Our Light Can't Shine in the Darkness of Perfectionism

The planting season.

For the last 6 months I have been working nonstop to get Ever Upward noticed, read, reviewed, Tweeted, Facebooked and loved. I have also been trying to maintain my sanity, marriage and relationships. I have also been trying to not go broke while pushing out my debut book without a big publishing house behind me and no experience in marketing or PR. All while seeing the most clients I ever have each week and being the best therapist I have ever been (only because I work my own recovery).

All this pushing and planting about topics that many don't want to talk about or even hear about.

All this pushing and planting because I believe in myself, in my message and in the need for it.

But now it is spring.

My seasons are changing.

Less than two weeks out from the bookstore launch of Ever Upward and I am realizing, again, the need to step back.

Step back to watch what I have planted grow.

Step back to make room for it to grow.

Step back to give it back to Him.

Step back to allow it bloom.

To imperfectly bloom.

As all of my work begins to bud, I am also beginning to be faced with one of my personal struggles.

Perfectionism.

Because not everyone likes what I have to say or how I go about it all.

But, no one has ever changed the world by being liked by everyone and the people who know me and know Ever Upward can trust that my intention is always to help. Besides, I only have room for those who are actually in the arena with me; living their lives every day with wholehearted courage.

And yet, the perfectionist part of me also cringes at the thought of being disliked by anyone. Or worse yet, people out there saying negative things about me and my message.

However, rising ever upward means not being defined by what others think of me and always choosing to shine my light no matter what.

Because nothing is perfect and light will never shine in perfectionistic darkness, which means nothing will ever grow.

The perfectionistic darkness

This darkness almost got me recently when I received my first 3 star Amazon review that contained good constructive criticism. Now I am not delusional, I know those negative reviews are coming; just as I have learned that I will never please everyone. But this one was my first and it stung a bit.

But just for a bit because I wasn't going to allow that perfectionistic dark to steal the moment.

Because the truth of the review was that the better (and longer) half of the review was incredible and super supportive. If I focused on those 3 stars and the criticism for too long it would completely negate the positive part of the review.

But, isn't that what we all do?

  • You were told five exemplary points during your job review and you can't get the one thing your supervisor needs you to work on out of your mind.
  • 95% percent of the evaluations are raving positive reviews and that measly 5% is haunting you.
  • You didn't get those three jobs before your dream job that you actually got and yet you hold onto those rejections for way longer than they deserve.

Give yourself permission to take the feedback, the rejection and the criticism in order to grow from it but then let it go. Because, we must give ourselves permission to celebrate and to actually pat ourselves on the back, especially when we deserve it.

The crazy part is my 3 star reviewer reached out to me after I posted about my disappointment on my personal Facebook page and the Ever Upward Facebook page. You see part of my ever upward journey is to be honest and vulnerable on social media because that is real life. Just as my friend Jen of Daring Happiness says, "Facebook Happy" is our fault not social media's fault. Take a chance and post about your real life on social media and feel how much your life and the connections in your life flourish.

My 3 star reviewer apologized and reiterated how much she loved my book and even offered to change the star review on Amazon. To which I wrote her back and thanked her for her apology but assured her it was completely unnecessary.

And then, I thanked her for her criticism.

She is now a significant part of this journey for me. I need to trust who I am, to know my message matters and will help others. I don't want to develop a tough skin because then I am not honoring the wholehearted and authentic person I am and want to be. But I do want and need to practice my recovery wholeheartedly, which means I get to learn and grow from criticism while also allowing the light in.

My 3 star reviewer allowed me this practice: to let go of that perfectionistic dark in order to allow the light in.

To let my light in.

Because none of it can bloom without that light.

 
 

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Tread or Float

For the last 14 years I have had the honor of witnessing people journey through some of the most difficult times of their lives to emerge as happier, healthier and whole people. As a mental health therapist I fulfill multiple roles on a daily basis; teacher, healer, helper, educator, coach, big sister, mother, friend, confidante, trainer and, in all honesty, sometimes I’m the provider of a swift kick in the ass. Unbeknownst to them, my clients also, at times, fulfill these same roles for me as they are my reminders, and examples, of fighting the good fight and never giving up.

