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.

 

 

  

When Gratitude is Detrimental.

Gratitude. I am all about it. For me, it is an intentional, daily practice. On those not so great days, it takes me out of the negative spiral that often manifests, and helps me to reframe and refocus. It allows me to stand back from the “negative” happenings in my life and extract the lessons and insights. Gratitude helps me to evolve, expand, and move ever closer to the person I want to be in this life.

Gratitude is the foundation of clarity.

Intentional gratitude is incredibly powerful and transformative, and lies at the crux of authentic wellbeing, if appropriately timed.

The transformative power of gratitude can only take root if correctly placed on your path of self-evolution.

If misused, gratitude can be hugely detrimental to your growth. It can block you and keep you in an insincere self-space. The problem with gratitude arises when it is used to mask the impacts of painful life events.

Something utterly devastating has just happened to you. You feel like your world is falling apart. You’re hurt, overwhelmed, and in pain, and it’s terrifying. You don’t know what to do with your feelings. You don’t want to tell anyone for fear of appearing weak. You don’t want people’s pity, so if you do reach out, you skim the surface of what you’re experiencing, and slap it with a “I should be grateful though, it could be worse”, severely downplaying your current internal reality. And so, gratitude becomes the new name of avoidance, resistance, denial, self-betrayal, and self-criticism.

This “gratitude” promotes a hierarchy of suffering, and fuels the notion that human suffering and pain is to be classified. We use it to measure our worthiness of receiving love and compassion from others, isolating ourselves as a result, often deepening our pain.

As powerful as gratitude is, it needs to come after giving yourself the permission to simply be with your internal reality, because it is calling to be seen, heard, and deeply felt. There is no such thing as a hierarchy of suffering. Your pain is worthy of attention because it is real for you- it doesn’t come with conditions.

Give yourself permission to surrender to what is, and gratitude will unfold naturally, for authentic gratitude is a by-product of a healing heart.

What’s Driving You? (Some Words on Figuring Out Your “Why”).



Why are you doing what you’re doing?
 
What is the core motivation behind your decision to invest time in certain activities and not others?
 
A few days ago, I found myself reading an article discussing the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Needless to say, the article prompted me into reflection. It got me thinking about the choices I have made in my life and how they have contributed to where I sit today.
 
Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation arsing from the desire to earn a particular reward, validation or to avoid potentially adverse consequences of not completing the given activity. Focus is on the external.
 
Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation arising from a genuine and authentic desire to complete an activity for its inherent enjoyment to you. It’s about personal fulfillment. It’s about what lights you up and gets you excited. It’s about passion. It’s about feeling connected to your truth. It’s about your unique message. It’s about self-love and knowing that you’re worth it. Focus is on the internal.
 
For years, I admit, I was someone who was extrinsically motivated. I did things with the purpose of receiving validation from others. I lived with the idea that my worth was tied up in other people’s recognition of my value. I desperately craved approval and external assurance that I was “good enough.” I molded myself to fit their idea of who I should be. It didn’t feel good, but the risk of not receiving their approval was far too anxiety-provoking, and so I became comfortable with continual self-betrayal. At that time, compromising who I was for the potential “fix” of external approval was a small price to pay.
 
That was, until I had a conversation with one of the people I craved approval from the most. It was an intensely painful conversation, but a life-changing one. I am forever grateful to this person for giving me the hard-hitting truths that he did, because I know that if he hadn’t done this, I would still be that person chasing that elusive carrot. (And this carrot by the way, can come cloaked in many different masks- money, grades, awards, weight, promotions… etc.)
 
That conversation was my ticket to personal liberation and fierce self-love. It allowed me the space to realize that what I was chasing all of these years wasn’t actually there to begin with. I had been relinquishing my power, and doing myself a grand disservice. Was a disempowered life really the one that I wanted to live? Is that what I wanted my life to be a testament to? Not so much.
 
It got me thinking about this:
 
What would actually happen if I stopped doing things for the approval of others and just for myself?  
 
Would there be some push back? Probably. There always is when you start asserting yourself and taking a stand for your worth.
 
Would I be happier? Most definitely.
Would I feel liberated? Absolutely. 
Today, I do things because I am intrinsically motivated to do them. I do things because they make me happy and feel fulfilled. It was a difficult shift to make, I admit, but the more I began listening to the call of my true desires, the easier it became to listen to and trust that voice. Trust that you know what is best for you. Trust that the only person you need approval from is yourself. Trust that the more dedicated you are to satisfying the internal yearning that drives you, the more you will be able to give. 

Committing your time to the things that make you shine is the most radical act of self-love there is. 
 
Operating from a space of intrinsic motivation allows us to make conscious and purposeful choices… choices that arise from a feeling of abundance rather than lack. Our focus thus becomes much more centered on what we can give rather than what we can get. It becomes about service and a genuine desire to share what we have to offer (and we ALL have something to offer). Our selflessness becomes infused with a new level of authenticity, because we are no longer concerned about outcome. It’s no longer about how it’s received, because we are no longer yearning to fill an internal void. 
 
Talk about freedom. 

Remember Your Humanness.

 




I’m a bit of a compassion junkie. If you have read anything that I have written, you likely have figured out that for me, compassion is my core guiding value. I want my life to be a reflection of it, infused in all that I do and  in all that I say. For me, the practice of compassion is transcendent. It allows me to feel connected to life in an inexpiable way, and functions as a constant reaffirmation of my connection to a greater source. As I have developed as a therapist over the last few years, my relationship to, and interest in the study of compassion has only grown stronger. I have piles of books dedicated to the subject sitting next to my bed, and read nightly to end my day with a little burst of inspiration. Most of the literature I have read speaks about compassion as a deep desire to alleviate the suffering of others, and it is my best guess that this is the definition that most people hold in their minds- compassion is a trait to be focused outward. This is the definition I subscribed to for many years as well, until I read a book titled Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. This book radically changed the way I relate to the concept of compassion. In her book, Neff asserts that while compassion is to be focused outward, it is also to be focused inward, toward ourselves.
 
