Being “Perfect” and Shunning Vulnerability Comes With a Very High Price


Being “Perfect” and Shunning Vulnerability Comes With a Very High Price.

Fear. “This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It is an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it.” (AA Big Book, pg 67)

Fear of failure, and the omnipresent possibility that I would be exposed as imperfect, effectively silenced me for much of my youth and some of my early adulthood.

The boot camp of my family of origin prepared me to present myself to the world as a perfect person. Successful, smart, thin, strong, attractive, and effective at handling any problem that arose.

Hence, my free expression of thoughts, feelings, and originality were deeply suppressed.

Crushed by the dread of the viscious, relentless whip of self-flagellation that came for me every time I made a “mistake,” and by the abject terror of exposure to the world as “less than” (forfeiting the facade of “better than” and ceding the “safe” high ground of being above reproach), my spirit languished in the prison of perfectionism. Oh the “horrors” of the freedom of letting down ones guard and being vulnerable.

It pains my soul deeply to reflect on the lost opportunities for joy, connection with others, and personal growth that litter my past. How many tens of thousands of hours did I spend in tense silence, with jaw clenched and shoulders taut? Avoiding others? Biting my tongue? All to prevent the world from seeing that “I was a mistake,” I created a wall of “invulnerability,” effectively cutting myself off from deep, intimate relationships.

And therein lies the key. Indoctrinated shame told me that I WAS a mistake. Not that I MADE a mistake. Given that distorted, perverse belief, what reasonable human being WOULDN’T attempt to keep the world from “knowing” they are a mistake.

Being “perfect” and shunning vulnerability comes with a very high price. I paid this price for far too long.

It took years of spiritual growth, therapy, and practice, but today I have learned that honest mistakes, falling short, stumbling, stuttering, and in short, “fucking it up” are not only OK and inevitable because I am human. They are also essential to expressing my humanity, being fully human, exposing my vulnerability, and connecting at a meaningful depth with others.

While self-restraint definitely has a significant place in living a grounded, mentally healthy life, some balance is crucial.

Sometimes saying or doing nothing will “fuck you up.” It fucked me up for years. But today, I have a choice!

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