You Don’t Need To Be Perfect

I loved this sentiment because the reality of life is that none of us are, nor ever will be, “perfect.” Bound to countless socially and personally imposed definitions, the word “perfect” encompasses far too much for any one person to attain. And to what end would we wish to achieve the title? To appease our inner critic and absolve ourselves of any future self-deprecation or doubt? To impress someone else in effort to quell the internal need for belonging…or to bathe in the external, social rewards?

It’s a tough path to travel, the one to “perfection.” The word itself is saturated with such infinite criteria – as defined by everyone in a different way – that it would be nigh impossible to satisfy all conditions.

 

We are, as human begins, all flawed and fragile. But, it is in imperfection that the world then becomes so beautifully diverse. Our quirks and eccentricities may in fact be what others can relate to. So too can our personal struggles and challenges be what brings others into our circle, or to look to us for advice. These things allow us to connect to others in the world, and therefore provide us an opportunity to inspire every day.

How do we handle adversity or when things that don’t go our way?

Can we be the bigger person and admit when we are wrong or say we are sorry when appropriate?

Can we treat others with respect and kindness, even when we disagree or are upset?

Do we approach the world – ourselves and others – with an attitude of acceptance and appreciation that we all have our “stuff”? (e.g.: we aren’t perfect, we are learning.)

Our behaviors and actions can inspire others to “rise above,” to find strength in tough times, and to do what they can to see the positives in each day. We don’t have to do those things perfectly ourselves, either – remember that others may be inspired because they see YOU trying your best. They see you struggling but still holding on to hope and working hard… They see you being the bigger person in the face of another’s poor behavior…

Those things might give others the support and strength they need – they see that it doesn’t HAVE to be executed perfectly to work (and that’s the whole point.) 

We will never be able to achieve the grandiose “perfection” because it is a word that has no single, defined definition. Perfection is many things to many people and it – by default – leaves no room for humanness, for growth, or for mistakes. Mistakes, however, are a huge part of life, as is a human vulnerability that we all possess. How we approach life on those terms, however imperfectly, can be even more inspiring than if we were the “ideal individual.” Why? Because if we can do it, in spite of a world that is ever-changing and challenging, then so can others – seeing the effort in the face of difficulty is why those actions ARE so inspiring.

So fear not if you falter, if you have flaws, or don’t make your mark every day. Because you are always working towards your goals in a positive and meaningful way in spite of your missteps, “mess-ups,” other people’s poor behaviors, you are inspiring others to do the same. You are inspiring others by being exactly who you are – unabashedly – and that in and of itself is empowering.

Planting The Seed And Letting Go

There is no contesting that an individual set firmly in his or her ways (and honestly, who isn’t after the age of 2!?), will not embrace change unless he or she chooses to. To change requires a process of self-reflection, of acceptance, and of a willingness to walk a new path – but looking in the mirror and choosing to face the truth of what we see isn’t always so easy. We are likely our harshest critic, and also at times guilty of self-delusion…so facing ourselves head on can be a frightening prospect! In this way, admitting that we even NEED a change can prove a challenge, forget someone else insisting we make one. 

It may be that we want to address something small, such as a relatively benign habit (hitting the snooze button more than we’d like to, leaving dishes around, getting sucked into social media until 2am…) or something more significant (wanting to alter a life habit or behavior that no longer serves us.) Whatever it is, those decisions begin internally – when we are ready, willing, and would like a change, that’s when change becomes possible. It will take work, but opening the door begins within.

All that said…planting a seed ought not be abandoned as an exercise in futility! While we may be resistant at first, there is always room to grow. Criticism is tough to handle for most of us – we have an innate need to belong (refer to Maslow for one theory) and therefore also to impress on some level. Most of us aren’t proud of our quirks or common foibles, and when they are engrained over the duration of our lives, they’re much harder to uproot. But, it can be done…and sometimes the repeated lessons or directions helps.

For example, there are things that I have done much of my life that just aren’t helpful any longer. I know they are habits born of some challenging times in my life – they served, at that time, as a way to cope and survive. So once upon a time, perhaps shutting down served me well – it protected me in that moment. But a deer-in-the-headlights way of operating doesn’t work when communication is required…so, I’ve been working on it. Finding one’s voice is a daunting task, especially when you weren’t really aware you had lost it, when you had lost it, or how the hell to get it back! 

