Last but not least, on this final day of March, Valerie Parker closes our month long look at vulnerability with a brilliant list. Valerie's list is interesting because it arcs across time and illuminates how our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy follow us and color our experience and relationships in every phase of life.
Here is what I have noticed and learned as I've helped to organize this project. When I own my truths (especially the hard ones), I open the door to the possibility that I might live in wholeness. When I face my failings, flaws and weaknesses they lose their power over me, the self-imposed barriers fall away and I am better able to show up to live my life and do my work anyway. Living this way I can assume others will see me with grace (whether they do or not), because I see myself with grace and forgiveness. When I see myself with grace I reference my worth from inside instead of worrying about what other people think about me. I recognize and know from experience that if others don’t see me with grace, it’s because they haven’t made peace with their own demons, it's about them not me. An internally-referenced life, the foundation of personal power, starts with the seed of allowing myself to feel vulnerable by honestly taking a look, seeing and admitting. Then I pick myself up off the ground where I've fallen under the weight of my own self-judgement, shake it off and move forward into this life, which has been there with me, waiting for me to notice it and live it all along.
Thank you Valerie for this intimate view on how the quest for perfection does not serve us as it plays out across time. You open up the door and invite wholeness inside by owning these truths and you show us all how by sharing!
To those of you who have been following us on this journey: Thank you for witnessing. This process turned out to be deeply healing for many of us who wrote lists, which wasn't exactly what we expected when we started. If you haven't written your own list, give it a try, you won't be sorry. -Shannon Leigh
Skiing Warrior in Colorado
For days I pondered, ruminated, twisted and turned as I contemplated my vulnerability. As I wrote my list, a common pattern, or a thread of deep fear emerged. My emotions are covered with deep internal pressure and tons of self-criticism. In writing this I realize I have run away from my life. -Valerie
1. Reflecting back I uncovered a fearful child that still exists today. Being perfect is the mask that covers the fear of being me, perfection is an attempt to manage family emotions and to keep the peace. I manipulated myself into a family role where I rescued my parents’ feelings, especially my mom’s. Perfection gave me a vehicle to prevent situations that would cause emotional discomfort, creating the strong belief that I could keep things smooth. The “perfect child” followed the rules, completed daily tasks and chores even without being asked and of course to the best of my ability. My drive for perfection actually revealed to me that I was failing miserably. I did not have the magic wand to keep my home calm or the ability to stay out of trouble. In fact, the reality is that all I feared was delivered back in full force with going from an A student to failing my junior year of high school and then bringing shame to my mother by becoming pregnant shortly after graduation.
2. I ran away from my childhood home into the role of the “perfect mom” being super attentive, cooking, cleaning, going to church etc. striving for all the images of a perfect mom. Again, the fear of not being good enough caused the drive for perfection to bring out the mean mom. Losing my temper if you didn’t take a nap. The mom that had the perfect schedule and put her children to bed on time, even on a beautiful summer night when they could hear the other children playing. The mom that placed every toy back in order. Perfection was the drive to run away from feeling insecure about being a mom and the fear of failure. With perfection, my children were manipulated to keep the peace, again covering my fear of anger and rage. But, I missed the joy and simple moments of life’s pleasures raising my children all for perfection. I passed on the belief of perfectionism with all the anxiousness and worry, and now witness it play a role in their lives. I feel deep guilt and regret that my children had a “perfect mom”, but not the freedom of self. God gave me the greatest blessing of a home filled with light and love, but I ran away. I covered my fear of not being good enough with endless to-do lists and self-defeating chatter and many days of a dark side of me that even wished to die.
3. I strived for the role of “perfect wife”. Making all decisions based on external references. I was all about appearances by looking great with a clean and orderly home and well-behaved children. But inside, I was destroying myself with self-judgement and constant criticism. I soothed the anxiousness with becoming a good cook and baker. Which was a great excuse to eat too much, gaining weight, but I had the appearance of a good wife. Truth is no one could see how terrified I was of being hated and unlovable, my deepest fear. Again, my wifely role ended in a horrible, hateful divorce. The scars of the divorce have followed for 30 years. The mask of perfectionism led to incredible failure and total social embarrassment.
