The well-known and higly valued book by Prof. Dr. Brené Brown, ‘The courage of imperfection’ became a real brain anker for me. I have attached it to multiple corners of my brain… When I feel calm and things are under control, my ‘perfection cruise ship’ rests ashore. Passengers can hop on and hop off, they can even spill their drinks on the floor. That’s OK. Until the sea gets restless and my boat wants to sail, on the perfect waves of a perfect sea. Usually heading for a perfect crash into a perfect iceberg…
What follows after an iceberg crash, is desillusion, anger, sadness. It happens to me regularly, especially when there’s a lot of pressure and I start to feel stressed. Somehow I put on blinkers and my only goal is ‘to get things under control’. Suddenly I feel I have to do sports, I have to onboard more clients, my work needs to be better, the house should be cleaner, the kids should be impeccable and polite and please: don’t spill your drinks!!! These are not my best trips in life…
Lesson #1: Perfection doesn’t exist
Sometimes we feel the urge to raise the bar, leading us to wanting to be the perfect parent, and while doing so making a bit of a mess of work. We see clients start to overperform in one role, making the most perfect bento boxes and cupcakes for kids birthday parties. While procrastinating or suffering from fear of failing in that other context, creating a huge gap between the image of perfection we want to achieve and what we actually achieve. We see clients totally freezing and procrastinating because starting is to scary: it will never be good enough, I will never live up to my owns expectations and the expectations of people around me. The need to be part of a larger context and to belong, is human and universal, I learned from Dr Brown. Perfectionists put high value in the opinions of others and get disappointed over and over again because – surprise – perfection doesn’t exist and it is subjective: you don’t control how other people think or feel about you or what you did. “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.” *
Lesson #2: It takes courage to be imperfect
Perfectionism is very hard but strangely enough at the same time it is easy too. It is way easier to put on the harnas of perfection than to go out on the street naked, just the way you are, with your flaws, weaknesses, uncertainties, barefoot… It takes courage to be vulnerable and open to judgement of others on the most real version of you. But, as I discovered in Dr Brown’s work, we can only belong somewhere if we show the world our authentic imperfect self.
Lesson #5: Perfectionism can be unlearned
Not all perfectionists end up in a burn-out, but is sure helpt to develop one. Fairly often people ending up in burn-out are working, sporting, citytripping, value seeking, socially engaged parent or non-parents who are convinced that being the most possibly perfect on any field will bring happiness, joy, fulfillment and…love. “It takes courage to say yes to rest and play, in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol”, Brené says. And to our relief many of our clients find the courage to face their perfectionism and create more fortunate habits.
My anker works better and better. More often than before I choose to be me and take care of me, wanting less and less to please others or meet what I think they expect from me. I do my work with all heart and soul, I regularly f* up which allows me to learn. One of my colleagues learned me a golden rule in raising my family: go for 20-60-20: 20% of the time I want to be the perfect mom, 60% of the time I try to be just OK, and 20% of my time I allow myself to strive for the better. It gave me a lot of relief. I only do sports when I like it and I maybe disappoint a friend or 2 every now and then. But I don’t disappoint me that much anymore.
And that makes me proud!
PS. Did you notice the little mistake above? 😊
*The Body Shop’s Honest Ad Campaign 1998 / Know more about Brené Brown? Visit her website or check out this video.
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