Let’s be honest…. This won’t be perfect

Leslie Strong, CEO

I was asked to write something that would be helpful at a time like this and to offer light to all of you. 

Except, that is a very tall order for me right now because this isolation is kicking my ass. I’m scattered, I’m busy doing all the things I hate doing. As if I didn’t have enough to do, now I’m doing it 24/7. I’m not happy, I’m not productive. Oh, actually that’s not true, I’m productive at keeping everyone else afloat, from my family to my coworkers and boss’. At home, I’m productive ensuring everyone has clean underwear that they don’t even need to wear, filling their bored tummies full of comforting calories, and attending to their every whim. I feel alone in a house full of people with nowhere to go. 

When I do leave, I’m faced with the shamers for being outside, or not having my dog on a leash in a very large field where we were alone, until the shamer came along. (momentary vent)

I’m told every day to find gratitude, to be loving, and to stay positive.  I can find a lot to be grateful for and to feel blessed, and yet I’m still positive I want to rip the heads of my lazy teenagers.  My biggest blessing right now is that I’m not married, as I would then be trying to find a new place to live which would have to be disinfected and fumigated by the infectious disease swat team, and they are pretty backed up right now.

Alas, I’m not here to write about me per-say but to offer a moment of OK-ness. Because let’s face it, this COVID 19 is bringing out the worst in us.  And it will until we can figure out how to let it bring out the best in us. So, I want to let you know that it’s OK. It’s OK if you are scared, miserable, angry, frustrated, powerless, controlling, acting victimie, and feeling a little narcissistic when you utter to yourself “What about me”.  All of your feelings are OK!!

You see fear and change bring out the worst in all of us!  It brings out our shadows. 

What pray-tell is our shadow?  Our shadow is the unconscious part of us that we don’t want others to see or know about us.  In fact, we really don’t want to know it ourselves.  They are the patterns we developed to survive our childhoods and have then taken into adulthood, and they no longer work for us.  In fact, they can sabotage every aspect of our lives.  It’s only when parts of our lives breakdown that we realize that these patterns no longer serve us. We realize that they are built on lies used to protect us as children but as adults, they no longer ring true and only serve to sabotage us. (It is the work of Carl Jung if you want to dig a little deeper). 

One of my shadow patterns, and my most tyrannical teacher, is the perfectionist. Oh, don’t even get me started on this one… Ok, you got me started.  She’s a tricky one.  Perfectionism gets developed from feeling unseen, or not good enough. Perhaps it was in your family or amongst peers, or in the society or culture you were brought up in.  We learn that by being too perfect we will be better than others, and thereby, won’t succumb to failure, judgment, disappointment, or abandonment. 

For most women, our perfectionist is running the show, all the time. We are trying to be the best at our jobs, the best parent, partner, friend, child, citizen, etc. Doing it all while looking great, poised and flawless. How many of us count every calorie, or hit the gym either before or after a full day? Going outside without makeup or our hair done? – horrifying thought.  Always being there for everyone else and doing it all perfect for everyone else…. but ourselves. And why? To be enough. To prove our worth. You see us girls, women, females, those who don’t identify as women now but were identified as a female when they were born, well, we come out of the womb less valuable than males. You may not buy this, but the patriarchy is so embedded in our culture that it is indeed the shadow side of most women. Meaning, we inherently feel like we need to prove our worth to the world in order to get to equality. So with this, we try to be perfect. 

At a time like this when the world has turned upside down, everything we once knew, once could control is in the past. We no longer know how to be perfect in the unknown, so we continue to do it the same way we always have, but now we are finding no fulfillment in it. Did we ever, or did we just keep moving forward and having a glass of wine at the end of the day to make those thoughts go away. Either way, not only is our physical world a shit show, so is our inner.  And why is this, seemingly, all of a sudden?  It’s because we are making our unconscious – conscious. What saved us as children has sabotaged us as adults and it’s no longer working. And moreover, we want, we need, something different. 

This is the time for a revolution. It’s time to redefine who we are. To redefine what makes us valuable, worthy, equal. And it’s NOT in what we do, how much we do, how we do it, or how we look doing it. What we need to redefine is our worth. What makes us worthy?

I will give you a hint! –  you are here on this earth.  You are worthy because you are born. That’s it. You don’t need to prove it, you don’t need to jump through hoops, bring home the bacon, or fry it up perfectly in a pan, or never let your husband forget he’s a man. (Enjoli perfume add inspired by Peggy Lee’s 1963 ‘I’m a woman’) You are worthy and lovable just as you are right now. 

And I know that is way easier said, and you’ve probably read it before but it’s true.  The hard part is knowing it, living it, feeling it. 

My advice:

1. Give yourself a damn break.  Go take a bath. Lock the door, play your favorite music or meditate.  Just do nothing!!! And if you can’t because you have little ones that can’t be left unsupervised, then give yourself a mental break.  Stop shaming yourself. Stop trying to be perfect and make it OK for everyone else.  Let yourself feel all the crappy feelings there are to feel.  Having them doesn’t make you any less fabulous. You are enough no matter what.  You aren’t crazy or mean, or maybe even hormonal… you are just a big-hearted person trying to figure it all out, along with everyone else.  AND, you are not alone!!

2. When you do feel those feelings that you don’t like, just remind yourself that this is all new and you are doing this for the very first time, and there is no right way, or especially a perfect way. The more you try to control things, the more they will likely go wrong, and the angrier you will get.  So, soothe those inner children who are trying to come out of the shadow.  Acknowledge them, speak to them – ask them what they need, and for goodness sake – love them.  Give those inner children big hugs.  The more you bring light to your shadow parts and make them OK for being a part of you, the more they won’t take you out.  This will leave room to embody your value and worth.  The light parts and the shadow parts are all parts of us. We need to love all the parts of ourselves.  We are humans, and humans are NOT perfect. This is not as easy.  It’s hard work, but worth every painful epiphany.

3. Be honest with your employers, your families, and your friends about what you are truly capable of. This is not the time to run yourself into the ground as you will be a prime target for the virus.  Know your boundaries and express them.  You are worthy of being heard, valued, seen, and understood.  Stand up for yourself.  Believe in your worth and your needs. Why do we think our needs are not worth tending to?  That’s the question to ask yourself.

4. Make a commitment to show yourself your worth, to believe in your value every day. Even it’s just for 10 minutes, or by doing just one thing. If you are in the habit of shaming yourself for food, then eat something you are craving.  If you are like me and your sugar addict is working on high voltage right now, then love your body and feed it something nutritious.  The important part is to be the adult your inner children needs and parent them with love and compassion.  This may mean not giving in to all their demands but learning the difference between love and habit.

5. Compassion. Compassion. Have tremendous amounts of compassion for yourself and for others.  Everyone’s shadow is on-line and it’s very hard to be with.  It’s easy to judge.  But judgment is a shadow.  It’s your perfectionist telling you that others are wrong, and you are right – because you are a finalist for the ‘most perfect’ award. Well, there really is no right and wrong, especially right now, as it’s all new.  So, send yourself and others love, especially when you think that’s the last thing that is called for.

No one likes to play in the dark, to play where we can’t see and where we don’t know what is lurking around the corner.  It’s terrifying.  But as we know from playing in the basement with all the lights off when we were children, once the lights were turned on, we realized there was nothing to be afraid of, it was all in our heads. 

It is up to each of us to turn on our lights, so we can see what is real and what is just a shadow.