I’m such a failure! / You’re such a failure! Sound familiar?
It does to me, especially at this time of year when our New Year’s resolutions are just starting to unravel. The long dark stretch of winter makes us frazzled, tired and annoyed at our own and our loved one’s failings.
Perfectionism, harshness / lack of compassion are very effective at creating walls, and can make us disconnected from ourselves and from others. Unrealistic expectations can keep us from our human-ness: our vulnerability, being exposed as merely normal, flawed people. Our desire to appear perfect, and our humiliation over being imperfect prevent us from creating the collective power that comes from sharing and being close.
When we are in this messy life together, we have a shot at going somewhere new; and we can’t be in this messy life together if we withhold our flaws and mistakes.
So, here’s a warming-up antidote to this unhelpful perfectionism:
Accept, Embrace, share our failures. It’s good for us, for our relationships and for the world.
Sharing our mistakes can be a starting point for love (which is power), radical acceptance, and creativity. This is why I love being a group therapist and practicing Social Therapy, which gives people an opportunity to do therapy collectivity, as a team. This type of therapy encourages people to share and give their imperfections as a way to create power and help each other develop emotionally. I see it every week in client’s faces when they share something they might have never shared before. Being a giver as well as being seen, heard, accepted is at the same time very hard and transformative.
It makes me think of a wonderful improv exercise: People yell out ‘Yeay, WE made a mistake!’ whenever someone in the class gets something ‘wrong’. What if our everyday lives at home, at work and in our communities were lived in that way? Think about the possibilities!
I, like most of us, am an expert at self-judgment and am seduced by my idealized delusion that I should be / am / can be perfect at all times. In a moment of despair recently over some difficult client situations in my group therapy practice, I felt I made some mistakes. I was privately beating myself up and also in my head beating up the clients for not being perfect like me. I took my own advice and talked about it with a close friend and colleague. In response, he sent me this Zen Koan / lesson that made my week:
Student: “What is the key to happiness?”
Zen master: “Good judgment.”
Student: “How do I gain good judgment?”
Zen master: “Experience.”
Student: “How do I get experience?”
Zen master: “Bad judgement.”
Here’s to mistakes, misunderstandings, blunders and bad judgement:
Flawed people of the world unite!
And it will be summer soon enough.