Brene Brown, the Queen of Ted Talks and whole-hearted living, defines perfectionism as “The belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame … It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.” According to this definition, I have spent too much time tucked within the confines of perfectionism.
Today is picture day for this teacher. Students and staff are getting gussied up this morning for the big flash. You can bet hands across the city are reaching for some extra hair gel, ruby cheek powder and some concealer to cover the imperfections for the ultimate school snap. A notorious perfectionist might already have “re-take day” scheduled into the old cell calendar, confident that the first self-portrait won’t be wall-worthy.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about snapping a praise-worthy pic on this famous fall school day. However, when it comes to living a picture perfect life, what if the mirror-practiced poses and gobs of concealer don’t actually enhance the image? What if it only makes others feel like they need to measure up too?
Perfectionism is defeating because it pushes us towards a goal that cannot be reached. This leaves us feeling like we don’t make the cut and must continue to try to be good enough. We can become paralyzed by the need to appear perfect and unable to live authentic lives from our core values. Author and leadership development expert Henna Inam explains that we live most authentically when we make decisions and live in alignment with our core values and beliefs, instead of trying to be the person we think we should be.
Brown reminds the world, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders what we’re all in this together.” Real courage lives in the honesty of tooth gaps and unpopped pimples (Yes, I went there), and in the double chin that naturally bulges with loud laughter. When we ditch the need to live “picture perfect” lives, we gain the freedom to create incredible life moments that are empowering and worth framing. Fear flees when we drop the need to be perfect, or to be perceived as such. Let’s say a sweet goodbye to the fear of failure, of not measuring up, of making mistakes, and of being rejected or judged and dive into the flaw-filled fearless realm of risk-taking and originality.
Today, whether you are flashing your face for school photos, showing up at the breakfast table with toddlers, a board room with city slickers or the hospital café with heart tickers … Be courageous enough to show up and be you, and watch how others are empowered around you to be themselves too. Perfectionism silences, suffocates and exasperates while imperfections create conversations, open up real relationships and energize families and communities. When you drop the need to be picture perfect, your real life becomes truly wall-worthy. As my life-long mentor and trusted advisor would say, “Take chances, make mistakes and get messy!” – The Frizz