The Catalyst

IMG_2095I was born already perfect. But I grew up in a world that seemed determined to teach me otherwise. To fit the world’s ideal, I became an overachiever, a classic Type A woman out to prove I could do it all. Be the best in my professional field. Be the best wife. Create the best family. Be beautiful. Be thin. Be the world’s definition of perfect. And I was doing great. I carefully constructed the life I wanted, a life that looked perfect to the outside world.

Until it crashed down around me.

Everything I so carefully built fell away. My marriage. My job. My carefully constructed world, the world I thought was in my control. Turns out, all these years the world had been lying to me. “Perfect” just wasn’t…well, perfect. And in questing to be “perfect,” I let important things slip away.

With my life in shambles, I started to look hard at who I was and who I wanted to be. In doing so, I uncovered that my perfectionism was stifling. Over time, I had become afraid to try new things. Afraid to take a silly picture. Afraid to put my real self out in the world.

I was bound by fear of being imperfect.

Just before my 40th birthday I walked along a beach in South Carolina. I was enjoying the moment, feeling the sun on my face and listening to the waves crash. I had retreated there to recover from my divorce and the crushing grief that came when I realized my whole life had been an illusion.

A friend had told me before I left that her favorite thing in the world was to twirl in the sun on the beach. She asked me to twirl for her. As I went to do so, I found I couldn’t. Far down on the beach were a few people, what if they saw me? What if I didn’t look perfect doing it? I hadn’t twirled since I was a kid, did I even know how to twirl?

I left the beach a few days later…without twirling.

On the plane home it bothered me. A week later, I snapped. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I simply express my joy in that moment by turning in a circle? How did I get this way? How had the world’s view of what I should be slowly replace mine to the point I was paralyzed by perfectionism?

I realized I was tired of trying to be it all. I wanted to be ok just as I was. I wanted to play again. Laugh again. To be free. Free of all the world tells me I’m supposed to be as a woman.

Free to twirl.

I started listening to my girlfriends as they talked about their lives, their dreams, and the perfectionism that also drives them. And I realized this isn’t specific to me. This is something most of my female peers struggle with.

Why?

I returned to the beach recently, over a year later. I walked onto the sand and twirled, taking my first baby step towards freedom from fear. It felt fantastic. So fantastic I returned day after day, twirling on each one. With each turn I felt the chokehold of perfectionism begin to fall away. And on my last day, I made a decision to begin this journey.

A journey to shed the perfectionism that has been my constant companion for as long as I remember. A journey to try new things whenever my perfectionism tells me not to. A journey to take a less than perfect picture because it just. doesn’t. matter. A journey you’re invited to walk with me.

A journey to be brave not perfect.

6 thoughts on “The Catalyst

  1. My dear friend…this blog post is SOOO you and also so many other women I know, including myself. I too am on the journey to not be perfect and am finding solace in the imperfections. I am so proud of you for doing this, you are very brave. MW

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  2. That twill looked pretty perfect to me, try again 🙂 I’m not a perfectionist but this made me realize something I did this week because of how it might look. I went school shopping out of town with my daughter and 2 granddaughters and we stayed overnight in a motel. For some reason my crazy daughter decided it would be fun for us all to jump on the bed, I’m 65, really. I started jumping on the bed with my granddaughter when I saw that my daughter had her cell phone ready to snap a picture so I quit. At first I wasn’t sure I could relate to this because I’m not a perfectionist and I didn’t see how doing something you hated was brave , but having your picture taken jumping on the bed, yes.

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  3. Twirling… a great metaphor for life’s swirls along the way…. rather than the ups and downs… the swirls that can be staggering and/or freeing… or perhaps it’s the discovery that life is a combination of both! Keep twirling, brave Sara! You inspire us all to twirl in the midst of the swirls!

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