For another thing, I’ve identified with, and hinged my worth on brightening others’ days, diffusing or patching fights between people, and putting others first. For a long time I thought that was a really noble quality – I sincerely wanted to fix people’s hardships and be as little of a burden as possible. But…I’ve learned that there are some not great byproducts of that. It isn’t my right or responsibility to help, fix, or otherwise brighten someone’s existence – maybe they don’t damn well want me to! (That was an immensely tough realization for me, though I’ve learned that not taking this on provides me a great deal of freedom.) And not wanting to be in the way can translate to indecisiveness or a selfless approach that leaves someone else wondering what I feel internally.

If it wasn’t pointed out, I suppose I’d just continue along as always – because why fix what isn’t really “broken?” Learning that perhaps my methods of operating aren’t serving me as well anymore, or those around me, that I don’t need certain defenses, that it’s okay to be selfish and forthright has had a positive impact. That doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly rid of habits – I have to work really hard to overcome conditioning (just as we all do!) But it means I have awareness – the seed was planted a while ago, I’ve allowed it to bloom taking the time it needs, and I’ve reached a point where I am able to see that change is possible. And, that I want it. 

So the point is that maybe a behavior or attitude we carry with us worked in past situations – maybe it was a way that we coped, or got things accomplished, or even the reason we survived in the end. But it’s possible that those methods would do well with a shift – time marches on, life changes, the people and places in our lives change… We don’t always need the same tools. If we are willing and able to take a hard look in the mirror, we may find ourselves opening to change and working for it. In some cases, though, we just aren’t ready. Criticism and constructive commentary may need to take place for some time… Maybe we need to hear the message a million times before we can really make sense of it…and only then are we ready to acknowledge a change would serve us well.

It takes time… We aren’t always open to altering ourselves – we’ve managed well enough as long as we’ve been around, right?! But the positive seeds others plant aren’t in vain because we may yet come to a fork in the road when suddenly those seeds find a way to flourish. 

So remember that it’s hard enough to change oneself – asking that of someone who isn’t ready for the message may well fall on deaf ears. Maybe even rightfully so. But…if it’s a message that might bring about positive change for that person, don’t give up on planting the idea. It may take time for that seed to find the daylight, but in time it may grow into something spectacular.

 

What’s Your Excuse?

I generally do catch myself when I’m complaining or feeling sorry for myself… Honestly, I’d say I’m aware of it 100% of the time. I’ve learned that – though disappointed in myself for taking the whiny tack at that moment – that it IS okay to “feel.” The human experience of emotion is both complex and highly individual. If we didn’t fluctuate, I begin suspecting we were in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare. No thanks!

But…

But. . .

I grapple with that concept because I don’t honestly believe I really have the right (or good reason) to complain. I’ve somehow had engrained that one person’s annoyance is another’s absolute dream…so perhaps my default is the cause of my inner turmoil. Still, I’ve never viewed complaining under any circumstances as a positive thing, so maybe it’s just flat-out disappointment that I’ve succumbed to the whims of my limbic system.

Whatever the case may be, I am ever-aware when I stray from gratitude. It has nothing to do with being a goody-two-shoes – I have PLENTY of moments of grumpiness, irritability, annoyance at others, frustrations etc… It is more that I sincerely WANT to follow a path of thankfulness – because I also sincerely believe I am blessed beyond measure. I don’t need moments of perspective to remind me. When one does come along – and it does often in the community I get to work with (children and individuals with disabilities) – I’ll be the one moved to tears.

One of the reasons I love the disabled community – and let’s be clear, I view them as uniquely abled, in fact – is that they just DO things. They get out there and they try, fear and anxiety be damned. There are countless examples of individuals with disabilities (physical, neurodevelopmental, intellectual and so on) who persevere in spite of adversity.

I took one look at the image below and really had to check myself – the amount of time I spend worrying about whether or not I’m good at something, whether I will come across a certain way, whether I will appear this or that…is RIDICULOUS! 

@therafininnovation and @supportadaptivesports!

