"When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying back seat driver." - Brene Brown Wednesday of last week, I cried. no surprise there, but...
I cried at the gym. in front of other people.
...because I missed a lift.
you're probably waiting for more of the story, or thinking, "what the heck is wrong with this girl!?", but that's pretty much the whole tale.
I couldn't lift what I was supposed to, got frustrated, tried again, got even more frustrated and when my coach (and also boyfriend) asked why I allowed something so small to get me so frustrated, I knew I wasn't going to be able to honestly answer the question without losing my cool. "I feel like it's just one more thing that's being taken away from me...", as salty water rolled out of my eyes. I wish I could say they were sweat beads and I was glistening, but no, they were undoubtedly tears and I was crying...in the middle of the weight room. thank goodness it was a Wednesday at 2pm and the gym was populated with mostly Silver Sneakers who couldn't see my shame past their cataracts.
I took this - and other particularly stressful (and seemingly uncharacteristic) events from the past few weeks to my therapist*, who helped me shed some light on the situation.
* she's great, by the way. I mean, she makes me cry so I hate her, but she is seriously, the best.
I have, as far back as my memory can take me, always identified as being a perfectionist. because, why not? to think there's a way I can do things where I can never be held in judgment by other people and totally escape criticism!?
and so, I committed my life to being perfect. to some extent, I felt as though I had to compensate for my less-academically interested, trouble maker of a brother. because, it kept the peace. it allowed for balance. I loved the kid with every fiber of my being, but let's be real, he never learned the easy way. so one of us had to...right? it may not have been my job, but I took it upon myself anyway and abused it, even started slowly killing myself with it.
flash back to 2011: overtrained, underfed, disordered eating and a fractured hip.
my life needed to change. my over identification with being "smart and perfect" wasn't enough. after graduation I needed to be "smart, thin, athletic and perfect". this over identification cost me my love for running and nearly a whole lot more. lesson learned...or so I thought.
back to last Wednesday. lifting. gym. tears.
I've done it again. I've over identified with being strong. but strong is good! how can strong be bad? when falling short of a benchmark (lifting pun not intended) leads to unworthiness, feelings of being unloveable; less than, and not enough. that's when.
that's how I felt, how I feel. if I can't do X, or look like Y, I fail. I am a failure.
I have learned to define myself as a list of skills, executed brilliantly to the satisfaction of others around me, instead of accepting and defining myself as a whole person, a flawed person. my therapist calls this shame. I never thought I resonated with shame. I never understood it...because I always met the expectation, even when it led to my own detriment.
but today, today I am falling so short - of my own unrealistic (I see that now) expectations. and I feel shame.
"Many of us will spend our entire lives trying to slog through the shame swampland to get to a place where we can give ourselves permission to both be imperfect and to believe we are enough." - Brene Brown
so here's my promise. to myself, mostly. and to those I love and who love me in return (bless them, as I never make it easy):
I am flawed. and I'm learning to accept it.
I am flawed, but I am also cherished and I am learning (and struggling) to accept it.
I am getting rid of shame - my soul no longer has room for it - and along with it, perfectionism.
I am imperfect. and I'm learning to accept it.
I will not always make decisions you like or approve of. but that's okay. you don't have to.
I will no longer be afraid of falling short, failing or being flawed.
I will no longer define myself according to your judgements, criticisms and approval. I can't afford to.
because, I am, right now, as this whole and broken person, worthy of love and belongingness.
Eat well. Live well. Be well.