Wisdom//

Keep Your Plate Spacious

When we’re caught in the Myth of Perfection, we’re so desperately trying to avoid failure that we aren’t allowing ourselves to be seen as we truly are.

Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock
Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock

In my practice and even in my personal life, I see the Myth of Perfection grip far too many women. When we’re obsessed with avoiding mistakes, we miss out on the most important learning and growth of our lives. After millennia under the patriarchy, it’s the myth with the deepest, gnarliest, thirstiest roots. Think about it. If you want to control people, make them walk on a tightrope, flatten them into a product, shrink them into a box, lather masks onto their faces, and tell them they can’t move. Make them feel they aren’t worthy as they are. The Myth of Perfection prevents us from taking action on our ideas, lowers our creative confidence, and makes us feel as if we’re not enough, which in turn drives us to compensate by striving and proving, often in a completely misaligned direction and to the point of utter exhaustion. The opposite of perfection is vulnerability and intimacy — when we allow ourselves to be seen as we are. The only way to deal with the Myth of Perfection is by embracing mistakes while also standing by our own side unconditionally, regardless of performance or production. Overcoming the Myth of Perfection is about rehumanizing ourselves as women and retrieving our innermost authenticity. Could there be more important work for us to do?

Under the Myth of Perfection, we internalize the expectation to be “super,” ignore the realities of role conflict, and bloat our calendars. Let’s actively counteract this tendency by lightening the weigh ton our shoulder and all the demands of our to do list. 

Not only do we need to wipe things off our plates, we also need to stop piling them on. In our desire to do more and measure up to others, we make food towers on our plates like we’re at a free buffet. You know that saying “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? Well, sometimes your eyes are bigger than the 24-hour day.

If you have a lot of interests and ideas, ask yourself whether they’re coming from a grounded place or a place of reacting to how other people are kicking ass and how you feel like you’re not doing enough. If you can’t help the barrage of ideas and plans you want to make, the key is to sequence instead of doing everything at once. Allow for space between plans and projects. Being scattered is the result of not feeling grounded (and not giving yourself enough self-care and rest), which only makes you feel more overwhelmed. Keep it simple and small. Start with one thing. Then do the next.

Another thing I like to use is the “idea folder.” Instead of committing to and acting on an idea, give it a few days, if not a few weeks. I write out my ideas and place them in a folder labeled “Ideas.” If I forget about the idea after a while, it wasn’t that sustainable to begin with. If I’m still thinking about the idea weeks later, then there might be something interesting worth pursuing.

Now, I can get real with you, right? Sometimes the reason our plate is so full is that we keep putting things back on it after we’ve eliminated, delegated, or automated. Why? Because we’re controlling. Plain and simple. And remember, of course you’d be controlling if you’d felt unsafe in your world since you were a little girl, unsure of whether you belonged and unsure of whether others would like you. Becoming controlling would be a very natural way to respond. I’d be surprised if you weren’t controlling. So be gentle with yourself. This isn’t another reason to dislike yourself — it’s a pattern to bring into your awareness so it can begin to transform. If this is one of your primary myths, you’ve probably been called a “control freak” (raises hand).

The opposite of control and rigidity is — you guessed it — chaos and messiness. A dash of chaos is healthy in life. It’s everywhere in nature. And all great creativity comes from a place of chaos. The Big Bang came from chaos. As good girls, we like to make sure all areas of our lives are sealed airtight in ziplock bags and wrapped with silk bows, but the truth is that we need some messiness in certain areas of our life in order to prioritize our needs, desires, and sanity.

When we’re caught in the Myth of Perfection, we’re comparing, competing, and so desperately trying to achieve and to avoid failure that we aren’t allowing ourselves to be seen as we truly are — vulnerable people trying to make sense of this wild existence together. When we don’t allow ourselves to be really seen, we lose our connection and belongingness to and with ourselves and others. And let’s get real, isn’t connection what we’re truly, deeply longing for?

Adapted excerpt from BREAK THE GOOD GIRL MYTH by Majo Molfino, reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2020.

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