perfectionism

Notes from a Recovering Over-Achiever

I'd rather be whole than good

if you really knew me, i was raised as an enabler (check out this really great definition), trying to prove my worthiness by cloaking it in a pretty package of helpfulness, busyness and achievement. in other words, a classic codependent. the thing about this is, i came to identify myself as useful and good because of my helpfulness and achievements rather than being whole and good simply because i exist. and, in the process, i set up myself and everyone around me with this expectation, even at my own expense. can anyone relate to this? it's a habit, once established, that's very hard to break… especially after 52 years.

as i often share with my clients, i've come to see that we all go through cycles of healing and growth, and that, if we allow ourselves to really feel and be present to them, we can come out the other side with more clarity and completeness. well, if you really, really knew me, i've been in the midst of one of those cycles the last few months with no real clarity other than knowing that i've been in nearly constant physical and mental pain and that i need to continue to stay the course with this incredible discomfort. i liken it to being in the "imaginal soup" of a cocoon… you know, no longer a caterpillar (head popped off, body turning to mush) but not yet a butterfly? like, what the hell am i, anyway?

this deep, painful and undeniable letting go of my old self and yet another layer of ego has come up (uhgain!) and i'm just now feeling like i'm coming out the other side.in other words, i've been "in the trenches" this last few months, mucking about in the dark corners of this lifelong dynamic… and it's been humbling to say the least. sometimes more than i wanted.

Metamorphosis - Dongale Studio

it all came to a head one morning a few weeks ago when i woke up in tears and spent pretty much the whole day crying. i was totally unclear about why until i shared with my husband that i was feeling deeply out of place and totally overwhelmed returning home to California after our beautiful trip to Switzerland. as i talked it out, though, i realized a few things:

1.  in Switzerland i had an experience of being wholly accepted by his family for who i was without my having had to do anything to earn that acceptance. they didn't know anything about my work or accomplishments, my efforts and failures, my compulsive over-achieving or my tendency towards almost constantly comparing myself to others who i view as more successful than me. all they knew and experienced was that i love their brother with all my heart, and that i love to laugh and sing, try new things (foods, languages, experiences) and spend time having meaningful conversations.

2. that this inveterate expectation of myself to be everything for everyone began when my mother, whom i loved very much and with whom i had a very codependent relationship, carried me in her womb.

3. that i must diligently work to give up this pattern of expectation if i want to be happy.

having said that, i imagine that you may be thinking, "Well, duh!"… especially since these are things i've been writing about for years. with all honesty, however, i can say that i have been fully, utterly, humbled by this last round of "learning what i teach." i'm so grateful to Jakob for pointing out to me with such compassion that i am creating my own reality, and that maybe - just maybe - i have some attachments i can give up, and for tenderly holding space and time for me to cry and be "in it." in that space, i got to raise my head above it enough to see that it's time to give up possibly the biggest chunk of the identity to which i've clung for nearly 52 years that is clearly not serving me anymore… the need to "make a difference" in the world, the need to be seen.

in other words, it's time to choose being whole rather than good.

i think what's been brewing as i've been swimming in this soupy space between caterpillar and butterfly is that i'm being re-wired to be moved by what's right in front of me rather than my ego-driven visions and plans for the future. to find my authentic rhythm with life and trust that my muse will return if i just give her some space. it's like the Universe has been forcing me to re-evaluate how i'm being in the world, guiding me to look really deeply at myself and urging me to slough off anything that doesn't feel like an absolute "yes." as i've been listening, mostly i've heard, "just be. it's not time yet." so, i've continued watering and weeding the garden, watching my internal responses to the process (comparison, self-doubt, worry and anxiety about not doing enough), breathing and letting go (allowing myself to enjoy this simple life with the love of my life and our family).

and, as much as my ego wants to press forward with all the plans i'd made for myself, i'm giving myself as much time as i need. i'm learning to… unwind the tightly wound springs of a lifetime of doing, unravel and release the threads of voices other the one that says i'm enough just because i am and for no other reason, unbend the shape i'd twisted myself into believing i had to prove myself and achieve anything in order to justify my existence.

it's not an easy journey for a recovering over-achiever, but it is a necessary one.

as my friend Jordanna shared recently, "The more driven we are to do big things in this world, the less we may allow ourselves to slow down and take full advantage of the lessons that are popping up in front of us to learn. Not only do we risk missing out on the sweetness of life and the many glories that can come from it,... we also risk not receiving the full transformation that comes when we slow down long enough to not only get the lesson, but to be our own teachers and take each lesson a few chapters deeper in the book of life."

life has forced my hand. it's slowed me down without question and i'm finally listening.

what i know for sure is… i matter enough to take this time and dive deeply into what is coming forth now as my deeper layer of authentic expression. it is truly a blessing to have this opportunity to do so and i'm excited for what will come of it, even if it's just spending more time planting seeds and harvesting zucchini.

