Happy Wednesday, everyone! (Or as I recently heard it said in Spanish — Feliz ombligo de semana, Happy Bellybutton Day! Because we’re in the middle of the week . . . get it? OK — ) So what’s going on this week? How is everybody feeling? Today, I want to explore an emotion that can often be uncomfortable for people, an emotion that is often pushed down, ignored, shoved into the deep dark corners of ourselves —
Oooof! Even just the word is heavy. Are there things you wish you would have done, things you wish you could have said?
The reason this topic came up is I was having a conversation with my friend Sara. (Not her real name.) She’s a mom, raising two kids, and she was telling me about an article that changed the way she parented; it discussed the importance of independent play for children, and she realized she may have been hovering over her toddler too much. She said she felt relieved at first, like a lightbulb had gone off (these spaces for independent play would make her household run much more smoothly), but that emotion was quickly followed by a wash of shame. She thought of all the little spats with her child, missed opportunities for connection — of the impact that her parenting style may have already had.
Sara held it all in for a while, the two emotions, relief and shame. But one day, during a conversation with her husband, she let it all out — cried until all the shame was gone and then committed to doing better moving forward.
So what is shame — what is regret? Does it serve a purpose? Is the humbling process of acknowledging we’re imperfect important for our development?
I think it was Brené Brown that said our addiction to perfection comes from the erroneous belief that, if we think and act perfectly, we can avoid suffering. But perfection doesn’t protect us, does it? It isolates us, locks us in, prevents us from growing as people.
Perfection is static, while the process of making mistakes, learning and growing — that’s dynamic, that’s life itself. We can’t change the past, but we can make our experiences meaningful, we can reorder our thoughts, we can tell ourselves a different story, allow our reflections to affect our future behavior.
Have you ever struggled with perfectionism — as a parent or in other aspects of your life? What have been your most important life lessons?
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