In Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she talks about the fear of not being good enough and the courage to be imperfect. I was surprised many years ago when my husband said, “Sherry, I’m just an ordinary person.” I didn’t like hearing that because I thought he was extraordinary. I’ve since learned what a valuable belief that is and what it means: “I’m not perfect and don’t pretend to be. I’m a person who makes mistakes and that’s ok, because I’m only human.” It was a totally new concept to me.
It fits right in with another of Brené’s concepts of the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be or should be and embracing who we are. Walking into the classroom on the first day of graduate school, I saw this statement on the white board: Don’t Should On Yourself Today. As I’d never seen the phrase before, I was baffled, but it’s become one of my favorite sayings. Even now I occasionally hear myself thinking, “You should never make a mistake, you should always feel optimistic and happy, you should be perfect.” Finally, I’ve learned that those are impossible goals that cause me distress because I will make mistakes, I will sometimes feel cranky or sad, I will disappoint, I will lose my temper, and I will never be perfect. What a relief to know I don’t have to be.
I’m re-reading Matthew Kelly’s book, Perfectly Yourself: Nine Lessons for Enduring Happiness. He writes this is “a book for all of us who long to be at peace with who we are, where we are, and what we are doing, not in some distant tomorrow but here and now – today.” The concepts align “perfectly” with Brené’s in terms of embracing who we are and not succumbing to the unrealistic goals encased in perfectionism.
I recently saw a ring for sale on social media. It was a silver wrap-around ring with these engraved words: I am enough. I bought myself one and one for both of my daughters. Even though I know those words to be true, it’s gratifying to have a visual reminder in those moments when I tend to doubt or “should on” myself. It helps me to embrace who I am. Another favorite saying comes from my husband as well: Remember who you are. I need to hear this frequently when I doubt my abilities and my self-worth.
I have a small plaque in my office that says Dance Like There’s Nobody Watching. It’s taken me years to do exactly that, which is why I love the song I Hope You Dance so much, based on the narration of a mother expressing the wish that her children will step out and embrace life. I hope you embrace life, don’t should on yourself, remember who you are, and forget perfect.
Note: If you’re interested in letting go of the goal of perfection and participating in a four-week virtual discussion of Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us the 2nd Monday of each month at 1:00 PM (MST) for a discussion related to this Blog. Request a Zoom link below, to join the discussion.
SUE'S GIFT BLOG
Sherry Martin is the Patient Services Director for Sue's Gift, a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty years of experience in the field of oncology social work, and author of the book, Beginning Again: Tools for the Journey through Grief: A Step-by-Step Guide for Facilitators of a Grief Support Group. Sherry lives with her husband in Woodland Park, Colorado.
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