Lesson 5: The lesson that has (still is) taken me the longest to learn:  Letting go of perfectionism

Inspired by Brene Brown “Gifts of Imperfection”

Reading the Gifts of Imperfections has by far been my life saving experience in this world. I am a big fan of Oprah and discovering Brene Brown is just one of the greatest gifts that Super Soul Sunday brought to my life. I read this book via Kindle and Audio and have since done hundreds of hours on it since having access to them.

Cultivating self-compassion and letting go of perfectionism is my favorite of all the topics because it is a lesson that I have struggled with and has been a constant lesson in my life. The one I strongly feel shows itself in many facets of my life. I started reading the book where I was already practicing being kind to myself without even realizing the extent to which I was so harsh on myself or why I truly expected a lot from myself and others. I was a new mother to beautiful girls, adjusting to being a powerhouse at work, making efforts to being a great partner to my husband, a sister and a friend. Every single day, I was eliminating habits, activities that I felt I didn’t need them in my life anymore but I had attached so much value on them that letting go of them seemed like some form of a devaluation or reduction to who I am and my self-worth.

So I love how Dr. Brene Brown puts her definitions on this book and I would like to just paste them on this blog for background.

Perfectionism is NOT the same thing as:

1.       Striving to be your best

2.       Healthy achievement and growth

3.       Self-improvement

Perfectionism says “If we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement and shame” Perfectionism at its core it’s about earning approval and acceptance.

 

Accepting the truth about these definitions was the hardest part and one of my favorite line from the book is this one “Most perfectionist were raised being praised from performance, grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing’ … Ohw my goodness, I had such a big aha moment when I read this line because this is me . . . .  This is me. It is how I am and how I was raised.

 

 I have an internal people pleasing radar to an extent that I remember being around age 6/7 , I had just taken a bath and it started drizzling outside. I immediately thought it was such a good opportunity for me to play outside and make some delicious mud pies. Unbeknown to me that , that was an unacceptable behavior , I got a belt whipping on my muddy hands and I cried unstoppable…. that day was sadly my last day ever in my life to play with mud

I developed a personality of extreme cleanliness and I was obsessed with staying clean. I washed the dishes and kept our house spotless. I became so good at it to an extent that I started weekend cleaning jobs and got paid for it

All of this began because I was trying to please my brother and to avoid the painful whipping.

All my life I have been described as a good girl and have always find a sense of fulfillment in putting others first even it means a complete forgetfulness about my own existence. There is no greater feeling for me than to hear a well done 👍🏾 good job kind of praise …. it is a language that motivates me and propels me to even more performance

It was not until I was feeling exhausted about my demanding tasks and expectations of myself and others that this book gave me a language and a path to see that whilst being all that has worked , there is more to me than being a people pleaser and striving to tick all the right boxes

I see how being a church girl has elevated perfection to being a standard to earn belonging and to somewhat qualify for certain blessings . For example in the church that I grew up in, righteous living was a must . And so from time to time a church member would confess their sins publicly and repent of their wrongdoing. This practice would become part of my cleansing process as I grew in the church and as life would have me face the imperfect circumstances of the world. …..

Whilst I respected the process, I couldn’t help but feel judgement from it and a sense of “ dropping the standard “ and ultimately being disqualified from earning certain perks

I realize now that there was a point in my life where righteousness was actually self righteousness and not the everlasting grace and loving kindness of Jesus Christ and the work of the cross . So performance became my driving force and through it I definitely was awarded with lots of praise. I also led a life of being able to avoid anything and everyone that shared as a bad life experience and decision making. I later learned in life that I had built resilience for nothing because I led a life of avoidance and not getting my hands dirty

You know that line when someone says “ I’m telling you this so that you don’t make the same mistakes “ that line was everything to me !!! I have now learned that instead of me saying that line , a better one is to share my experiences for one to be aware . …. because sometimes you just can’t prevent people from experiences and life decisions they make

How did the lesson come to me ???

We were home one weekend to discuss a matter of my nieces pregnancy… this was by far amongst my most painful 😣 and tense days of life ever and it was not until that day that I realized how much poverty has affected my whole thought process and decision making in my whole life

There I was , tense and so emotional and yelling at her for thinking I am having it easy . I made sacrifices and l drive my 1999 Toyota model in order to provide financial support to them. I spoke of the dream I had / we all had for them and without any regard for her side of the story and I told her to consider the worst possible decision ever …. and I am glad she never did

—————————————————————

My biggest pain in life has been growing up poor in the dusty streets of Ezenzeleni Township. I grew up knowing that I will do something great with my life but I also made it my life’s mission to make sure that I take my whole family along with me together with my community

I literally used to say it out loud that I don’t want to live in a big house drive a big car but have any of my family members begging on the streets….. sounds perfect right?