I’d love to learn archery. Too many passions with too little time aside, I know deep down that I’d give myself a hard time while learning. There’s no good reason for that, just a life-time hard-on-myself M.O.. What the hell kind of excuse is that?!?! A terribly poor one (or, frankly, not one at all.)

I am so very thankful for the opportunity to work with a community that I both hight respect, and am ever-motivated by. The inspiration is endless and I am constantly moved by the adaptive, positive spirit these individuals imbue. They remind me to get out of my brain, forget the “what-if”s, and appreciate all that I do have…especially during a stuck-in-my-emotions moment. And I have to say…I, you, we…have A LOT going for us. 

I don’t really like the word “limitations” – to me that word pertains only to what we impose on ourselves. The challenges of disabilities are NOT mind-imposed – they are real…but they are not “limitations.” These fine gentlemen are a beautiful example of just doing things differently. No excuses, a whole host of adaptations, and unwavering, can-do attitudes.

Having a moment of feeling like everything is against you, or you (four letter word) “can’t?” Look at the image again. Take a moment to appreciate what you are seeing because it goes far deeper than just physical.

It’s 1,000% awesomeness saying “I don’t have an excuse. You don’t need one either.”

 

Miracles Do Happen, Even If Only In Time

This story absolutely warmed my heart – it is one I shall never forget, and a fine illustration of why we ought never abandon hope.

Miracles happen – sometimes they need a little more time to blossom…but they are always possible. 

Living As An Imposter

Beyond the fact that I am utterly fascinated by human behavior, this particular “syndrome” is one I am especially interested in. Why? I have it!

What is Imposter Syndrome? It’s what is often described as a “phenomenon” (versus a mental disorder) whereby an individual feels he (or she) is not as accomplished as he is in reality. As such, there is an overwhelming feeling that he presents as something he is not. Or, in other words, those suffering from this syndrome feel like a full-on fraud, a sheep in lion’s clothing, and completely unworthy of their accolades. 

This article on Inc.com actually made me laugh – I wasn’t laughing at myself (nor anyone else who’s experienced this phenomenon), but rather because it’s so on point. The article, along with a few others out in the ether, suggest that this occurs for about 70% of the population – that, my friends, is no small sum! 

What got me onto the tangent? I was listening to a discussion the other day on the radio with Grace Killelea, founder of Half The Sky. And… I LOVED what she had to say. I’ve recently been mulling (rather feverishly, I confess) about my direction in life. I’ve found my fit and purpose but how to hone in and progress in a totally new field? How to do it at 40 years-old? How to feel successful without the external hoopla to validate my existence? What about all the accomplishments I’ve fought for along the way that I’m neglecting to acknowledge? 

The conversation, needless to say, was one I related to. At one point Grace was sharing her own journey – she talked about having to step back and reevaluate her own needs, attitudes, and approach to her career and life in general. She learned through some introspection that her intense need for approval and respect was disproportionate to what reality allows (the kind of realization that may be a tough pill to swallow at first!) She began to recognize that she personalized others’ responses, reactions and attitudes, and that she needed to let go – not so much of an internal standard, but of the expectation that others would meet her where SHE wanted…or that they really had any clue at all. Other people’s “stuff” often has zero to do with us – it would serve us well to remember that point across the board! She came out and said she had to let go of what “no longer served” her, and that is a phrase I use ALL the time.

Humans have a way of getting stuck in patterns – psychological, physical routines, stale attitudes, outdated opinions…whatever. They may have been what we needed once upon a time, but in some cases our older M.O.s serve only to hinder our current progress, or make a mess of present circumstances in a way we simply don’t need (who, really, needs any extra stress? If a negative outcome is at the hands of a habit we can change, might it not be worth tackling?)

Interestingly, it turns out that Impostor Syndrome isn’t a one-size-fits-all “psychological pattern” (phrase per Wikipedia’s link above) – no, there are in fact several profiles under the Imposter umbrella… This article from fastcompany.com shares five such categories, per author Valerie Young (The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It):

  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Superwoman / man
  3. The Natural Genius
  4. The Rugged Individualist
  5. The Expert

If you aren’t sure which type you fall into, there are (perhaps not surprisingly) a plethora of quizzes online. I couldn’t say which one is the best, but if you pop it into google, you’re sure to find a few. I took this one just for giggles…though admittedly, I could have answered a few questions in a few different ways. Whether or not you partake in the game-like fun of online quiz taking, you probably know whether you suffer from this already…

But…

Is it something you are willing to admit to yourself or others? I actually feel a kind of freedom in sharing my less-than-desireable traits and struggles – it allows me to show that I am as human and flawed as the next person. Why is that a good thing?

