is a part of my perfectionism. I avoid asking for help as much as I can, I try to figure everything out on my own… and as a result, I don’t allow myself to ever be vulnerable with others. And here I’m wondering why I can’t get the support I need from other people, or develop very intimate connections in my relationships? If you’re putting up a constant front that you have your shit together, then the obvious conclusion is that people are going to assume you don’t need any help or support. You basically look like you only need a relationship with yourself, and no one else. We need to look at our role in creating the dynamics that perpetuate our misery.

Today, I was with my supervisor and she challenged me as I was discussing a case with her. Taken aback, I thought about my reaction, and I realized that I became defensive not only because I got caught in my client’s “sob story,” but also because if I were being honest with myself, I was subconsciously trying to hold up my “I have it together” and “I know it all” front. But the truth of the matter is, I don’t have it together all of the time. I don’t know it all. And I need other people to help me, and to provide me with their perspectives.

In one of my sessions with another client, we talked about this very topic, as she has the same issue as me. I had told her to practice saying to herself, “I don’t have it together all of the time, and that’s okay.” After my meeting with my supervisor, I saw that I needed to take my own advice and do the same with myself. The thing is, as difficult as being vulnerable is, we need it. We need to be vulnerable in order to develop deep, intimate connections with others; intimacy cannot exist without vulnerability. We need to be vulnerable in order to learn, grow and become the person we have the potential to become. We need to be vulnerable if we want to heal our deepest pains, fill the empty trenches in our souls. Embracing our limitations, weaknesses and “ugly bits” in truth empower and liberate us. Yet the funny thing is, many of us choose to avoid vulnerability, and thereby keep ourselves stuck in the hole.

Being a therapist doesn’t mean I am perfect, or have everything figured out. I don’t have everything figured out; no one does. But I am committed to self-growth and self-love, even if it means loving those pieces of me that I internally fight to reject. And I choose not to live by the dictation of shame, blame, or judgment… because no matter what others, or even I, say, I am imperfect by nature. We are all imperfect. Simply, it means practicing what I preach, not only as a therapist, but as a friend or human being. I have limitations and I make mistakes… but that’s okay. I am human. I am me. And we all wired to need one another.

dare you to move

              7582672_s

To live is to move. Even in fear, pain, or stagnancy… it is especially in those moments in our lives that we are faced with a constant choice. Will we rise to and above the challenge, or will we stay down, to die perhaps a spiritual and inner death?

I had a meeting with one of my mentors a few days ago, wherein I was challenged, yet also deeply inspired. And I went home and found myself listening to Switchfoot, which led to more fuel being thrown onto the heady flame. “Dare You to Move” has now become the theme to this current phase in my life. Why, you may ask?

For months, I have been feeling stuck and stagnant. I have been locked and trapped in my past, the pain I continue to hold, and the disappointments of today. Nothing seems to be going right and deep down, I feel broken, alone and unbelievably restless. My frustration increases knowing what I am doing to myself and what has gotten me stuck in a hole. Professors and even my own therapist have praised me on my level of insight, yet before, I found it so much a curse than a gift. The old cliche of “ignorance is bliss” rings true, because in ignorance, I do not have to feel. I can continue on numbing and pretending everything is okay. When you are battling depression, or anxiety, or whatever demons you may have, the easy path becomes so very tempting.

Although I did not intend the conversation to take this turn, I ended up sharing with my mentor some of my current struggles. He then proceeded to push me (metaphorically speaking), and challenge me. I told him I need to reflect more on my issues, and he disagreed, “No, you don’t need to reflect anymore. You already know what you have to do. Now you just need to do it.” In short, I need to move.

This is what my mentor helped me to realize: Despite your fears, despite the hurt you will inevitably feel, you have to connect. You have to love. You have to risk vulnerability. Our four walls and comfort zone seem so very safe, but in reality, they are hurting us. They are starving us from what we need, causing our hearts to begin dying a slow and painful death. “I mean, look at you,” my mentor challenged. “You’re proof of that. You’re not happy right now.” And I didn’t argue with him, because I knew he was right. Because this is the thing about me: I hide. I hold back. I put up walls so people can’t get too close. All of this I do, because I don’t want to get hurt, rejected, or judged. I have been so many times in the past. I’ve been knocked down, kicked around, teased, and worse, ignored. That in my deepest moments of pain, I went unacknowledged. Even though I fear loneliness, I would rather choose the certainty of being alone, than the pain of being both rejected and alone. So it is easier for me to not trust people, and deal with things on my own.

But living that way, means we live in a state of constant fear. We do not rest when we are hyper-vigilant with every being we come across, and it is exhausting to persistently maintain those walls around our hearts. Maybe in your past you’ve been pushed down, or hurt in the most grotesque way… so you’ve stayed lying on the ground. Maybe it feels safe there. But in that state, the tension is there, “between who you are and what you could be. Between how it is and how it should be.” Although it may not seem so, in that we always have a choice. Are you going to move, or are you going to stay down? Are you going to reach toward the potential of who you were meant to be, or will you let it die away?

I realized that for the past five months, I’ve been choosing to let my potential die. To let myself stay down and others keep me down. But now, I am making a different choice. It’s not easy to get up, to move when you are still in pain from the fall. That is why God dares us to move. Because it takes the courage each of us have buried inside us to do. In the challenge, we grow.

The thing is, if we choose to live, it is guaranteed we will feel pain. All of this time I have been focused on the “pain” part, rather than on the “living” part. In the end, our true nature is to connect, to love. That is what it means to live. That is why He pushes us, dares us to move, to lift ourselves up from the floor, like today never happened. There, we move toward fulfilling our nature.

for an open mind

                            how_to_break_the_ice_at_a_party

I went to a friend’s party last weekend, and as I sat with a group of people I didn’t know and had little interests in common with, I was struck with the thought of how big our world seems to be in our heads, but how small it is in the scheme of things, especially in the eyes of an “outsider.”

We expect others to “match” our conception of things, that much of compatibility, whether we are brave enough to admit to it or not, is really about how much a person “fits” into our small world. In truth, it is our egocentric tendencies as humans at their best. As I mulled it over, I realized how much we end up missing when we constantly gauge people by how they match us, and only converse or connect to those who are like us. It’s rigid, and confining.

Instead, what if we opened our hearts and minds, and attempted to truly get to know the other person and acquaint ourselves with their world? What if we all did this? Perhaps we would have more friends, or be more inspired, or discover the beauty and diversity of the human experience in a fuller manner. Confines only leave us feeling unsatisfied and empty and longing for more… yet we cannot discern “the more” without venturing out of our tiny space and considering possibilities outside our knowledge and experiences.

There’s so much beauty out there, and we end up missing most of it by expecting the world to be like we want it to be. There’s something to say about sticking to what you know, but I’d dare argue that there is also something to open-mindedness and broadening yourself to outside your comfort zone.