Living the Good Life by Embracing My Imperfections
August 8th, 2013 by Katie Morton
Dr. Brené Brown writes about the 10 Guideposts of Wholehearted Living — practiced by people who live “amazing and inspiring lives” — in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I began living wholeheartedly before I knew of Brené Brown, and I was astounded to read about the journey I’d already begun. This article is part of a series that explores Dr. Brown’s Guideposts and how they look in my life.
Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion; Letting Go of Perfectionism
I brought my laptop to a usually-quiet hotel lobby to do some work this morning. The place was bustling with people and there was a buzz of excitement in the air. I asked a man what was going on. He looked almost giddy as he said, “A quill pen show. We’re here to see quill pens from all over the world!”
My first thought was, “That’s great! He’s so excited, and he’s letting it show. Good for him!” But then a second thought crept in: “Quill pens? I don’t get it.”
And that’s okay, I don’t need to. These quill pen enthusiasts “get it” and quill pens make them happy and so they came here to see some quill pens. The world is a better place for having people who recognize what lights them up, to find kindred spirits who share their enthusiasm, and to purposely pursue whatever it is that makes them happy.
What Makes Me Feel Alive Is Different From What Makes You Feel Alive…
Recently I caught wind of some, “I don’t get it,” vibes and rumors when it comes to The Monarch Company. Those who don’t get it are A) people who are close to me and B) people who, yes, don’t get it: they don’t understand that we all numb out. They either think that my year-long break from drinking is weird because I don’t have a drinking problem or they think that my year-long break from drinking somehow confirms a drinking problem.
They don’t “get” that I want to feel more alive, that the thought of working in an office made me – quite literally! – want to barf and that starting a business takes concentration and energy I didn’t have; they don’t “get” that I want my body to feel pristine, strong, and toxin-free. I’ve also given up dietary supplements, artificial sweeteners, and I do my darndest to avoid processed foods, but that’s not that interesting when people are looking for things to gossip about.
They don’t understand that this break might as well be a break from whatever it is that detracts from their experience of being present in life, like TV shows or Facebook or gossip or shoe shopping. They might love those things and giving them up would be too hard. I’m not saying I didn’t love wine! I did! I totally “get” not wanting to give up what you enjoy. They might not see these things as an issue to them. Either they already feel fulfilled and happy, or they like numbing out, and so yes it’s true – The Monarch Company is not for them, and they aren’t supposed to “get” it.
…And That’s Okay
My thing – the quill pen of my life – is self-improvement, growth, managing my stress, my mind, and my emotions. Feeling both free and in control at the same time. And then teaching others how to do the same. To people who have no interest in this stuff, I might as well be speaking another language.
And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything. Just like quill pens don’t make me giddy. It’s neither here nor there. My lack of understanding of the joys of quill pens doesn’t diminish the value of quill pens for those who love them.
But here’s the thing: when we’re caught up in perfectionism, and then when people don’t get it (whatever our thing is – because not everyone will get it), we’re bothered. When we hear that we’ve been gossiped about, we think there’s something wrong. Perfectionism would have us fear that there’s something wrong with us: that we’re somehow flawed or broken or less than.
When we decide to let go of perfectionism, we stop trying to smooth everything over to be pleasing for everyone else. When we have self-compassion instead, we look at what makes us happy – whether that’s personal development or quill pens – and we choose to discover and then do what’s important to us. Even if – heck, especially if – not everyone around us cares or understands or feels enthusiasm for us.
Self-Compassion Led Me to My Dream Career: Helping Others Live Fully
After my daughter was born, I had a terrible time being a working mother. It was sucking the life out of me. I wasn’t managing the sleep deprivation well at all. I was surrounded by people who were coping just fine – people who “had it all” – fulfilling, fulltime work at Discovery while they enjoyed their families. I was enjoying none of it. Not even Shark Week.
It wasn’t until I had self-compassion that I could start to discover a life that would be good for me. I had to have self-compassion to let go of my idea of perfection: the working mom who has it all together, because while there were plenty of people who were doing well at that, I was not even doing a good job of pretending to be that.
Because I had self-compassion, the photo at the top of this post is the view beyond the computer in my lap as I type. No matter how weird my predilections look to my friends and family, I’ve abandoned looking perfect in favor of fulfilling my desire to help other people. To help other people, I had to let people know what I’ve been through – numbing with wine, playing small in life – and how far I’ve come, by learning to love myself unconditionally and learning how to manage my emotions and my health. But if I were busy pretending I were perfect and that I always had it all together, I wouldn’t be able to help anyone else. My life would go on, unfulfilling, uneasy, juggling and managing, but void of deep joy.
Self-compassion, to me, means that recognizing and respecting your own feelings and needs is far more important than the opinions and the gossip of friends and loved ones. Regulating the gossipers to time in your mental penalty box might be good for both of you while you find your footing on a journey of self-discovery.
There’s something for everyone out there in this world. Go find yours. Even if it turns out to be quill pens.
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