I realize now that this intention although pure it was misguided. It was all about me and how people will perceive me and as life and pain would show me many times I had to learn and still learn this everyday that it’s not about me and it shouldn’t be

It didn’t take me long to realize how sad this was for me. How I had placed some of the most critical decisions of my well being on the wellness of others that I care about. I also remember saying to myself “ Mano how dare you place the burden of your life’s decisions on the shoulders of this child, how dare you, she didn’t ask for it , you chose for yourself “

Yes being poor is a terrible thing but this time I had to learn that aborting a child because they didn’t come under the suitable conditions nor perfect timing was not the route to take nor was it my place to decide what happens

The burden will continue but so must life continue. After this realization, I remembered how a few years back I had taken in another niece, made sacrifices and 18 months later we reached a dead end . I mastered the courage to tell her this “ I don’t have the tools to help you, I desire to help you but all that I am doing is to hurt you “ and just like that we parted ways

I recently came across this lesson again , when my other niece “ had it all” . The good school , driving to school and yet I perceived her as not being grateful. I remember the moment my sister said to me “ she is having all the opportunities you wanted and yet …” my lights switched on ….. I remembered my pain as a child and how much I was told I was better than the school I went to and that one day I will go to a better school

And so going to a better school was everything I ever desired as a child …. I was able to not reach out to my niece because I realized this “ I was not ready to hear her story without trying to make her live my dream”

As a result , I only reached out when I was truly able and willing to listen 👂

————————————————————-

From my pain and coupled with good intentions I developed ideas on how to change the world . However when I failed doing so with my nieces I took it personal and when I risked being perceived as the successful lady who never cared about her family I went in hard to try control the situations even if it meant making the worst decisions of my life

This was particularly difficult for me because before these experiences, I had succeeded to achieve 3 student graduates who came from the conditions that are worse off than my nieces and these students were not related to me

I remember asking myself “ how can I succeed at helping strangers but fail at my own family “

 —————————————————————

How am I digging deep ?

I am constantly affirming to myself this …

 

I AM NOT WHAT I ACCOMPLISH

I am constantly aware of my habits to Please, perform, perfect and I am paying attention to the deep fear of failing, making mistakes and disappointing others. I am also opening myself up more to taking risks and welcome the idea of failing at things and to trust that I will rise again

I am finally blogging regularly and avoiding procrastination and over editing my second language. This is so vulnerable for me to do

 

Healthy striving

I affirm to myself first that I am worthy of love, worthy of acceptance. In the past I placed it upon myself to be the aunt who shows up in cash in calls ewallet and solutions . I know now that I am worthy of being an aunt even when I don’t have all of that and so now I can confidently say no to my nieces when I don’t have and say yes only when I can

I have changed my goals to paving a way as opposed to driving and forcing people to see how poor or disadvantaged they are. All I can do is pave and inspire them to take the giant step

I intentionally started drinking coffee at a risk of staining my teeth . I let my wardrobe be disorganized and not neatly packed , I on some days allow myself to go to bed without taking a bath or a shower ,

I stopped fasting every Monday out of compliance and allowed myself to not fast at all for the longest period …..

 

Self-compassion

I pay more attention to my childhood pain and recognize that taking every child to University is a great goal but not the one to heal my pain. I practice self compassion by knowing that every child in my family must dream a bigger dream for themselves and that there is nothing I can do or say to make that dream a reality if they choose not to participate in it for themselves

I practice self forgiveness first and I no longer confess my sins in public anymore for acceptance and repentance. I allow some days to let the dishes not be washed and give myself time to rest

I am now able to schedule cooking days and non cooking days without feeling less of a good wife and parent

I practice saying how I feel when I feel it to allow others to give me space and compassion when I need it the most

I only make grand lunch boxes when I am truly feeling up to it and I make peanut butter and jam without any guilt

I confidently ask for help and I say when I feel tired or insecure 😟

I wear my swimsuit and embrace my body work it’s flaws

I speak positive about my body and I stop shaming myself

I stop comparing myself to what others have achieved

 Common humanity

I accept that we all have our own unique journey and I must be mindful of that

It’s not about me

People face challenges and struggles

I cannot control their destiny

I must allow them to lead their own lives in their own terms

Mindfulness

Showing up is enough and showing up does not always mean giving ewallet and having solutions to every problem

Listening and caring is enough

I invite people to share in my meal and not wait until I have the perfect entertainment place to host them

Dear God

I ask that you will have me remember that your grace is sufficient even for my poverty stricken township. Help me rely on you to serve my community

Not for my own glory but yours alone

Written by

Humbled by failure

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s