I had an experience recently that forced me to examine who I am when I am feeling like I made a mistake. No, when I know I have made a mistake. While the details of what happened do not necessarily matter, what does matter is that even though I have all the tools and knowledge to be able to check myself when I feel that something has happened and I don't feel good about it -- I still struggle like everyone else to find my center when I am feeling out of balance. But probably the difference is that instead of it lingering over me for a few days, I usually know right away that what I am feeling is a disconnection between my "real self," and my "best self," -- and because of my passion toward the field of psychology, I tend to work diligently to uncover where I lost my way --or what emotions, experiences or errors prevented me from being able to see the train coming and hoping off the tracks in time.
When this happens, I usually ask myself "What just happened?" and "What was I missing in the moment that allowed this situation to occur?" And even when I can answer my own questions and technically "justify" why I reacted the way I did - it doesn't always comfort the perfectionist in me who needed to get it right, when I clearly did not get it right.
I sincerely believe that all humans struggle with some form of worthiness and I know how closely connected worthiness is to shame, fear, mistake making and most importantly: perfectionism. When I am in my perfectionism, I am all about my "best self," or at least in pursuit of what I believe to be the best version of myself. The problem is that perfectionism and my best self will never peacefully co-exist, because perfectionism isn't about being the best version of yourself, it's about being the best version, period. So, when you are not your best self, what are you? Fill in the blank here, but what most likely comes up for people is that you are a failure, not good enough, destined to lose, broken, average....and the list goes on. In fact, here are a list of adjectives the dictionary associates with perfectionism:
None of these words are words I would like to make daily appearances in my life. But they are destined to appear in how you describe your approach to life if you are guided by the principle that in all things you must try to be your perfectly best self. But who wants to be these things?! They sound pretty awful to me.
Sometimes we just need to be our real selves, which means sometimes we aren't going to be our best selves. When I let myself be my real self, I can forgive myself for not getting it right. I can explore why things happened a certain way and how I might be able to avoid re-creating the uncomfortable experience or lesson again. When I let myself be my real self, I don't need to always be the "best version of myself," and I can forgive myself for being human.
When I am in my shame induced place where I wasn't perfect - I can think of lots of words which start washing over me.... and they all flow from the perfectionistic river. But when I am ok with not being my best self, what I am really being is my REAL self.
And when I embrace my real self, I am free to make mistakes and to try to learn from them, I am free to forgive myself and be open to uncovering the depths of my heart still in need of repair, I am free to love and forgive others for the days and moments when they are not being their "best selves," and I am free to not be my best self, and that makes it so much easier to just be me.
Dr. Kim Sage