Vulnerability and Shame

Ah, Friday. Best time of the week, I think. You have Friday evening, and then there is still all of Saturday and Sunday to come! I am chilling out watching some music videos on YouTube currently. After buying Darren Hayes‘ recent album, Secret Codes and Battleships, I have also been listening to his older albums and his music from Savage Garden days. So much good music!

Thinking on my lack of updating on here, and, well my lack of most creative pursuits, I realised that what stops me is my wanting to always be perfect. Whatever I do MUST be perfect. No mistakes. But really, that isn’t possible (and when I checked this post for mistakes, I had typed ‘that isn’t impossible’ hmm). I may want to keep everything all tightly wrapped and perfectly formed, but life isn’t like that. And living that way, you miss out on so much of life’s special wonders. There is no way to control everything, you need to learn how to let go of the things you cannot control. To do the best you can with what you have. And by ‘you’, I mean ‘me’!

I’ve watched a couple of Brené Brown’s talks (1 & 2) from TED recently, and her research and her message struck a cord. Shame and vulnerability. For me, they are a big part of my perfectionism. I don’t like to feel vulnerable, which is how I feel if I do things that won’t be/aren’t perfect; plus I feel great shame when my results, or even my actions, are the opposite of perfect. I don’t want to show vulnerability or face my shame. But in reality, I need to do both to move forward, to grow. I am inspired by Brené’s statement that “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage”.

It always seems better to wrap up the shame, the things I perceive to have done wrong or not perfectly and cocoon them into a ‘hidden’ ball. But then they just snowball and the layer around them gets bigger and bigger until they start to hinder future goals. Like a roadblock. A landslide. A wound. A splinter.

But how to you learn to not be so caught up in perfectionism? How do you face the shame and let it go? How do you learn to be vulnerable, but go forward anyway?

Some of my thoughts come from waiting for the results from my cataloguing assessment which was completed on Wednesday just gone. A big part of me wants it to be 100% marks or it is a failure. Another recent assessment saw me obtain 42 out of 50. My first thought was that it equalled failure. Not good enough. Silly, I know. But…

Do you also want to have all your creations be perfect? Or have you learnt how to let go of that need to be perfect? Have you discovered how to let go of shame? Please share! You can email me at alyshajane@gmail.com, if you’d prefer to respond that way!

5 comments » Write a comment

  1. And yes, I am trying to ignore and allow my ‘raw’ writing style in this post, even though part of me wants to perfect it as much as possible. :/

  2. Are you a first-born?? I am am I have lots of guilt/shame thanks to the nuns and priests as well. I have learned that ‘should’ is not a good word for me. I have a pattern of thinking what I should be able to do, rather than accepting what I can do, especially as I am ill and can’t do most things now. I have to say that guilt/shame meant that I pretty much achieved all my ‘shoulds’ because I just HAD too. I have learned to be more accepting but I think it is just the way you (me) are wired. How I wish for all the German you forms, they make everything so much easier. 84% is pretty fabulous, so well done!! It is so much easier to praise and be kind to others than to yourself(myself)!!!

    • First born/only child, I’d guess that makes me more likely to have the perfectionist streak? Yeah, I recognise the ‘should’ pattern of thinking. Like you, I don’t often consider what I CAN do rather than what I think I should do. Leave room for huge amounts of guilt and feeling I could have done better. And thank you for the comments about my 84%! I’m trying to see that result more positively! :)

  3. Perfectionism has crippled me many times during my degree. It got to the point that I stressed about assesment tasks so much that I couldn’t even start them, just freak out about the fact that I hadn’t started them which would then stress me more. It mostly came down to wanting the assignments to be perfect so that I didn’t disappoint my teachers. So lame. I also didn’t want to hand them in late and disappoint them. I couldn’t win.

    Anyway, the anxiety got so bad I started seeing a psychologist. Best decision I ever made. Even though I’m a povvo student, I decided that I just had to suck it up and go, and the excercises she makes me do (which I am crap at doing) and the discussions we have are really beneficial. She uses a lot of Acceptance Committment Therapy (ACT), and mindfulness. A really good book that she recommended to me is The Happiness Trap. I hate self help books but this one actually seems intelligent.

    • Your description about how you think with assessments and perfectionism sounds *so* much like what I do! If I get just one wrong that is a huge disaster to me. And I also sit there worrying about how to make it perfect, and put off starting because I think it wont be perfect.

      Thanks for the tip about ACT and mindfulness, I shall look into those, sounds worthwhile! Likewise the book, I’ve been meaning to find a book on perfectionism but not keen on going through all the self helper books. :)

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