Perfectionism is the highest form of self-abuse. Anne Wilson Schaef
The holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations of perfection. We want to cook the perfect meal, buy the perfect gift, decorate our homes perfectly. With all this pressure to have the perfect holiday, the season’s meaning disappears as we frantically try to meet everyones needs.
Below is an excerpt from my memoir Listening to My Life sharing my struggle with perfectionism.
Allowing myself to not be perfect has been a hard lesson for me to learn. Doing it right the first time was so ingrained in me. Mistakes are still sometimes abhorrent to me. My head knows that making mistakes is the way we learn, my heart fears being wrong. The message of If you can’t do it right the first time, don’t do it, is like a post-it stuck to my soul.
I have two mantras that help me through my mistakes. I remind myself that I am human and humans are not perfect. I heard somewhere that when you accept your humanity, you experience your divinity. This comforts me and allows me to let go of the need to be perfect. The second mantra that gives me strength in the face of mistakes is “This too shall pass.” All things do pass. My responsibility is to recognize my mistake and take action to rectify it if possible. It is not necessary to hit myself over the head. I have become much more gentle toward my own humanity, giving myself what I’ve given others all these years.
As the holiday season begins please practice extreme self-kindness. Holidays are about connecting with loved ones and celebrating the joy of each other. It is hard to “let go” and enjoy if everything has to be perfect.
May you have a delightful imperfect holiday with loved ones.
Visit my website at http://www.listeningtomylife.blog
Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Think about how you feel when you know you have been heard. Listening offers a deep sense of being seen. The healing power of listening is immense. When I am heard I don’t have to try and prove my point. Nor do I have to prove the other wrong. Listening uses many practices: attention, being present, openness. Quaker writer Douglas Steere says, “Holy listening–to ‘listen’ another’s soul into life, may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”
Deep listening is being willing to hear a different point of view and try to understand where that person is coming from. Listening does not mean you agree with what the person says, listening is telling that person you want to hear his/her point of view. It is not about changing their mind, it is about developing understanding. It is probably one of the hardest things to do–to listen without judging or trying to argue. Listening is a necessary ingredient if we are to begin to find common ground and rebuild our country on its founding principles. People calling on us with louder and louder voices are asking us to listen. Today there are a lot of loud voices and very little listening.
The Compassionate Listening Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to transform conflict and strengthen cultures of peace. Their sole tool is deep listening to another’s story. Once a year they take a group of people to the Middle East to be a part of bringing Isralis and Palestinians together to hear each others stories. As the two groups sit in circle together and listen to each other, a shift takes place. By the end of the two days there are tears and hugs and a commitment to return to their homes and begin to bring people together. Has this stopped the conflict in this area, no. It has begun to build bridges of understanding, one person at a time, that ripples through each community.
May we all take time to deeply listen to those in our lives, and to those with a different point of view. As hard as it is sometimes, I believe listening can help build bridges of understanding and not walls.
To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer. Mahatma Gandhi
We can always make a difference by showing kindness to ourselves and others. Kindness seems to be missing in our toxic national environment today. Yet, I see kindness exhibited every day by others. A smile can go a long ways in brightening another’s day. We never know what burdens the other may be carrying, and small acts of kindness make a difference.
John Naisbitt coined the term high tech/high touch in his 1982 best seller Megatrends. This was in answer to the PC and its impact on our human interactions–long before the explosion of social media and how it has changed our way of communicating. We have entered the world of high tech at the cost of high touch. Research shows we are craving human connection and often don’t know how to reach out and experience it, thus we numb ourselves through a variety of addictions. Isolation creates fear which in turn creates hate for “the other.” We are seeing this play out in our country today.
I believe kindness is an antidote to our lack of human connection. Kindness can show up in so many different ways. Words of encouragement, a thank you, a listening heart, offering help to someone struggling with groceries, etc. It is easy for me to get caught up in the ugliness of today’s divisive rhetoric. I have to remind myself of the daily acts of kindness I see, and also be sure to be kind to those I encounter throughout my day.
We don’t often talk about self-kindness. This is as important as showing kindness to others. Is my self-talk negative? Do I put myself down throughout the day when I think I’ve made mistakes? Am I critical of my looks? All of these add up to interior violence. When I am unkind to myself it often carries over to being unkind to others. I get caught up in my own negative mindset and place it on others. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.”
After our past week of violence in so many different parts of our country, may we all find ways to show deep kindness to ourselves and others.
I think I’ll have a brain garage sale.
I’ll declutter the thoughts
that roll around my mind
and stick to the corners of my heart.
I dust them off,
look at them,
really look at them,
and determine what’s no longer needed.
Act like a lady. (whatever that means)
Do it right the first time.
Idle hands are the work of the devil.
Girls can’t do that.
Don’t be so bossy.
Oh, so many old childhood messages,
hidden deep in my psyche.
They serve no purpose
but to create doubt and
Strengthening my old companion
Time to move them out,
let them go.
I may not be able to sell them,
yet the task of dusting them off
creates space for new stories.
What would you put in your Brain Garage Sale?
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
I return to this poem to remind myself to rest in the grace of the world. This past week has been very tumultuous for me. As I watched Dr. Ford be dismissed, demeaned, mocked, and patronized. I was consumed with anger. I finally realized the anger was secondary to the deep grief I was feeling. We have not come very far. The Senate has now voted to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Take the possible sexual assault away, I am appalled that a man of his temperament and partisanship will sit on the highest court in the land.
I woke this morning and knew I had a choice. I could stay angry and grief-stricken or I could choose to reside in gratitude. As I returned to gratitude, I felt my whole body unwind. I looked around my home and realized how much I had to be grateful for. My friends, my clients who entrust me with their stories, my garden, the birds that grace my feeders, the seven miles of nature trails out my back gate, and so much more. These bring me joy and take me out of the anger and grief. Nature brings me back to my center.
I will not bury my head in the sand. I’ll continue to take action when I feel others are being unjustly treated, but I choose not to linger there. I choose to return to gratitude, joy, and hope.
May you choose to reside in gratitude for your health and well-being.