4. I failed again when I took on all of the shame and guilt of my marital failure and ran away from being a daughter in-law a second time when I remarried. I hid behind an almost invisible silent role. Believing with all of my heart that if I just stay away, the ex-spouses would remain calm, no one would be angered and stir the pot. This time perfection took on the role of growing very silent and going inward using social avoidance. I soothed myself with the justification that I had empathy for the family members caught in the fall out of a divorce. Again, my ridged self-judgement, and criticism caused me to run away. It was much easier to avoid than face my failure. Hiding and covering I didn’t allow my mother in-law to really know me. I cared for her behind the scenes, always staying at arm’s length. Telling myself that I was sparing her the pain of knowing me and keeping peace for her and her grandchildren. Actually, I failed her and myself. I never told her I loved her until the last day before she passed. I was perfect at hiding, but I ran away from my feelings. All to hide the truth that I am imperfect.
5. Those that know me closely know that I will joke that my drug of choice is education. I love learning. The more I know, the more I hunt for information. I think, read, seek and think, read, seek like a hamster on a wheel. I soothe my imperfection by chasing perfection. Believing I will find the answer and know enough to feel safe and secure and not make a mistake. I became a teacher - a perfect profession to learn constantly, to over work, to direct all of my attention to striving for “my best” and a way to feel the needs of others rather than myself. Another thread in the pattern of chasing perfection to hide fear of failure the universe delivered a district strike. The universe revealed we are all replaceable.
6. I have run away from my voice chasing knowledge that will finally give me perfection to help others. My self-loathing has driven me to become something striving to improve: a teacher, a personal trainer, nutritionist, yoga instructor and now “Shake Your Soul”. Always striving to be the best and fix myself so I have confidence to help others. The desire to be something, perfect, covers the fear of not being liked or accepted. It is the vehicle to run away from me and all of my imperfections. It is driven by a pattern that generates the realization that the more I know the more I know I don’t know. The search for perfection never leaves me feeling competent to share my voice and knowledge. The end result is just the opposite I feel I will never be good enough. Striving for perfection silences my voice.
7. I am so fearful of regretting life, yet I am chasing it away. I am always running to nowhere with mental distractions. My mind has a running tape of regrets and failures that plays over and over. As time passes the pile of perceived failures grows and perfection becomes even more elusive. All of the self-doubt and dislike increase the desire to hide and run away. The deep hole of depression is ever present.
8. I am fearful of the construct of age. When I was young, I was too young to have four children. Too young to be a wife and mother. Not the perfect age. Now I am too old to dream of a new career. Too old to chase my dreams and use all of the knowledge I have gathered. I am too old to right all of my wrongs or mend my path. Not the perfect age. A great excuse to perpetuate procrastination a distraction from the paralyzing fear of perfectionism.
9. I am not unlike others in that I am fearful of my image in the mirror. I prefer to hide inside with my mental image of how I appear running away from the imperfection. My body has received all of the anger and rage that I fear most from others, from me. I have dissected my body to find every imperfection and every way it could possibly be judged by others. Choosing to be mean to myself rather than acknowledge that not everyone will like me. Seeking perfection, I treat myself worse than anyone else. At times I have dieted, severely restricting foods, obsessing about foods labeled good or bad all to punish my body for failing to meet the perfect mental image. I have worked out hard in the gym for two hours a day, seven days a week; lifting, running on a perfect schedule chasing perfection. Running away from worthlessness. Poor body, the punching bag. The fear of not measuring up generated the search for perfection, a perpetual cycle. This cycle that led to isolation, I allowed the mind to run the show and hide the true buried emotions of fear. Seeking to finally love my body has led to a dark place of self-hate and deep sadness.
10. As I wrote this list, I am fearful of failing at everything. I am fearful of the dislike and judgement of others. I am fearful of emotions and numb myself by striving for the impossible “perfection”. I am fearful of sharing me, the totally imperfect human. Striving to not be vulnerable with imperfection I have run away from life. Only to find that life has a way of truly delivering the opposite. Perfection does not exist and the real me really knows how to screw up and fall flat on my face for the whole world to see. I am fearful of death and what follows. Will all of my failures great me on the other side?
FInal Thoughts from Valerie: It really isn’t important how the pattern formed, we all have a story. The revelation doing this written exercise was that the pattern shadows my life, it seems to follow me into every situation The belief colors my reaction and the outcome.
Now the WORK begins!
Stillness to feel so small and grounded in a perfect place. This is my zen space above the mammoth bones in Colorado.
Traveling with strangers to Bali - beginning to release of my fears and being open to what is.
Valerie's OWY Teaching Schedule
8:30 - 9:45 AM All Level Yoga Sandusky
12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch Time Yoga Norwalk
12:00 - 1:00 PM All Level Yoga Sandusky