Pick up any magazine, visit any bookstore, scroll your Facebook feed and I’m sure you’ll see various images and articles with advice on how to be your best self. Heck, if you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you’ll have seen a bit of my own.
Perhaps you’ve even read a few books and attended seminars to help you build “success rituals,” cultivate a “winner’s mindset” and be the most brilliant “Brand You Inc.”
Of course, there’s nothing innately wrong about wanting to be the best version of yourself—a person who is mindful, brave, empathetic, purposeful, persistent, disciplined, centered… the list goes on. And on.
And yet here you are, feeling like you’re still not there. Despite all of your very best “self-help” efforts, your moments of feeling like you’re at your best are still few and far between.
If so, please know this: You are not alone.
The truth is that we live in a society that celebrates perfectionism even as it censures it. A society that is constantly pressuring us to live up to some idealized image of beauty and brilliance and got-it-all-togetherness. That’s why you don’t have to look far to find people who seem to spend their entire lives trying to smooth out their rough edges, plump out their wrinkles, flatten their bellies and shore up their shortcomings in an effort to become the self-actualized individual they think they’re supposed to be.
Despite understanding intellectually that we’re all imperfect, we still use our lack of got-it-all-togetherness as a baton to beat up on ourselves. (If you’re a woman, double it. If you’re a mother, double again.)
As an author of four books that fall under the personal development umbrella, I see more and more people suffering from best-self fatigue. I clearly believe it’s important to invest time and energy in our own personal and spiritual growth, but we need to throw out the notion that any course or guru or spiritual practice will lead us to lifelong enlightenment.
Rather, we must begin from a place of embracing our own humanity and accepting that no matter how hard we might try to be forever generous, spirited, brave-hearted or [insert-virtue-here], we will inevitably fall short.
As counterintuitive as it might feel, when we embrace our own fallibility and accept our flaws, we don’t lower the bar, descend into slothdom and undo all of our hard work. Just the opposite! Instead, we expand our capacity for action, connection and contribution because we’re no longer exhausting ourselves trying to be someone we’re not.
In the space of giving up on perfection, we find the freedom to live more authentically.
If you’ve been on the best-self treadmill for a while now, I encourage you to give yourself permission to be fabulous and fallible, brilliant and blundering, innately lovable and wholly imperfect—all at the same time.
Just imagine what possibilities could open up for you if every single day you stepped out into the world with the deep knowledge that you don’t have to be more or less of anything in order to be enough—to be loveable enough, good enough, smart enough, worthy enough.
Imagine if, instead of continually striving to be the person you think you should be, you embraced the innate adequacy of the person you already are.
Imagine the possibilities that could open up for you if you gave yourself permission to be good enough.
Finally, imagine the profound yet subtle and liberating shift it would make if you stopped focusing on all of your shortcomings, and gave yourself just one minute, every day, to acknowledge all that you have done, given and learned.
Perfectionism is the enemy of self-expression, creation and contribution. Your deepest fulfillment won’t flow from the parts of you that are flawless; it will flow from the parts of you that you’ve been wrestling with your entire life. The rough and raw parts make you real, relatable and allow you to forge the most meaningful connections with others.
Not only is the best self-help self-compassion, but when you own your imperfection and choose to show up as the flawed human becoming that you are, you give others permission to do the same. What greater gift is there for those you love?
As I wrote in Make Your Mark, chances are that it is past time to own your enoughness and get off your own back. The kinder and more forgiving you are to yourself, the greater your capacity and courage to take the very actions all true success, joy and happiness depends upon.