I’m a quote person. I love reading illustrated quotes on Facebook and Pinterest. I underline and highlight in books I own when I come across something that makes me pause and ponder. Sometimes a quote will stop me dead in my tracks and I’ll think, “Yes!”
This week I had a stop me in my tracks quote reading moment. It occurred while I was reading the daily excerpt from the book Every Day With Saint Francis De Sales, a gift from my step-father, Gene. The quote read, “It seems to me that instead of being discouraged by our imperfections, we should be consoled. If we know about them, we can do something about them.”
Friends, the phrase, “we should be consoled” brought me to my knees. Can you imagine being consoled by acknowledging our imperfections? I don’t know about you, but that’s not the way I think. Imperfections are something I battle. Imperfections are something I use to admonish myself. Imperfections are The Judge’s best weapons against me.
After reading that quote I asked myself, why? Why should I let my imperfections hurt me? Who in this world expects me to be perfect? But I knew the answer. Somehow I expect myself to be perfect. Somehow I set an imperfect standard to be the perfect mom, the perfect friend, the perfect colleague, the perfect boss, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect me. And when I fall short, I am at the front of the lash-wielding line.
It also doesn’t help that we are bombarded in the media to be perfect. How many morning news segments are devoted to getting the perfect body, the perfect smile, the perfect holiday table, the perfect vacation, the perfect make-up, the perfect relationship? Not to mention that the pathway to perfection often includes “5 easy steps.” What another terrible message. Not only should you have the perfect whatever, but it’s easy to get it. So then, when you fail at perfection, you also failed at something that was apparently easy to achieve. No wonder The Judge has such a hold on people’s thoughts and emotions.
So what’s the answer? Turn off the TV? Delete all social media accounts? Perhaps. But does that truly battle the quest for perfection? Let’s go back to the quote, “we should be consoled.” How does one console? For this idea, I lean to one of my favorite girls, Glennon Doyle Melton, and the advice she gave when I attended her talk a few years ago. In her speech, she talked about pain and how it wasn’t something to fight. Pain could also be used as an arrow, an arrow that points to a target. She stated, “Life is not a quest to avoid pain. Pain is a teacher but we are like caterpillars within a cocoon, waiting to jump out and become butterflies.” Pain and discomfort are part of the path to deeper self-awareness. And to achieve this self-awareness there must be a moment that we allow ourselves to be consoled by our imperfections. Instead of looking at perfections and the 5 easy steps to achieve it, the arrow should be pointed at the imperfections and the consolation that they exist. They are real. They are a part of us. They are not wrong. They just are.
And the next step? Glennon recommends to Be Still. Be Still. Sit within the imperfection. Don’t fight it. Don’t avoid it. Don’t use any tactic to hide from it. Be Still and let the discomfort point the direction to correction. Perhaps the direction is the acceptance that maybe you don’t have the perfect smile, but that you have a reason to smile. Or not that you have the perfect holiday table, but a table to share on the holiday. Or that the muffin top that causes you to search for the 5 easy exercises to fight the belly bulge or consume the “miracle belly fat burning drink”, is really just a belly. I repeat, it’s just a belly.
Being Still allows us to stop and say imperfections exist, but they do not define who I am. Being Still takes the power from the imperfection and puts the power in the correction. It’s a way to listen to the trigger that makes an imperfection seems stressful because we want it fixed and we want it fixed now and we want it to be fixed easily. That doesn’t happen. Anything worth correcting takes time, takes self-awareness, takes work. However, when we allow the imperfection to console us, the time, self-awareness, and work necessary don’t seem so difficult. The target is identified. The path becomes clear and focused. The arrow becomes easier to follow.
The other outcome that occurs when we are still is that we take the power away from The Judge. The Judge is at his best when we were are stressed and want an imperfection fixed quickly. The Judge takes the arrow and redirects it from the target to all the reasons that an imperfection makes us wrong and unworthy and unfixable. And the more we listen to The Judge, the louder and stronger he gets. But when we are still, The Judge loses power. When we take a breath and give ourselves permission to be consoled by our imperfection, The Judge’s attack weakens and ultimately retreats. The focus returns to the path of consolation, acceptance, and correction.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a path that I want to follow.