  • It provides me the opportunity to connect more deeply with others (we are never really alone – SOMEone out there gets it)
  • It allows me to more fully embrace that I have areas in which I could use some work
  • It allows those who matter in my life to recognize that I am aware, willing, and able to address it
  • And it reduces the stigma I might feel internally about it (in fact, it may reduce the stigma others perceive as well)

I’m definitely not ashamed of this at all – in fact, I feel like many who know me well would say, “Oh, hell yes, she has that!” with a laugh. Those who know me strictly on the surface would doubt me to the moon, however… We impostors are really good at ACTING the part we *think* we aren’t really cut out for! 😉 What a conundrum!

If you also find yourself in this boat (no doubt a rowboat with a fancy ship facade? 😉 ) fear not… There are plenty of ways to mitigate the falsities your mind is surreptitiously suggesting. This article shares 21 tactics to try, Forbes gives a few tips as well, and this site touts 12 tricks of its own. Keep in mind, you can always google more. ALSO keep in mind that you ought to take EVERYTHING you read on the Internet (including my own diatribes!) with a grain of salt. Take what works, ditch what doesn’t – it is always up to you what you wish to absorb. 

I’m so excited that Grace Killelea’s segment coincided with my being in the car – it was one of those moments where I did receive some indirect external validation. While of course the idea is that we create our OWN (I’m working on this continually!) it did offer me a moment of I’m-not-alone-ness right when I needed it most. I suppose that’s why I feel so inclined to share…

So many of us go to work each day under what we *feel* is a guise. But lo and behold, if we really reel out the list of things we have accomplished in our lives, the progress we have made as individuals, and the positive impact(s) we have had on those around us…we would be bowled over with a well-deserved “WOW!”

Hold your chin up when you look in the mirror – remind yourself of your multitude of talents, abilities, and achievements. It takes work to bathe ourselves in affirmations, and it may feel a little silly, but do the work – you deserve to feel proud in your own skin because you’ve worked hard to get where you are. So, dangnabit, have I! I’ll be working at it with you. 

Xo

Success – Perspective And The Path

The journey to success is not often a linear one, nor is it rife with “yes!”s and obvious, silver-plattered opportunities. Rather, it is littered with failures, mishaps, wrong directions, and “what the hell was I thinking!?”s. Reality can be tough!

But…our perspective of that journey – that non-linear, tumultuous, stress-inducing road – can make all the difference in whether the path ends with success* or another “not-quite.”

*success as defined by us, let’s be clear

When we can take each “failure” as a positive, we are on our way to finding the successes we are aiming for. Why? Because each time we fall, we learn something new – we learn how to better navigate the rocky road of life and about who we are, what we need, and how we function optimally. In other words (and as we tell our kids in Martial Arts classes) when we lose, we learn…and that’s why we LOVE to lose.

It is horribly unrealistic to expect that the seas are always going to be smooth. It is also unrealistic to expect that we will fearlessly and perfectly navigate through every storm and crashing wave. What IS realistic is to expect that each fall we take will provide us with invaluable feedback, a lesson of some kind, and something positive in the end (knowledge gained, new connections, self discovery, an “ah-ha” moment…whatever it may be.)

Open your mind to the possibility of failure being a much-needed life guide – without it, we are incapable of learning that our limitations are often much farther out than our minds might impose, and that we are indeed destined for greatness. 

Fear not if you falter, then, but reap the rich rewards -PLB

The Power Of The Mind

I believe deeply in this sentiment – the ability to remain in the present (and upbeat!) is a high-level skill in a fast-paced and stressful world. But when we can tap into the positive, focus on what we can change (not what we can’t), and when we refrain from projecting into worry and fear, a world of opportunity unfolds.

Be open to changing an outdated attitude. Shift your wavelength to a positive tune, and the magic will unfold before you…