I’m known as the oldest of seven, the product of overachievers, a hyper-competent “woman who always has answers and knows where she’s going,” the go-to girl–the one who always seems have it together.
And as I move deeper into the second half of my life, I’m questioning how this affects me–what is the price I pay for stepping into this personae? As a life balance evangelist, I’ve come a long way: I’ve let a lot of perfectionist tendencies drop, am less controlling than before and am a big advocate for the “good is good enough” message–but what would it look like for me to be MORE vulnerable? To be less prepared, less polished, more messy and human than I have ever been before?
It takes a lot of energy to told it together. My yoga teacher Jenn shared a story about a photographer who shot Salvador Dali over a stretch of five minutes (with time-lapsed breaks in between). Seeing Dali go back and forth between “DALI!” and a tired, slightly slumped over normal guy in a chair was fascinating. It showed how much energy it took for the artist to be on stage, in personae–to “hold it together.”
Two of my close friends are going through hard times–one may lose her house, the other is navigating a complicated divorce. We’ve been talking about how essential it is for them, and for all of us, to allow ourselves to come undone, feel our feelings, turn into puddles, ask for help and be vulnerable–in order to transform into who we’re meant to be … next.
Author Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection) says, “What fuels this unattainable need to look like we always have it all together? At first glance we might think it’s because we admire perfection, but that’s not the case. We are actually the most attracted to people we consider to be authentic and down-to-earth. We love people who are ‘real’ – we’re drawn to those who both embrace their imperfections and radiate self-acceptance.”
Two summers ago my 10-year old son and I attended Family Week at Omega Institute–a well-known retreat center nestled on 500 hilly acres in Rhinebeck, NY. He attended Architecture Camp for Kids while I danced with the amazing Rachel, founder of Dance Your Bliss. At the end of that week we dropped into a lunch session with singer/songwriter David Wilcox for some Music Medicine (short, original, spontaneous pieces written to soothe/inspire your heart and spirit). My son asked David for a song about “relaxing and feeling free,” and what followed was one of most beautiful, heart-wrenching pieces of songwriting I’ve heard in quite a while. As I listened to David’s lyrics about Jonah running with his friends like the wind through the woods, I felt tears run down my face.
What is the price that those around us–those we love most–pay when we feel we must “hold it together” or maintain our vision for how we think things “should be?” Don’t we all desire to let go and feel more free?
My intention for my life now is to to be more vulnerable, to make more mistakes, to put myself out there as unfinished, a work in progress, maybe even clueless–and to hopefully–maybe for a minute–inspire a few others to consider doing the same.
INVITE: Would you like to receive high-level support/mentoring while navigating a life transition? Craving a “soft place to fall?” Join me for my upcoming retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health (MA) Jan. 23-25 or learn more about our international Personal Renewal Group program for women–a safe and empowering space where you can “come as you are.”
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/speaker and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.