Tune into this episode to listen to thoughts about the roots of perfectionism and how it is sometimes quite literally killing us.
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The Women Who Run With the Wolves
Kimber: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the "Be Your Bad Self" podcast where you get to show up imperfectly, make space for your authentic self, remember your inner child, and sink into the magic of the present moment. I'm your host, Kimber Dutton, and today we're going to talk about how perfectionism is killing you.
First, I want to share a story from Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book, women who run with the wolves. She writes:
"A woman I worked with, an intelligent gifted woman, told me of her grandmother who lived in the Midwest. Her grandmother's idea of a really good time was to board the train to Chicago and wear a big hat and walk down Michigan avenue, looking at all the shop windows and being an elegant lady.
By hook or by crook or by fate, she married a farmer. [00:01:00] They moved out into the midst of the wheat lands and she began to rot away in that elegant little farmhouse that was just the right size with all the right children and all the right husband. She had no more time for that frivolous life she'd once led. Too much kids. Too much women's work.
One day, years later, after washing the kitchen and living room floors by hand, she slipped into her very best silk blouse, buttoned her long skirt and pinned on her big hat. She pressed her husband's shotgun to the roof of her mouth and pulled the trigger. Every woman alive knows why she washed the floors first."
I realize that's a dark story to start this podcast out with, but I want to drive home the point that the topics that will be discussed on this podcast aren't just silly, frivolous, optional things. This stuff is life and death. Constantly dismissing our own needs in favor of pleasing others is not a sustainable way to live.[00:02:00]
Not everyone will go so far as to literally take their own life. But if we're not finding ways to feed our soul, it will die. That is just the way of things. There's a reason that striving for perfection is sometimes referred to as killing yourself off. The world doesn't need more soulless depressed people who feel like their only purpose is to do the bidding of others. We need people who are lit up, who are willing to take responsibility for their own happiness and by so doing, give others permission to do the same. So let's start tackling this issue at the source. Where does perfectionism come from?
At the root of perfectionism is a feeling of unworthiness. Of never- enoughness. A desire to be lovable and a disbelief that we are worthy of love the way we are.
Where does this come from? Everywhere. The messages we get from our parents, our kids, our employers, our spouses, our culture and society, our religions, the media advertisements. The message of not enough, [00:03:00] never enough is inescapable from the time we are little, we hear it from the people who love us most. Your room isn't clean enough. Your handwriting isn't neat enough. You're not nice enough. You're not tough enough. You're not smart enough. You're not thoughtful enough. You aren't enough. You will never be enough. When we have children of our own, we pass this toxicity down to them all while chastising ourselves for feeling like we aren't good enough for them.
We aren't cool enough. We aren't strict enough. We aren't crafty enough. We aren't loving enough. We aren't rich enough. We aren't playful enough. We will never, ever, ever be enough. The average American sees anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day. And what are these ads selling? The idea that you aren't enough. You aren't sexy enough. Your hair isn't silky enough.
Your skin isn't smooth enough. Your waist isn't thin enough. Your house isn't clean enough. Your car isn't new enough. Your life isn't exciting enough and you aren't enough. You aren't enough. You aren't enough. [00:04:00] You will never be enough.
Well, I've had enough. I'm sick of being told that I need to be perfect before I can enjoy my life.
I want to start living now. I want to create, and I want to shine and I want the same for you. There's an excerpt from the book, "Keeping the Love You Find" by Harville Hendrix that I want to share about a likeness and the importance of feeling alive.
"We are born with three instinctual directives. We want first to stay alive, but beyond that, we want to feel fully alive.
And we want to express that aliveness. Every child before self-consciousness sets in, acts spontaneously with total abandon and full involvement. If you spend any time around children, you know, this, everything interests them. They whirl until they're dizzy, run until they fall, paint wildly, sing unselfconsciously. We all felt like that once. We felt alive, we expressed it, but then life's realities inevitably set in. Our parents didn't always [00:05:00] respond to our cry. The bottle was too hot or cold. We fell out of bed. There was screaming. There weren't enough hugs. The new little sister came along too soon. We were laughed at, we became afraid and we lost our sense of being fully alive, which we can only feel when we're safe, not when we're scared, vulnerable, threatened, defensive, inadequate.
A feeling of aliveness is what we're after with our cars and condos and boats and gourmet food, our designer clothes and recreational sex and skydiving are deafening music and jogging and walks on the beach and TV and movies. I can only have sympathy for what all this compulsive activity really represents, which is that we live in a world and in relationships that don't allow us to feel truly alive.
And if we don't feel alive, we feel like we're going to die. So we do something, buy something binge on something, take drugs, drink, run 20 miles, get laid, turn up the music. Aliveness is not just a nice idea. It's something [00:06:00] powerful and fundamental in us. We want to relax, to walk around without our defenses up, to be ourselves.
We spend so much of our lives trying to find, or to create meaning in our lives. When what we truly want is to feel the fullness of our own experience. To feel the pulsation of our aliveness."
And that's the end of the quote from his book. This feeling of aliveness is what perfectionism is keeping us from. When we hear this message of never enough over and over and over again, it feels like we have two choices:
one keep trying, keep hustling, striving, and people pleasing to earn the love and approval of others. Or to give up, we will never be enough. So why even bother? In fact, let's even self-sabotage so that people's expectations of us will be even lower and all the pressure is off. And some people take it one step further and end their own lives forever because the burden of others' expectations is just too [00:07:00] heavy.
These choices are all symptoms of perfectionism and the never enough culture we live in. And they keep us too busy, judging ourselves and worrying about the judgments of others to sink into the magic of the present moment and feel the splendor of our own aliveness.
But there is another option. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.
We can choose to live our lives as an expression of our aliveness. Instead of as a skimpy sacrificial offering to the God of perfection, there is a way to feel worthy of love just as we are. There is a way to grow and become better people because we love ourselves and others. Not because we have to earn love from ourselves and others.
We can be enough without being perfect. This third option, the one where we get to enjoy our lives has something to do with mindfulness and paying attention to the beauty around us and gratitude and bravery and vulnerability and reasonable effort and loving [00:08:00] others and authenticity and intuition and showing up messy and self-compassion, and probably a host of other things.
But I am definitely not coming into these discussions with all the answers. Fortunately, I have a lineup of powerful women who have agreed to come on as guests in the coming weeks to discuss the questions and issues that so many of us have around letting go of our feelings of unworthiness and living our best life.
I truly believe that the greatest gift we can give the world is the gift of our own aliveness. When we come alive, we give others the permission to come alive and the world becomes a more vibrant place. So let's figure this out together. This podcast is here to help you along the way. And I would love if you would join me on the journey.
Thanks for listening today. If you want to interact with me more or get more nurturing and tips around living a gloriously, messy and authentic life, you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook at be your bed, self [00:09:00] your assignment this week. Do something that makes you feel fully alive. Maybe that's getting out in nature, going cliff diving, riding a bike, singing a song, dancing in the kitchen, whatever you do.
I'd love to hear about it. You can get in touch with me via Facebook or Instagram, or leave a message for me by calling 7 2 0 8 0 5 7 3 1 3. I'd love to feature your stories and successes at the beginning of the next podcast episode, to inspire and encourage others who may be listening. It's still early days and I would greatly appreciate any support I can get, so if you enjoyed this podcast and want to leave a review, subscribe to the podcast or share it, you have my heart. That's it from me. Now, just be your bad self.
Here are some great episodes to start with!