How timely that we made our realization right around the New year. My man was reading Brene Browns’ ‘Daring Greatly’ and nearly had himself an empathetic
breakdown spiritual awakening when he recited the following passage aloud.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
Life paralysis. Smack. There it was. Laid out for us as clear as day. We had often discussed our dislike of not being good at something. Eg – that period when you start a new job and you haven’t mastered it yet. The vulnerability of imperfection was uncomfortable and could initiate a self deprecating spiral in either one of us. For example, my husband is a great cook. His homemade hamburgers taste like dreams are made of. Ask him however and his critique of his own performance negates his very enjoyment of his favorite food. “I put too much sriracha in them” he’ll say. (See I told you they taste like heaven.) It’s easy to recognize our own patterns in those around us while simultaneously having our own behavior sit conveniently in our blind spots. I know I’m a perfectionist. Not in the traditional mindset that everything I do is perfect. Far from it. (In addition to perfectionism I also seem to suffer from Antirecipitis: the inability to follow a recipe. I am a great cook. I’m also an awesome substituter. You know the I-don’t-have-that-but-I-have-these kind of chef. I can make a recipe even better then the author ever imagined it too be! I can also make soggy muffins, unsliceable crumbled brownies and inedible chickpea curry. ) My baking falls within my comfort zone and is something I’m confident with. Hence it appears to be shielded from my perfectionist kryptonite. Instead, my perfectionism seems to manifest in other realms in the form of life paralysis. It turns out, you just can’t substitute chia seeds for everything and call it a day.
Life paralysis. What does this mean? It means that the healthy striving that leads to inevitable mistakes, learning and eventual growth and mastery, is avoided in an effort to shield oneself from the vulnerability of imperfection. The very imperfection that is required for growth, creativity, and success. Our family had virtually stopped trying anything new. Though we might be interested in tonnes of different activities, we’d never consider trying them. Not consciously out of fear of failure, but there it was before us. We had become paralyzed.
Now as I said, conveniently this epiphany came to us in early January. Every year our family chooses a word or two as theme’s for the year ahead. A theme to guide how we want to feel, to steer our choices for the months ahead. Last year was ‘vitality’, the year before was ‘connected’ etc. So with our new-found life paralysis staring us in the face, we had to take action (action being the opposite of paralysis). It seemed so obvious. This would be the year of the D.I.Y. Nothing requires ACTION quite like doing it yourself. Nothing implores mistakes, or possible failure quite like doing it yourself. But on the flip side, the learning and growth of doing it yourself is inevitable.
We had chosen something that still felt safe (because we’re d.i.y’ing our own home) while simultaneously adventurous. It felt creative and it felt fun. We streamed off all sorts of ideas of what we want to build. D.I.Y. would force us to breathe in vulnerability. And vulnerability would breathe life back into us.
Feel free to follow along as we tackle some fun projects. Stay tuned as we start small and get our feet wet with mini bath and mini kitchen makeovers…
Self Inquiry – Do you see a perfectionist reflected in yourself? Have you ever experienced life paralysis? If so – what are you doing to lay down your shield.