I love beginnings.
I don’t consider myself a particularly positive person, yet there is something amazing about starting anew.
However, even as someone who loves to start new projects, new years, new relationships, it is not all smooth sailing. At first there are the exciting butterflies that remind me that I haven’t done this before, and often the butterflies lead way to anxiety, often about performing well in this new project, year, or relationship.
You see, I am a perfectionist too.
For years I wore my perfectionism as a badge of honor, shocked to learn that others didn’t love their perfectionistic tendencies as much as I loved my own. I thought that the perfectionism is what made me successful, good at what I did. The fear of failure was a huge motivator, and it paid off. I performed, at school, at home, at work, and I was rewarded in every way I thought as important- with success, with money, with more work and higher expectations.
This became a cycle of new beginnings, high performance and rewards and I was proud of my ability to seek perfection in all that I did.
Then came burnout.
Not the usual I-need-to-sleep-in-for-a-weekend-to-recover burnout, but real burnout. For me, it looked like lack of joy, never feeling like I did enough, or that I was enough. And I was stuck. The usual way of compensating, by working harder, didn’t help. For one, I didn’t have the energy to work harder, and since my usual way of coping didn’t work, I felt lost.
After giving myself time to mourn- I am a big believer on this concept- I decided to approach it as a mystery to be solved. I love to read, and self-help books are my favorites. I found Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection. The book was a life-changer for me. It was really a foreign concept to me that perfectionism could be hurting me, and that it was not the road map to a happy life I thought it had been.
One of the things that I learned about myself is that the reason I love beginnings is that they are clean, fresh, and provide the opportunity for a perfect performance. This last part made me sad. It saddens me to think that I thought life was about a perfect performance, because that’s what I was doing- performing.
I was living a life that I thought others wanted me to live, being a good girl, doing what I was supposed to do. Striving to be perfect and falling short at everything I did was my way of rebelling. I know, this may make little sense to you, but to me it gave me a way to cop out, a way to always fall short, and to do it in the name of perfectionism.
The result was a life half-lived. I was living on borrowed time and it was someone else’s life. It was the life of other’s expectations, or what I thought others expected of me, and probably a combination of both.
What would it look like to let go of perfectionism? I was keen to find out.
And I am still working on it. I wish I could say the tendency is gone, but its not. What has changed is my appreciation of “not perfect”. Imperfections have become a sign of life for me, of a life being lived, and being lived well.
I am imperfect, my actions are imperfect, my relationships are imperfect and for the first time I am the most authentic I have ever been and so are my relationships. For me, the opposite of perfectionism is no longer failure but authenticity. This connection makes me strive to let go of the perfectionism badge of honor.
Authenticity if worth striving for, in my book. Showing up, being seen for who I am, and being loved in spite of it and even because of it is the best gift I get. It is also the most important gift I give myself.
As I start 2016 I am excited for this new beginning in very novel ways. I get 365 days to show up, make a difference in my life and in the lives of those around me. The days are bursting with opportunity and hope and potential. And what’s not to love about that?