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“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

—Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

I recognized the disconnect in myself only a few weeks after the pandemic started. Ten, sometimes twelve, hours a day, I supported women who felt lost, anxious, and uncertain. These women were searching for a way to bring sense to a chaotic world. I felt grateful, blessed, fulfilled that I could serve as a beacon through my teaching and mentoring. The work was so satisfying. But as soon as I took off my “professional” hat, the “high” feelings I experienced during the day gave way to fear, worry, and uncertainty. The “cracks” in my façade surfaced to reveal the gap between professional Michal and off-the-clock Michal.

I brought this gap into my Reiki and meditation practice and asked for guidance. The answer I received urged me to seek support. Over the years, I have worked with life coaches, mentors, and therapists. But not recently. So I reached out to a therapist I like, and we’ve been meeting weekly on Zoom ever since.

What I love most about these weekly conversations is that I can be totally human, totally myself, totally imperfect. Allowing myself to have a weekly supportive space to be messy and human helps me to charge my emotional batteries. Honoring the imperfection in myself allows me to continue being in service of others.

Giving myself permission to be human does not come naturally to me. Growing up, I would do anything to feel more loved by my parents. The best strategy I figured out was not to fail. To work hard and get good grades so I could get lots of compliments about what a good girl I was!

In my blog, “Don’t tell me to be a good girl,” I shared how the pressure of perfectionism led me to cheat on a national competition and win a prize.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you.

If you are a mom, the pandemic might have forced you to be your children’s everything. You’re teacher, planner, organizer, entertainer, sitter, therapist…on top of all your other roles as a mom. You try to stay optimistic. You try to be patient. When you lose it (because who wouldn’t?), you hate yourself.

What does “Be human. Be imperfect” look like for you?

If you are a teacher, you might be struggling with the pressure of maintaining routine amidst uncertainty. You’re sick and tired of virtual learning. But trying to stay safe in a physical school environment is no easier. Marks on the ground. Masks on the faces. You keep your cool so you can be there for your students. But it takes a lot of effort.

What does “Be human. Be imperfect” look like for you?

If you are dealing with loss, whether a loved one, a job, or another type of loss, you might be in a bad place emotionally. You’re barely keeping your head above water. When you can’t bring yourself to feel hopeful, you feel like a failure.

What does “Be human. Be imperfect” look like for you?

We spoke about me. We spoke about you. Now let’s speak about perfectionism.

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgement, and shame. It’s a twenty ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

— Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Perfectionism is a form of armor that gives us a false sense of protection from hurt. We think if people can’t see us as we really are, they can’t hurt us. So we walk around with an “I am perfect” sign on our foreheads. But the only thing this sign protects us from is being seen. It’s time to stop caring about what other people think and have the courage to be seen as human and imperfect.

Let’s break it down. What can you do more—and what can you do less—to train your “imperfect” muscle?

What do you need to DO LESS of?

  • Caring for what others think
  • Making up stories in your head
  • Striving to earn approval and acceptance
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Doing the “right” thing
  • Having unrealistic expectations
  • Pleasing people
  • Living with regrets
  • Feeling guilt (“I did something bad”)
  • Feeling shame (“I am bad”)

What do you need to DO MORE of?

I could make a long list. But it all comes down to this:

  • Self-love
  • Self-compassion

Connect to the softer, more tender place within you, the place where compassion lives. Even if you are habitually closed off (and many of us are), set an intention to open up your heart and bring in compassion.

Bring compassion to yourself. Talk to yourself as if you are talking with your best friend who feels like a failure but who only failed to be perfect. Give yourself the same love you would give to your friend by saying, “I know you’re upset. You worked so hard, and you wanted things to be perfect. But you’re not a superwoman. You’re human. I know you’re hurting. But it’s time to bring yourself compassion.”

The “Shift to Love” guided visualization I created can help you connect with love and compassion. You can access the guided visualization here.

Perfectionism is not a way of thinking.

It’s a way of being in the world.

What is one thing you can do today to become human and imperfect? Share in the comments.