I’ve been writing this article for days. Usually I write articles in a few hours, but this one is difficult to bare—quite literally. A few weeks ago I went through a break-up and I’ve been processing the pain. My dilemma: do I show my fellow glow-getters that I’m not perfect or should I paste on a smile so that no one knows that I’m hurting?
A friend and business coach said, “Saren, this is your chance to get vulnerable, to get naked, and connect with other glow-getters.”
Hm, well in that case, “No, thank you.”
Yet, this is what I ask of the world and of myself—to dare and bare—completely engage in this living thing so that we may risk, create, and grow for the sake of progress and our highest selves.
Need I say how freakin’ hard that is?! What if I bare all and people think I’m weak?
This is shame. While guilt says, “I did something wrong,” shame in all of it’s self-destructiveness says, “I am wrong.” When we identify with a painful circumstance and make it a personal affront, the result is destruction.
“What if people think this is a reflection of me, that I’m wrong and not _____ (fill in: smart, wise, bright, etc.) enough?”
As you likely know, we’re trained to be perfect.
Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence, healthy achievement, or growth. Perfectionism is not a shield from shame. Perfectionism does not exist. It sets us up to feel shame, blame, and judgment because when we can’t reach the ideal, we say, “This is my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.”
If we want freedom from perfection, we have to make this long journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.”
So here I am, saying loud and proud, “I experienced pain. I’m human and that’s enough.”
Take note, this article is not about my ex or our relationship. Actually, it’s not even about our break-up. This is about how we process pain—do we sink down into more pain or process it, grow, and let it go?
The fact is that we all experience pain—it’s inevitable. Whether it’s losing a job, a person, or your favorite pair of jeans, you experience a hurt, a rejection of sorts. In that moment (and series of moments thereafter when you remember the loss), you have a choice: shame yourself and make it personal or accept the situation and pain as the human experience.
While processing this current pain, the #1 thing I’ve observed is my urge to resist reality. I’ll remember the circumstances, then think, “This shouldn’t be. Saren, you failed again. You couldn’t fix it.”
As I drift into this shameful mindset, I experience suffering, a resistance in my mind and body so great that I hurt even more.
Suffering is not inevitable—it’s optional.
Once I notice those shameful thoughts (a skill I’ll be forever learning through lots of meditation, reading, and reflection), I pause and remind myself, “It is what is. It’s not what it should have been, not what it could have been, it is what it is.”
With my acceptance of the situation, I recognize that I tried for something. I loved and gave myself greatly. I risked and learned a ridiculous amount. I trust in the universe that this perceived rejection is redirection. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me. I’m what I choose to become.”
Our willingness to own and engage with life—the baring all, scary parts of it—determines our growth and purpose. If we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect before we get in the ring, we sacrifice opportunities of love, innovation, and connection that may not be recoverable. We squander our precious time and turn our backs on our unique contributions to the world.
Rather than sitting on the sidelines (or in my pajamas watching House of Cards), hurling judgment and critique, we must dare to engage and let ourselves be seen–birthday suits and all.
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