Today, as the wheels of the plane I was on touched down in San Francisco, I grabbed my iPhone, bracing myself for the onslaught of messages. Six hours is a long time to be incommunicado.
I had reason to brace myself. I had 117 emails and 5 voice mail messages waiting for me.
As I started scrolling through them, my eyes settled on an email from a dear friend I don’t get to see very often. I could tell it was a chain letter based on the subject line: “My room of 8.” I opened it, fully expecting a sappy note of some sort, coupled with a plea to pass it on to my closest 8 girlfriends within five minutes or bad things would happen.
Instead, I found my eyes welling up with gratitude for the simple message that was enclosed:
“May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
It was exactly what I needed to hear.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. Reeling between feeling like an abject failure and just feeling like a big fake. I started to second guess choices I’ve made about the various businesses I’ve started. Berating myself for not having accomplished enough. Or not being a good enough mother. For being too fat. Not a good enough wife. You name it.
In short, I was beating myself up for not being “perfect.”
Aren’t I supposed to know better?
But old habits die hard.
I tend to be an optimist and am blessed with the confidence that I can figure out how to do/fix/create most anything.
So when I come up against a thorny problem that is not easily resolved, particularly one that has the potential to make me “look” like a failure in the work sphere, I panic. My perfectionist tendencies go into hyper-drive, and although I project a “with-it-ness” on the outside, a doom-loop of self-loathing reverberates around my brain. I go into hyper-drive trying to regain control over whatever situation isn’t working, pushing myself to “get it right.”
It leads to black-and-white thinking, kills my creativity, and then makes me wonder…if I fail professionally, what does that say about me as a mother? Would my boys be better off if I had chosen to stay at home rather than chase a dream?
Bad questions that lead to bad answers and solve nothing.
As the lovely Brene Brown says:
“Perfectionism…is 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 that simple. Perfection is not about healthy striving or being our best, it’s how we protect ourselves. But perfectionism is 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 taking flight.”
The quote that my friend sent via email was like a ray of light. It pierced the darkness in my soul and reminded me that my attachment to a “perfect” outcome was not serving me well. So, rather than continuing the self-hate trip, I sat down and made a list of all of the people, experiences, mis-steps (i.e. “learning”), things, and triumphs I am grateful for. I reflected for a moment on how every, single one of those very things (ESPECIALLY THE FAILURES) make me a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, and sister.
And just like that…the darkness was gone. I found peace within.
You are enough. May you find the peace within today too.