The Power of Imperfection.

When people ask me about my disability, I am quick to tell them that it has afforded me many lessons, and that even if I could change it, I wouldn’t. But it wasn’t until last week, while I was sitting in a meeting with my supervisor, that she asked me to identify the specific lessons my disability has granted me. Up until that point, these lessons had remained undefined. They were abstract, yet they had a strong presence in my life, for I feel they had guided the many choices I have made. So, as I was sitting there, and as she waited intently on an answer, I stated “imperfection.” Imperfection, and the necessity of it in our lives, is one of the most profound lessons that living with a disability has taught me.

By definition, my body is imperfect. As much as I could try, I will never be able to hide the way I walk- my legs always have, and always will, move differently. My body will always be imperfect, and it was in the process of truly accepting this, that my lesson was found.

If you were to look for words synonymous with “imperfection” you would most likely find words like defect, deficiency, blemish, fault, weakness, limitation, and so on. Words slanted with negativity which tend inspire feelings of “not good enough,” shame, and self-judgement. Words and feelings that foster disconnection, separation, and which give strength to the fear that often makes us retreat and isolate. But here’s the thing: Imperfection comes with being human. We all have unique imperfections, visible or invisible. Imperfection is inexorably intertwined with the human experience. It is universal, shared, and normal, and it is by truly recognizing this, that the negativity we often associate with imperfection is dissolved, and it becomes devoid of its power to keep us small. Instead, imperfection becomes the basis of personal authenticity and connection- it becomes abundantly powerful.

When we recognize that there is nothing inherently wrong with our imperfections (because we all have them), we grant ourselves the freedom to love ourselves for our imperfections. We embrace ourselves fully and allow ourselves to just be, because we recognize that imperfection is the birthplace of beauty, unique perspective, and creativity. Fearlessness is inspired because we give up our preoccupation with “looking good.” Risks are taken, days are seized, and our lives are lived without hesitation.

Becoming fearlessly unapologetic about our imperfections also fosters connection. Being open and honest about our perceived “flaws” makes us relatable. When we are open about who we are, the mistakes we’ve made, and the struggles we’ve endured, we unconsciously give others permission to open themselves up too. It lets people know that they are not alone. Empathy thrives because we become aligned in our likeness. We feel unconditionally accepted and embraced for our imperfections, and true compassion is cultivated.

Imperfection isn’t to be denied or shamed, because there isn’t anything wrong with it. It is to be celebrated and embraced. So… give up the pursuit of perfection that confines you- it’s not attainable. Give yourself permission to accept yourself for your imperfections- they are what make you real, and it is what makes you real, that makes you loveable.

 

 

  

Shame, Perfectionism, and Sacred Protection.

1510492_784713304877114_848775664_n

 

 
Shame. That all too familiar urge to hide, and retreat, to lash out and attack in an attempt to protect and defend yourself in response to a cutting comment or an excruciating experience. Feelings of unbearable exposure and fear ridden vulnerability take over. The sense that you are completely alone in this world seems like an irrefutable fact.  Thoughts of self-judgement arise. You begin to believe that you are unlovable. Not good enough. A failure. That you will never amount to anything. That you have nothing of value to contribute to this world. That you are a waste of space.

Shame is universal.
We all experience it at some point in our lives, under various guises. Shame is often masked, hidden, and seemingly undetectable. Perfectionism is one of those masks. It is a way of staying hidden. Staying guarded and impenetrable. It helps us to defend ourselves against exposing the parts of ourselves that we believe no one could truly love and accept. We become consumed by the need to look and behave perfectly at all times, never allowing ourselves to falter- for that would be far too risky. We begin to believe that perfection is the prerequisite for acceptance. That people expect certain things of us and that we must abide by these expectations to keep the connections we have. The possibility of true connection is taken off the table, because we begin to believe that we can’t show our true selves to the world, without having it be rejected. The belief in the need for perfectionism becomes stronger and stronger and we become increasingly isolated, but appearances won’t let anybody know that. We live in the space of “I’m good!” while we are really just trying to keep everything from falling apart. Loneliness sets in, and shame continues to build. Layer upon layer. We begin to feel trapped- perfectionism severely limits us. We start to feel as though we are confined in prison cell. We begin to believe that there is no hope for escape. But, here’s the thing: we hold the key, and it is in our power to choose if we are going to use that key. Using the key though requires a great deal of risk… it just seems too scary, for the key is imperfection in all its inherent vulnerability.

Liberation is found in the embrace and acknowledgement of imperfection.

 Liberation is found in speaking your imperfections. Owning them and embracing them and having them be met with relentless empathy. One person to get down with you on that level to say, “yeah, I’ve totally been there too.” One person who will meet you on that plane of vulnerability. One person who will lovingly sit alongside you to peel back the layers.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” –Brene Brown


Empathy remedies shame. At the same time though, we must be careful about who we choose our “vulnerability running buddy” to be. Not everyone can hold our story. That is just a fact.  And so, we must use our discretion.We must protect our hearts, but not to the point where they become inaccessible. It’s about living from the space of sacred protection. Living from the knowing that our innermost “stuff” is the stuff of divinity. Immensely precious. Immensely sacred. Living from the knowing that you are immensely sacred. Living from the space of remembering your divinity.

Openness is not about letting it all “hang out” it’s about operating from a place of recognizing your value and sharing yourself with those who have proven themselves worthy of hearing your story. True, authentic, raw openness requires sacred protection grounded in unfaltering acceptance and big love.