Radical right?!
 
At first thought, the notion of directing compassion toward ourselves may seem and feel a bit uncomfortable- after all, the critic within each of us can give us a multitude of reasons why we don’t deserve it. It may tell us that the things we’ve done are far too shameful to warrant compassion- that although compassion is all well and good for those around us, we are the exception. That somehow, we should have known better. That we are disconnected, and separate from the rest. Welcome that all too familiar shame spiral born of self-judgement. Consequently, we often begin to believe that we must engage in self-judgement and self-criticism as a way to keep us from doing that (those) all too shameful thing(s) again. We become increasingly unhappy, fearful and emotionally paralyzed. We condemn ourselves to a life of discontentment because we begin to believe that that is all we are worthy of.
 
And so, here are my questions for you:
 
  •          What really makes you so different from everyone else?
  •          Have we not all made mistakes and done things we are not proud of?
  •          Could it be that you were doing the best that you could in that given moment?
  •          Could it be that you were simply trying to fill some underlying need or void? (i.e. a              need for belonging, acceptance, love, connection etc.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that self-compassion is a way to let yourself “off the hook.” Rather, I am saying that, yes, although you may have made mistakes, they do not define you. Imperfection is a part of being human, and past mistakes do not change your worth. Worthiness is to be claimed, not earned. It is a gift that comes with being human. It is unchangeable and constant. You are worthy of love, belonging, unconditional acceptance, compassion, happiness, connection etc. regardless of the things you have done or have not done. It is an irrefutable fact.
 
Self-compassion is a commitment to your long-term well-being, not short-term gratification.
 
The practice of self-compassion asks you to begin to relate to yourself with self-kindness when you have failed, made a mistake, feel inadequate and so on. It asks you to recognize imperfection and begin to speak to yourself more kindly.

Imagine a close friend of yours is going through the same thing you are. This friend has made a mistake, has failed at something, and is right in the depths of a shame spiral. 
 
  •          How would you speak to this friend?
  •          What would you say to this friend to comfort him or her?
Turn those words away from your friend and toward yourself, remembering that at your core, you are no different from your friend.
The practice of self-compassion also asks you to recognize the interconnectedness of all human beings. It operates on the core premise that we are fundamentally the same. Underneath all appearances, abilities and perceived differences, we are all looking for the same things in this life. We really are on this ride together. 
 
Finally, the practice of self-compassion asks you to be mindful of your feelings related to the various experiences you have had. It asks you to practice unconditional acceptance toward whatever feelings are coming up for you- even the ones that are immensely difficult and painful to feel, for it is in facing them that we allow them to dissipate.
 
 
How do you think your life would change if you were to treat yourself more compassionately? 

Fearlessness: Deconstructed.

 
 
 
Fearlessness. I am all about it. I write about it. I speak about it. And, I try, the very best that I can to live it. But, when I talk about being fearless, I am not talking about the absence of fear, nor am I talking about the denial of it. Actually, I am talking about the embrace of it. To me, fearlessness is all about sitting with and facing fear- understanding that the experience of it is part of being human.
 
 
Fear is not inherently bad. We need it in order to survive and thrive, because without it we would have no way of identifying threat or danger. It protects us- it is needed, normal, and healthy. However, fear becomes problematic when it begins to take on a life beyond our control. When it begins to control each and every decision we make, and thus, prevents us from living life with the zest that we would like to. It can dominate our deepest yearnings by blocking us from fulfilling them, which ultimately truncates the size of our lives, keeps us small, therefore often leaving us with perpetual feelings of dis-ease, dissatisfaction, and discomfort.   
 
 
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown
 
 
But here’s the thing: discomfort is really the name of the whole game. Discomfort will be present in the act of submitting to our fears as well as in the act of embracing them. It’s simply a matter of choice. Discomfort can either function as a mechanism which keeps us small, or a mechanism which allows us to push, embrace, and ultimately shine…and that is what fearlessness is. It is the understanding that we can give discomfort the power to foster growth and personal expansion, and that often, it can be used to serve us rather than to hinder us.
It’s simply a matter of going deep with the discomfort of your fear, and looking at it for what it is.
 
 Asking yourself:
 
 
·         Am I in any real danger here?
®     Could I get seriously injured or die doing this?
®     Am I putting others at risk?
·         What am I really afraid of?
®     Failing
®     Looking stupid
®     Making a mistake
®     Disappointing others
®     Disappointing myself
·         What will it mean if I fail, look stupid, make a mistake, disappoint myself or others etc.?
®     That I am unlovable?
®     That I am not good enough?
®     That I am a failure?
®     That I am worthless?
·         Is this really true?
 
My best guess is a resounding NO. It’s not really true that you would be unlovable, worthless, an outright failure, or not good enough if you failed at something, made a mistake, looked stupid in front a whole bunch of people, disappointed yourself or others etc. You would in fact be just as lovable, worthy and awesome.
 
 
Don’t let your sense of worth be defined by external factors. Understand that your worth is constant and inherent, and welcome true liberation of self. Welcome an increased willingness to grow, expand, evolve, and risk.
 
 
Embrace your fear. Your life is waiting.