The Step Into Your Sovereignty 2.0 group coaching program is half full and the early rate ends tomorrow…
What themes are forming in the Step into Your Sovereignty 2.0 cohort for the fall so far? The failings of perfectionism. Of trying SO HARD to make things work. In broken conservative institutions that don’t support who we are.
To say that the cohort that’s forming has a few things in common is an understatement.
We are all ambitious, idealistic women who have worked in painfully slow-to-change bureaucracies and systems. Who have shown up and led or advocated for heart-felt change. We’ve created leadership development communities or shown up as leaders in community-building. We’ve supported voices heard.
And we’ve burnt out or we’re stuck. We want out but don’t know what’s next. So we’ve decided to do the harder work of listening. To something other than what isn’t/hasn’t/won’t work anymore. Because our bodies don’t/won’t lie. Nor does our inherent energy we have for life. Nor the openness or closed-ness of our hearts.
But all this wisdom – the inherent truth of our experience – gets hidden under what we think we should do and be. It’s called perfectionism.
Are you trying to be perfect sometimes? Me too. Self-development and ambition can take the form of self-criticism and self-undoing when headed in the wrong direction. And it often is in my experience.
“I want this and I didn’t get it” (i.e., the high-paying/high-status career that I burnt out from; the new business that was slow to start; or even simply failing to execute the project or initiative in the way that I wanted to) can take lead to harsh self-blame when we really listen. I failed despite trying really hard. So what does that say about me? We internalize accountability for failure and make it something to do with our worth. Not quite good enough.
And while our intellect might be able to accept rational reasons beyond our control for why things didn’t work out (i.e., no one could keep going in that kind of toxic, unsupportive environment, or, new businesses require resources that I didn’t prepare myself for, or, not all initiatives involve stakeholders who want to make it work…) on another level we are holding ourselves up as inadequate. I failed.
Because this is the framework we’ve been operating in from the beginning: “I need to be perfect, exceptional, and without fault to make this work,” and when something goes wrong, guess who’s to blame? Me.
Because the formula for success rests in being perfect. Inhuman. Flawless. And so we set ourselves up unwittingly. For failure. For burnout. For disappointment. When our formula for success rests in a flawed perfection.
And it’s therefore a distorted state of perfection – not perfection at all. Because guess what state of perfection isn’t perfect? A state where the standards for your success don’t include the whole of you. A state that is designed to pit you against yourself. A state that spurs you to ask questions like: “What’s wrong with you that I can fix?” as opposed to “What strengths do you have that we can build a life out of and thrive?”
Are you hearing yourself in this? Me too. And what’s interesting is we don’t see it when we are looking at things like our risk aversion to starting the new job, the business that we want, leading the initiative that we’re excited about starting. We chalk it up to our our practicality, or our desire to be humble and grateful for our careers – because there are so many who have less.
When really those are masks or excuses. Fronts that are gatekeeping our truths from ourselves. That we would live the inspiration that was calling us if only we were good enough. Strong enough. Had what it took. And it’s this lie that we’re telling ourselves (that we somehow aren’t enough) that is holding us back.
Not the economy, not our humility, not our practicality.
It’s our fear. How do I do this when I am imperfect? When I might fail?
And so we make it about us. How can I make myself just a little bit more perfect. Take another degree. Take another course. Ride myself just a little bit harder. To be a little bit more perfect.
***Why would I criticize self-improvement when I’m a coach, offering professional and personal development programming? Shouldn’t I be the last person to critique the quest for self-development?
There’s a difference between developing new capacities versus trying to shape ourselves into something that asks that who we are disappears in the name of success. Superwomen without fault. Heroic, multi-tasking and inhuman. Fortresses with no one home inside.
Self-development starts with building enough of a sense that I am enough that we can relax, and become curious “What might we need to do to get from A to B?” and bring our whole selves along with us. Because we are allowed to be ourselves. We have permission. Even if you weren’t given it – as an adult women we need to take that back for ourselves. Because without self-investment there’s no capacity to give. And leadership, entrepreneurship, starting something new, creating a big change – they all require capacity. Lots of it.
Join a small group of women this fall and Step Into Your Sovereignty. Invest in yourself and build capacity to thrive. Determine success according to who you are and what it looks like to get behind yourself in service of your dream: instead of undermining it in the name of a false state of perfection.