I recently got asked by a friend if I was ever going to blog again. I’ve heard this question before so I gave my usual ‘brush it off’ response with a side of self-deprecating humor about how this space proves to everyone how imperfect I am, what a mess I am, how un-figured out I am. This is my usual deflection tactic in life and most of the time it works, people laugh, the subject gets changed, life goes on. Except this time, I got called out. The gist of it? ‘You’re not perfect and you never will be, so you might as well be good.’
It reminded me of another conversation I had recently in which I described a situation where I was struggling with perfectionism. Attempting to find a well versed way of describing how I felt, all I could come up with was, ‘It’s the same feeling as when you’ve been wearing Spanx an hour too long so you still look great but you don’t feel great and they’re driving you insane and all you want to do is eat Taco Bell and go home.’ Very, very well-versed, I know.
Here’s what I meant: Spanx does a great job of making the outside look good even if internally they’re making you crazy umcomfortable. The ridicuous idea of perfection is the same way and just like the feeling you get when start choosing authentic over perfect, the best part of wearing Spanx is getting home and finally taking them off.
I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t always feel this way. It used to be that when I came home and looked in the mirror, my self-confidence that was delicately hinged upon how the rib-crushing shapewear had made me look and, in turn feel just minutes prior, melted. Why couldn’t I just look like this all the time? Why wasn’t I skinnier? Taller? Less muscular?
The thing Spanx and perfectionism have in common: they both have a way of making good seem not good enough.
Because of this, people keep wearing them both— ‘maybe if it looks good on the outside, no one will know it’s not perfect on the inside’. This mentality requires upkeep, a constant placing of your worth in approval and it’s exhausting. The irony? No one’s life is perfect and yet somehow we convince ourselves that something about us is just ‘too messy/too ugly/too much/too little’ for anyone to see, care about or love so we don’t even give people the chance. In my experience, this need for external validation does two things really well, it minimizes gratitude and makes self-worth contingent. That combination of ‘nothing is good enough’ and ‘it’s because I’m not good enough’, makes the lenses through which we see ourselves and our lives blurred; it makes contentment look like inadequacy and feel like failure; where at best we are lacking and at worst, alone.
I GET IT! I really, really do. The allure of, “If I ( you name it), I will be void of pain, disappointment, embarrassment or failure” is huge, especially today where everything can be scrutinized from behind a screen. I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, you will certainly not be immune to those feelings (you are still a human being) and when you experience them through perfectionsim, they will be compounded with shame and defeat because you couldn’t protect yourself from them because you’re not perfect. Cue the cycle spinning madly on.
I’m going to throw my hand up and admit that I’ve been there and some days, I’m still there. Look at how I’ve neglected this blog, this place I love but am so scared to be because it’s less than perfect and other blogs are better and written by smarter people and on and on. But I’m not perfect and never will be so I may as well take off the Spanx and get busy being ‘good’ and having that be enough.
On the long journey back from ‘what will people think?’, I find that now when I show up for myself as myself, it is in my proverbial well worn, well loved clothes sans Spanx. And I will take this version of me any day. Nothing I can say can stop you from putting your Spanx on if you aren’t ready, being seen can be scary and I know that from experience, but if what you’re looking for is permission, someone to tell you that on the other side of perfectionism is contentment and a million other good things you will never find if you live worried about being perfect, I’m your girl.
I see you, I’ve been there, I know it’s hard and I know it’s worth it.