Your Neural Awakening: Being Perfectly Imperfect

Your Neural Awakening: Being Perfectly Imperfect

Your Neural Awakening: Being Perfectly Imperfect

by Gretchen Hentsch-Cowles, MS
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Hopemead Counseling & Trauma Center

People are often under the illusion that they need to be perfect to be loved, accepted, appreciated, congratulated, rewarded, or valued. We learn as children that mistakes are not acceptable and should be avoided at all costs. Our parents might unwittingly shame us into never repeating a behavior again. Oftentimes, the “mistakes” made are spilling a glass of water, falling off a bike that we are learning to ride for the first time, not getting a hit at our baseball game, or not achieving a good enough grade. When is our best good enough? Were we designed to be perfect and behave perfectly? Are we not human, and can we never make mistakes? I have often heard the “we learn from our mistakes,” and that failure is healthy because it will teach us how not to fail again. So how is it that when we do fail, we are shamed, scolded, yelled at, humiliated, or punished?

Shame is a deeply painful feeling that gives us information on who we are as a person. We tend to want to avoid feeling shame, which is why we seek perfectionism in our life. We tell ourselves that if we do everything perfectly, behave perfectly, or at least look as though we are, work and study perfectly, obtain the perfect grades, house, car, have perfect children, and perfect friends, that we will never be shamed or feel shame. We also tell ourselves that in being perfect, or at least in striving for perfectionism, we will be valued and loved.

The truth is, perfectionism grows out of shame and a fear of feeling shame in the future. Perfectionism is about fixing our negative beliefs about ourselves that were formed as children. It also breeds contempt for and arrogance towards others (i.e. if I am perfect and do everything perfectly, I am superior to others). Think about how much time you spend doing something to the best of your ability, and then how much time you spend perfecting it: we usually spend a lot longer on the 5% we are trying to perfect than we did on the 95% that is already so good. How do you want to spend your time? What matters most to you?

Accepting our imperfections begins to open the way for grace and self-love, acceptance, self-growth, tolerance, and gratitude. Knowing that we are perfectly imperfect means that we are taking back our power, that we are giving back our shame to those who imposed it on us, and that we can become comfortable with who we are in the world. Doing our best is good enough. What would it have been like for you had you been supported and encouraged as a child, rather than shamed and punished for making mistakes? How would you be different today? What will your Neural Awakening® look like this season, and how will you be perfectly imperfect?

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