Figures drawing "Metamorphosis" by Don Gale

Lessons from A Game of Solitaire

The other evening I learned something really fundamental about business - or at least business as I'm doing it, which is definitely not "business as usual." 

shuffle cardsI was going to hunker down for another hour or so of work when I was inspired to play a game of cards. Yeah, I know. Cards? It felt a little weird to say "yes" to that impulse when I had so much to do and was feeling really guilty about not staying focused. But the message was clear - I was supposed to stop what I was doing and play a game of solitaire.

So I got out my deck of cards, sat down, shuffled them and dealt them out. And, as soon as I saw them, I knew the way the cards were laid out that it was not going to be fun to get to a "win." I could see that it was going to take far too much thinking and "figuring out." But I've tended to be one of those people who "sticks it out" at all costs, even when I know I should have let go a long, long time ago…. So I hunkered down for a not-so-fun game of cards, wondering why in the world I wasn't sitting at my computer.

But just as I had that thought, another came in a flash - "Pick them up and re-shuffle." Woah, that was not what I was expecting. What I was expecting was, "Hang in there, figure it out and stay the course." This was a clear message to start over - reset.

To be honest, my ego was kicking and screaming because it wanted to get the "goodies" of having gotten through finishing it the hard way (even though there's no one here to brag to if I'd stuck it out and gotten the "hard win," so it wouldn't even have been very satisfying). The thing is, I had seen, as soon as they were laid out, that I would have ended up gathering all the cards together in a pile without winning anyway. My "mission" of winning would have been unaccomplished because I was being attached to doing it the hard way. Anyone ever done that before?

Lesson #1:  You can always reset - any time… and that is okay.

 

So… I reshuffled the deck, laid out the cards again, and, as soon as I had, I knew I would win. I would accomplish my mission. Here's where lesson #2 began to unfold.

Before I go on, though, let me be completely transparent. I have spent much of my life going from point A (a bunch of cards staring me in the face) to point B (rearranging them into the winning configuration) either by working hard and figuring it out, or just "going for it," willy-nilly, blind to any strategy at all and letting the chips fall where they may. There's rarely been an "in between" with me. Until lately. The more I listen to my deep, inner wisdom (or higher guidance or voice of God - whatever you want to call it), the less I listen to my ego (you know, the voice that says, "I have to prove myself!" or "Who cares? It's just a game [job, relationship- fill in the blank]."). In other words, the more I tune in, the less I tune out. At least that's what I'm finding is far more workable.

So, as I sat there facing this new layout of cards, I realized I could do the same here. I could choose a middle ground - a delicious middle path some call the "sweet spot." So I simply sat for a while, just looking at the cards, letting the pictures and numbers kind of swirl around in my field of vision. In other words, I took a few minutes to just be with what was in front of me.

 Lesson #2: Be with what is.

 

What unfolded after that was a beautiful dance of sorts, in which I just began moving cards around without really thinking about it too much. In other words, I listened to my intuition - my inner compass - about where to move the cards. As I did, I realized something magical was happening. Because I was choosing to be present to the moment and allow opportunities for solutions to unfold instead of imposing my egoic will on the situation, I was being far more "loose" in my tactics than I usually am, the game was much more dynamic, and I ended up winning far sooner than I expected.

 Lesson #3: Listen to your intuition.

 

Now, let me tell you, it was not a linear process. It felt like walking the dog (not just a simple walk around the block but more like down the street, stop at this shrub, cross the street for the squirrel, cross back, walk around your person 3 times and get tangled up in the leash, wag your tail a lot, get untangled, stop to pee, cross the street again, cross back again… you get the picture). The thing is, because I chose to give up my attachment to how I was going to get there, I did accomplish my mission - and far sooner and much more enjoyably than if I'd stuck it out.

 Lesson #4:  Give up attachment and trust the process.

 

As I got closer to winning, I realized that this whole game represented my dance with Get That You Matter as we make our way through the process of becoming a new paradigm business. There are no models for what we're doing - just like there was no model for me re-arranging those cards. Just as realizing that the easier path to accomplishing my mission in the game would be revealed by saying "yes" to resetting, saying "yes" to the preposterous notion of a worker-owned cooperative in which we are all co-CEO's, equally responsible for the success of the company is allowing our team to move more powerfully toward a win for ourselves and our mission.

 

What I learned, and what I'm continuing to discover, is that the more I listen deeply to my inner wisdom and trust the process, the more we are all empowered to create a "win" together. The more I align myself with my life's mission, the more I co-create space for the rest of our team to do the same… and that is a win for everyone.

 

 I look forward to your comments and a conversation about this. What has been your experience with "resetting"? Which camp have you landed in more often- the "stick it out at all costs" camp or the "woohoo! just go for it" camp? What happens for you when you let yourself "be with what is"… are you comfortable with that or not? How much do you listen to and trust your intuition? What's it like when you do? When you last chose to trust the process, was it a "winning" experience for you or not? Why? What are you learning about your own card game?