2017 is the year.
The year to bring up topics and have conversations that require courage and conviction. There’s a rumbling far beneath the surface of something I’m unsure what to call it. I sense something. And I see it in my coaching clients—who boldly step into fear and discomfort to make changes in their lives—and those I’m meeting one-by-one in Des Moines’ inspiring business community.
The amazing and humbling thing is, while there’s intentionality behind each interaction I’m having, I’ve discovered that when I soften my agenda, show up authentically and commit to being present, other topics surface. A common theme emerges and it’s as if people are secretly facing two choices: keep the mask on or remove it.
During the last several months, I’ve noticed a surprising trend:
A majority of people are choosing to remove their masks and take steps toward revealing authentic selves. This figurative act leads me to a place of awe and wonder. I admire the grit associated with it.
What’s most inspiring about observing other’s authenticity is the sense of gratitude that comes with being the recipient of such trust. I don’t take these experiences lightly. They’re miraculous and unveil another level of genuine conversation.
Once the masks are removed, I notice something that is increasingly unsettling to me, because I’ve walked in those very same shoes—cowboy boots actually—believing the same untruth.
This untruth is the notion that I’m not enough. You’re not enough. We’re not enough.
Really? According to whom?
I think a lot about the way I used to live (I admit to occasional digressions) and the way a majority of those around me are living. Wait! Living isn’t even an accurate term! We’re merely existing. We’re existing in a space where the most frequent response to the simple question, “How are you?” elicits the same one-word answer repeatedly: “Busy!” Being busy has become a badge of honor.
"Busy implies a rushed sense of cheery urgency, a churning motion, a certain measure of impending chaos," writes KJ Dell'Antonia in a recent New York Times post. "Busy is being in one place doing one thing with the nagging sense that you ought to be somewhere else doing something different."
The question that’s percolating in my mind is: if how we’re existing—in this frenzied, pressure-filled space that increasingly feels like watching a dog chase its tail—is actually a good thing, why is it that we’re the most indebted, medicated, overweight and mentally unhealthy population to ever grace this planet?
Consider the following cold, hard facts:
- The world is $152tn in the red.
- 30 percent of the world is now overweight or obese.
- One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Mental disorders are among the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide.
- Roughly 7 in 10 Americans take a prescription drug.
I’ve started posing this question to numerous people in a variety of settings, and the same dynamic happens time and time again—a blank stare followed by the response, “That’s a great question! What are we doing?”
That’s exactly the point. We’re doing. And doing. And doing some more.
We’re filling emptiness because we feel inadequate. We don’t feel or have confidence that we’re enough.
An article by Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. describes the three essential classifications of “good enough”: the curse of perfectionism, the prerequisite of perfection and the selection of perfection.
His 30+ years as a psychologist strongly suggests that perfectionism tendencies are “a learned behavior compelled by all sorts of negative messages about self received while growing up . . .” It’s a habit.
My intention with this point isn’t to place blame with or insult parents (mine or others); I genuinely believe (especially as a parent myself) a majority of parents do the best job they know how. But rather, to challenge myself and others to ponder the point that if perfectionism is a learned behavior, we can choose to unlearn it.
How liberating is that?
You are empowered to unlearn the curse of perfectionism, determine your personal definition of enough, live according to those boundaries and (finally) embrace the truth: you are enough!
Surely you’ve heard of Type A people and Type B people, yes? Decades ago I invented my own personality type—Type AA—and coupled it with control freak perfectionist tendencies to create an environment where predictability provided comfort and made failure unlikely.
As Dr. Seltzer notes, “. . . when a perfectionist manages to do something extravagantly well, they can only breathe a sigh of relief. This time, at least, they’ve avoided failure—which nonetheless continues to haunt them, as time and again they joylessly struggle to do the next thing perfectly . . . and the next, and the next.”
Although I’ve lost track of how many years it took me to unlearn the habit of perfectionism, I find something intriguing: Removing my mask, choosing vulnerability and pairing these choices with a healthy dose of self-depreciating humor, always elicits good belly laughs from those in my personal and professional circles and brings things full circle. My courage gently nudges others to stop and reflect on the way they show up. In a majority of situations, people look me in the eye, nod their heads and exclaim, “I get it!”
The result is a brief adrenaline rush for all involved because, in that instant, we realize we’re not alone. Most importantly, we show up without judgement and begin the journey of talking about how much better life is once you stop believing the toxic untruth that you’re not enough and replace it with the mantra, “You are enough!”
During some recent speaking engagements, I asked the audience to raise their hands if they could relate to the curse of perfectionism, were nervous about showing up authentically or hesitant to be vulnerable. Nearly every hand shot into the air. I saw every raised hand attached to a courageous individual willing to take one step toward removing a mask and begin accepting the fact that each of them is enough. It brought tears to my eyes.
Do you live with the untruth that you’re not enough? Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took just one courageous step toward unlearning that untruth? Reach out to me to learn more about the guidance coaching provides.
It’s best I end this blog writing adventure before I relapse into my perfectionism tendencies in an effort to prove I’m enough. . .