It has been several years now since I read Brené Brown’s beautiful book titled “The Gifts of Imperfection.” But in recent conversations, I have been reminded of its lessons, which continue to be relevant every day.
The book is a blessing, especially to those of us who are recovering perfectionists. Brené has collected thousands of stories all over the country and found that we all struggle with the same thing: shame and the fear of not being enough. As a result, many of us are afraid to be our true selves. She found that how much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but loving ourselves and embracing our vulnerability is even more essential, for our own sake and for those who are close to us.
But how do we embrace ourselves, just the way we are, including all of our imperfections? Oftentimes, we have knowingly or unknowingly created some sort of list that we have to satisfy first, before we “are worthy.”
I’ll be worthy if I make partner (or become a manager, director, VP, have a successful business, etc.)
I’ll be worthy if I lose twenty pounds.
I’ll be worthy if I can get pregnant.
I’ll be worthy if everyone thinks I am a good parent.
I’ll be worthy when my parents finally approve.
I’ll be worthy if I have a boyfriend/girlfriend (get engaged, get married, etc.)
It never ends. Once we finally reach one item on our list, we focus on a new one. We have to get to the point where we believe that we are worthy now. Not if or when we reach a certain goal. We are worthy and we are enough RIGHT NOW. There is nothing we need to accomplish first.
I used to have several items on my list I needed to accomplish successfully in order to feel worthy. There was always the next higher work title I needed to get to (first manager, then director etc.) I wanted my parents’ approval. Then there were all the day-to-day goals.
So what gets in the way of us believing that we are worthy RIGHT NOW? Shame. Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable. We believe that we are somehow flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. We are afraid that people won’t like us if they knew the truth about who we are, what we believe, what we are struggling with or how we are soaring.
In order to deal with shame, some of us withdraw or hide, some try to appease and please, and some respond by being aggressive and attacking back. Yet all of these strategies move us away from who we truly are. They don’t allow us to accept ourselves just the way we are.
There is only one way out of shame : We have to do the very thing we are all afraid to do – talk about it. We have to reach out and share our experience with people who are supportive and who we trust. (Don’t share with people who are judgmental, since that will make you feel worse.) We have to talk about how we are feeling and ask for what we need. Shame loses power when it is spoken.
Here are some action steps you can take right now:
- Write out your “I’ll be worthy when…” list
What is on your list of things you need to satisfy before you are worthy? Begin by writing, “I’ll be worthy when…” and see what comes up for you.
- Think of someone in your life who can listen to you and love you for being you, including your struggles. This could be a close friend, a family member, your coach, your therapist, or your significant other. If you currently don’t know anyone, you could join a supportive group (check out Meetup.com). Reach out to them and talk to them about the very things you are ashamed to admit.
- Take your “I’ll be worthy when” list and change the beginning of the sentences to “I am worthy even if I don’t…” Write out each sentence with that new beginning and read it out loud.
Because you don’t need to accomplish anything from your list first. You are worthy RIGHT NOW. ♥