The Courage to Let Go of Perfection

Courage over Perfection

Waiting backstage is always the worst part. Sitting in the dim light behind the black curtain, I study my script and the indigo blue handwritten notes scribbled in the margins. It’s at least the 12th time I’ve read these lines. Maybe more. No matter how much I’ve prepared, my heart still races, and I wonder why I continue to do this. I’ve never liked the stage or the spotlight. I would much rather be the person behind the scenes organizing the backstage chaos and reminding others of their lines. But, here I am, sweaty palms and all, waiting my turn to step on stage, and silently praying I will remember what to say.

I’m one of the large-group storytellers at my church, and last Sunday was my turn to deliver the story to 40+ elementary-age kids and their small group leaders. It’s an honor to teach kids about God’s love and how we can trust Him, no matter what. The kids are so full of life and energy; their enthusiasm is often what quells my nerves when I’m on stage. Although, last week’s story was a little tricky. It required multiple student volunteers to come on stage and for them to use several different props. In the middle of the movement of kids and props, I began to feel overwhelmed. Immediately, I wondered if I included key parts of the story. Did I remember to say it was because of Joshua and Caleb’s faith in God that they would enter the land of Canaan? I really hope so.

As I stepped off stage and through the curtain, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, and to be honest a little embarrassed, too.

Combating shame is no easy task, and until I read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, I had no idea this was a real issue. At the risk of sounding cliché, Brown’s research on shame has changed my life. I’ll delve a little deeper here. Like Brown, I’m a recovering perfectionist. I didn’t know it, but it’s something I’ve been struggling with for years. I thought striving to be perfect at home, at work, and in my relationships was the only way to achieve acceptance, but Brown debunks this myth.

Here’s what she says about perfectionism:

Perfectionism is:

  • a form of shame and fear.
  • a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly we can minimize judgment and shame.
  • about trying to earn approval through grades, manners, rule following, appearance, people pleasing, sports, etc.
  • thinking that being perfect means being worthy of love and friendship. Brown calls this a “hustle for worthiness.”
  • self-destructive because perfection is unattainable.
  • ironically, the thing that prevents us from being seen because it masks who we really are.
  • NOT self-improvement or striving for excellence. It’s about trying to earn approval from others.

Brené Brown’s Advice on How to Fight Perfectionism:

  • “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” — Voltaire 
    • As I write this blog, my greatest fear is that it will not be great. Voltaire would say, “A good blog is better than not writing it at all.” Take that, perfection.
  • Become an aspiring good-enough-ist. Brown notes that perfectionism crushes creativity and leads to life paralysis. Nothing new is ever attempted due to the fear of it not being perfect.
  • Claim the truth about who you are, where you’re from, and what you believe.
  • Have self-compassion. Give yourself a break and appreciate the beauty of your cracks and imperfections. Be warm and understanding toward yourself when you feel inadequate or fail.
  • “Embrace the belief that life is art. It’s messy and beautiful and complicated all at once.” (artist, Nicholas Wilton)

Loving who I am, what I look like, and where I am at this point in my life isn’t always easy. It requires me to turn my gaze inward to see the beauty but also the cracks.

I am working toward being okay with all of who I am. For me, combating perfectionism also means taking risks and welcoming new experiences that allow me to be creative. At times, it’s uncomfortable and everything within me wants to either recoil or put on my shield of perfection. But I know taking chances is the opportunity for me to discover all that I am. 

Sunday mornings on stage may never be perfect. I’ll continue to memorize and rehearse my lines, but in the end, I know my time on stage won’t be mistake-free. It will, however, be full of God’s grace. I will find solace in knowing I have attempted something new that is allowing me to grow into the woman God has called me to be.

I’d like to end with my favorite quote. It’s by Theodore Roosevelt, and it’s found in the opening page of Daring Greatly.

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the 

man who points out how the strong man 

stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could 

have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually

in the arena, whose face is marred by dust

and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly;

who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error

and shortcoming; but who does actually 

strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms,

the great devotions; who spends himself in a 

worthy cause;

Who at the best knows in the end the triumph

of high achievement, and who at the worst, 

if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

Oh, how I want to dare greatly!

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4 Responses to The Courage to Let Go of Perfection

  1. Gretchen November 16, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    I am so grateful to Dr. Brown for her insightful research, to Mrs. Sixto for helping to get out this paradigm-shifting message, and to all the women (and men) who embrace the space beyond their comfort zones and model action in the face of fear (aka “faith”) for their children. Together we can change the world this way.

  2. Melissa November 17, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

    Rhonda, you are a strong and beautiful person. Thank you for sharing your heart!

  3. Kim November 18, 2016 at 4:16 am #

    Thank you for this message. Now if I can just rework my hard wired way of thinking… Ha! Seriously, though, I may convert to being an aspiring good enoughist.

  4. Jessie Weaver January 26, 2017 at 9:50 am #

    Daring Greatly definitely gave me a good sucker punch. I so appreciate what Brene Brown does!