Throughout the years of working with clients I have found there will be times where I must push, and I mean push really hard. Making sure they know they have the strength to change their lives; and that they are ready. There are other times where I will simply hold their hand, walking alongside them through their journey of self discovery, self doubt and finding peace. Then there are times, where I will take their hand and pull them forward, at times, begging them to trust me and try things a different way; to put one foot in front of the other and follow me.

No matter the concern someone is coming into therapy and coaching for, they are facing the hardest work of their lives. They are facing times of progress and times of feeling so stuck they can’t stand it. They will doubt their abilities, and maybe even mine to help them. They will get worse before they get better. They will at times hate me for the things I ask them to do. They will walk away and come back. They will push me away because it hurts that badly to trust someone or to have someone believe in them so much when no one else ever has.

They will question.

They will resist.

They will work.

They will change.

Depression. Anxiety. Alcoholism. Drug use. Gambling. Shopping. Trich. Eating Disorders. Weight Issues. OCD. Bitterness. Toxic Relationships. Lying. Cheating. Discontent. Self Hate. Grief. Perfectionism. Shame. Doubt. Cynicism. Abuse. Rigidity. Bipolar. Unease. Infertility. Loss. Trauma. Surviving. Faith difficulty. Pessimism. Indecision. Blaming. Apathy. Sad. Feeling lost. Parenting struggles. Social difficulty. Bullying wounds. Self care. Distrust. Anger.

These are our stories. And all of our stories contain some struggle.

Where we lose ourselves, I think, is when we make these struggles all of who we are. We turn them into our whole story. They become our entire identity, even when they start working against us rather than for us. We hold on so tightly to these struggles, and what we think works to manage them, that we lose the great parts, the whole parts, of who we are.

When our struggles are our whole story, we struggle to own those stories, and therefore struggle to find our ever upward. We must find the way to make these struggles simply parts of who we are, parts of our story.

But we hold onto the trouble, the trauma, the loss, the struggle because it is all we have ever known. We hold on because the unknown is scarier. We hold on because we have no idea what else to do. We hold on because, at least we’re surviving. We hold on because they have become, what we think, are our water wings, our life preservers.

But eventually, we hold on so tightly and so long, the very things that have saved us, that have helped us to survive, become our own cement blocks.

Our own cement blocks drowning us in ourselves.

No self care. Worry. Drinking. Drugging. Spending. Pulling. Restricting. Binging. Counting. Drama. Lies. Dishonesty. Self harm. No breaks. Too hard. No sleep. Unhealthy sarcasm. Over-scheduling. No room. Flashbacks. Mood swings. Never saying no. Isolation. Promiscuity. No passion. Procrastination. Loneliness. Rage. Inconsistency. No movement, etc. etc. etc. etc.

What I ask my clients to work through and change every day is no less than an act of faith and trust. I am asking them to let go of their way. The way that has actually worked for years, at least worked in numbing or self-medicating themselves. The way that has helped them to survive but is now drowning them. I ask them to let go because if they don’t they won’t have any free arms to grasp onto the tools and the hope I am offering them.

They must let go in order to begin again.

 
 

But the most excruciating part of this battle, is that they must have faith that they will either float or tread water while they learn, grow and change.

Because they will. They will tread or float, and I will be right there with them; coaching, believing, pushing and loving.

And eventually, they will be able to grasp onto those tools.

But most importantly they will find their freedom to finally believe in the hope I hold for them.

And they will save their own lives.

They will find their own ever upward.

Choosing to change your life will be the hardest and scariest thing you have ever done. It will also be the best thing you will ever do.

I know, as I have, myself, fought the battle. Being scared shitless to let go of what I had learned to trust over the years but began to realize was holding me back and keeping me from being who I am truly meant to be. Letting go to push through fear to do the grueling work to trust and have faith in my own ability to tread or float in order to recover...in order to find my own ever upward.

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