I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s lectures on shame, vulnerability, and living wholehearted lives through gratitude, creativity, and play.
Needless to say I’ve done a lot of soul searching and reflecting while going through the lessons, and I realized that my perfectionism is also my “20-ton shield,” as Ms. Brown so eloquently put it.
Perfectionism has been a huge burden to me. I have allowed it to be a big obstacle to my happiness for far too long.
And it was through examining my indomitable will to be perfect that I saw just how scared I was to be vulnerable, to feel my shame.
In order to avoid my shame gremlins, I had devised an infallible methodology: “be perfect and I’ll never have to deal with the gremlins.”
This exhausting method of living an absolute value life was a disastrous plan….and it unsurprisingly yielded disastrous results.
I had shame lurking everywhere, because the shame I didn’t deal with was then magnified with perfectionistic behavior, and when those perfectionistic goals went unmet, even more shame would fuel the avalanche of destruction.
The shame became so monumental in magnitude that I began confusing my gender issues with everyday shame that was non-GLBT related. And my ego, being deceptively clever, saw more ammunition in my gender issues, and saw opportunities to use the shame surrounding me being transgender as more fuel to feed my demons.
I think I’ve done a great job with my gender transition. I’ve come so far, and I know I will continue to improve and gain more confidence as time goes on….
The source of my misery is actually coming from my inability to engage my shame in all other areas of my life outside of gender: from making a turn in my car that results in a traffic jam to dropping tomatoes on the floor when cooking. I judge those “imperfections” and situations where I run from shame and cause myself misery, and I then beat myself up to be even more perfect next time to avoid the scenario altogether. The philosophy goes: prevention precludes having to deal with discomfort…right?
No, I disagree….the old method is actually very unproductive and lacking in self-compassion indeed.
The fact that control is an illusion shatters any hope of perfectionism. We cannot control other people, the world, and outcomes of most situations in our lives. We can only control our behavior and we can choose how we look at the way we experience life.
Recently, when my shame demons rear their ugly heads and berate me, I am able to identify them and show myself empathy and compassion. I remind myself of all the things I can be grateful for in that specific scenario. In situations where I feel shame, I now remember that there is an opportunity to seek gratitude, to embrace the miracles and chances to grow.
And it no longer matters to me if I know whether me being transgender was the reason I was so caught up in perfectionism, or if being perfectionistic caused me to feel ashamed of being transgender….the question of chicken vs. egg can remain unanswered.
What matters is that I am doing well as myself. I have isolated the major sources of my shame triggers, and that the majority of my misery isn’t dictated by my gender identity history.
I get to choose how I embrace my shame and I have knowledge that being vulnerable empowers me, which is truly something to be grateful for and offers me enormous hope.