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Lesson 9.3 - Tips for embracing imperfection

 

video lesson

 
 
 
 
 

transcript

 

Ready for some tips to help you embrace imperfection in your life and set you up for imperfectionist success? You’ve come to the right place, my friend, because that’s what we’re going to be talking about in this lesson.

If perfectionism is the coping mechanism we use when we feel fear and anxiety and other emotions and we try to get away from those emotions through perfecting, then the solution is to do the exact opposite.

Embracing imperfection is achieved through accepting our emotions and welcoming everything that’s human about us, so that we can open up the necessary space within us with which we can feel whatever it is that comes up for us and choose a different response.

And all of that has to be rooted in worthiness, in the belief that who we are is enough. If perfectionism is about having a tunnel vision focus on not enough, than embracing imperfection is about embracing our enough-ness.

To do that, we have to be willing to give ourselves a break, to be kinder and gentler with ourselves, and to talk to ourselves the same way we talk to someone we care about.
 

Self-compassion


That’s where the concept of self-compassion comes into play. Dr. Kristin Neff from the University of Texas at Austin has created a framework for cultivating self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness

  2. Common humanity

  3. Mindfulness


Here’s how Neff defines each aspect.

“Self-kindness: Being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.”

“Common humanity recognizes that suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience - something we all go through rather than something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”

“Mindfulness: Taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.”

We’ve talked about ways of dealing with perfectionism in the moment before in this course, but the concept of self-compassion can be used to counteract feelings of imperfection in the moment.

These steps I’m going to be sharing are specifically designed for moments when you feel imperfect, inadequate, not good enough, like you don’t measure up, and that critical voice inside your head pipes up: “See? I’m a failure. My work isn’t good enough and I’ll never be able to meet my boss’ expectations.”

What you can do in that moment, is this. My steps are actually the reverse of Dr. Kristin Neff’s framework:

  1. Be mindful of what you’re feeling, acknowledge it, and name the emotion: “I’m afraid that …”, “I feel insecure about doing …”

  2. Remind yourself of the common humanity in this situation: “I’m not alone in this”, “This happens to other people too”

  3. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you’re enough: “I’m doing the best I can here”, “Actually, I’m right on track with this project”, “This is something I can learn from”


You can apply this technique as, sort of, an inner dialogue in your head where you actively counteract that critical voice. You could also write down the loving messages of each of the three steps on a piece of paper, a post-it note, or notebook, whatever is closeby.

Applying these 3 steps in the moment takes a little practice. And you might not get it right the first time, but remember this is about embracing imperfection.

That’s why I also recommend, especially in the beginning of your journey of imperfectionism, to use your perfectionism journal for moments of imperfection and feeling not good enough. Write those down as well. And after a while, you’ll start seeing patterns and recognizing the warning signs.

Write out every detail of those moments and what happened that day in your journal and, then, use the 3 steps to literally re-write the conversation. Pay special attention to your self-talk, what are you saying to yourself. Rewrite the negative statements or perfectionist thinking through a lens of embracing imperfection and practicing self-compassion and self-kindness.

Okay, I want you to actually practice using my 3 steps of embracing imperfection. Grab your worksheet and think of a recent situation that left you feeling imperfect, not enough, unworthy, or like you didn’t measure up. Maybe you have written about such an occurrence in your perfectionism journal. Then, go through each of the 3 steps and practice using self-compassionate statements as a way of balancing out thoughts of imperfection.

With practice and time, these negative thoughts and feelings of imperfection and not being good enough will come through less and less and, if they do come through, you can counter them in the moment and correct yourself.

If aside of keeping a perfectionism journal, you’re also in the habit of journaling on a daily basis (I mean a regular journal) I’ve found this to be a powerful prompt: "How can I be more real and less focused on perfect today?"

Or use this affirmation during your regular morning routine: “I will focus on real and imperfect over fake and perfect today.”
 

Meraki


Now, obviously we need to talk about the concept of meraki here too, because we can use it to embrace imperfection.

To freshen up your memory, meraki is the Greek concept that means: 1. the soul, creativity, or love put into something; 2. the essence of yourself that is put into your work.

Here’s what I want you to do now. Grab the worksheet and your perfectionism journal. Earlier in the course, you’ve identified the areas in your life where your perfectionism shows up the most, like work, relationships, or creativity. For each area, use the concept of meraki to create a ‘meraki power phrase’, which you can use as a counter-message against feeling not good enough.

Let’s use the area of friendship as an example. Ask yourself: “What essence of myself am I bringing to the table in my friendships?”

The answer to that question will help you create your ‘meraki power phrase’.

“I may not be perfect, but [my empathy and great listening skills] is the essence of myself that I bring to the table in my [friendships].”

Use this example to inspire you to create ‘meraki power phrases’ for each area of your life that is affected by perfectionism. You can totally use this sentence as a template of sorts:

“I may not be perfect, but [...] is the essence of myself that I bring to the table in my [...].”

You can use these ‘meraki power phrases’ every day in your journaling practice. You can store them on your phone as a reminder for when you need them most. You can print them out and tape them on your wall.

And here’s the kicker, you can even use them as a 4th step, an extra step in my 3 steps of embracing imperfection we talked about earlier. As a reminder, these are the 3 steps:

  1. Be mindful of what you’re feeling, acknowledge it, and name the emotion: “I’m afraid that …”, “I feel insecure about doing …”

  2. Remind yourself of the common humanity in this situation: “I’m not alone in this”, “This happens to other people too”

  3. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you’re enough: “I’m doing the best I can here”, “Actually, I’m right on track with this project”, “This is something I can learn from”


Your ‘meraki power phrases’ can be be used as a 4th step, an extra layer of self-compassion.

Use a ‘meraki power phrase’: “I may not be perfect, but my empathy and great listening skills is the essence of myself that I bring to the table in my friendships.”

Can you imagine how powerful these power phrases can be? They aren’t empty words or grandiose statements like “I’m so fabulous!”, “I’m the greatest!”, or “I’m the best girlfriend ever!” Those type of phrases ring hollow and are meaningless. But ‘meraki power phrases’ are true and believable and encouraging and empowering.


 

Alright, that’s it for this lesson. Take some time to finish the exercises on the worksheet first and then I’ll see you in the next module.