Reformed Perfectionist Series: You’re Human

How often do you remember that you are human? Some of my biggest ‘a-ha’ moments have come from realizing that I experience what I do because I’m human. That whatever I’m going through is within the realm of possibility and understanding because of that fact. I am human.

I’m human. We often say it as a way to shirk responsibility. As in, “What can I say? I’m human,” with a shrug of the shoulders and dismissive tone. What I’m referring to is a deep awareness, acknowledgement and radical acceptance that can come from realizing that you are a human – and being human is a package deal.

What comes in that package? Along with the miracles that are our bodies, minds, hearts and souls, there are all the emotions and experiences we have. Like most people, you probably welcome and accept the good. Joy, love, success, pleasure, confidence, and so on. What about the “bad”? Do you let yourself feel your regret, guilt, shame, boredom, anxiety, sadness, uncertainty?

When the tidal wave of negative emotions meets the unrelenting wall of perfectionism, it’s crushing. We believe we won’t be able to handle it, that acknowledging that we’ve failed, hurt someone, or acted against our better judgement or values will destroy us. What we need to be is flexible in order to allow that wave of feeling to enter us, and then leave.

I’ve spent plenty of energy resisting these less-than-pleasurable human experiences. I created the expectation that I will be the one human on the planet who had figured out a way around these feelings. Underneath that delusion was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. That if I welcomed the feeling it would swallow me whole.

That’s where learning I’m human came in. I was hiking one day, doing exhausting mental gymnastics to get away from feeling regret, and the thought came to me: “It’s ok to feel regret. It’s a human experience, and I’m a human.” Not very elegant, but transformative. Suddenly it was ok to feel bad, even bad about myself. Any experience I had became a human one, and I was no longer alone in it. It didn’t mean anything about me as a person, other than that I was one.

So the next time you find yourself in that moment of realization that you’re resisting feeling shame, or guilt, or grief, take a deep breath and turn towards that “bad” feeling. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way, or try to escape it. You’re feeling that way because you’re human, and shit happens to humans.

Take a breath, give yourself some TLC, and do your best to move on.

Want more resources on how to accept your humanness? Brene Brown (brenebrown.com) and Kristin Neff (self-compassion.org) both write on the topic.

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