On our walk to my daughter’s school this morning, we ran into a couple of power-walkers from the neighborhood.
One of the power-walkers stopped and asked us to weigh in on a bet between the of them.
“These newly paved roads – how long do you think it will take until they start showing cracks? One month or two months?”
The roads still had a pretty strong smell of tar emanating from them and they also seemed a bit delicate as the tar was still soft and settling. I shrugged, “I do not know… maybe even sooner?”
The woman did not like my reply and huffed off. The suggestion the perfectly paved roads were not going to last was simply. not. ok.
I hollered after my power-walking neighbor in all of my nerdy therapist glory:
“Hey! There is nothing wrong with a few cracks in the road.”
The woman stopped, turned around and took off her rather large sun hat, setting her stern eyes on me while placing her hands on her hips as she said,
“I once had a contractor tell me if you have a crack and you can fit a dime in it, you are in some deep trouble.”
Turning on her heels, off she went to finish her morning power walk.
I started getting all defensive for the poor cracks in the road. And the pressure the newly paved road had on it to stay…perfect.
And so began a conversation in my head with the power-walking neighbor telling her the cracks are just a reflection of:
- how hard the road works
- how much pressure the road tolerates day in and day out
- how the road has been neglected and not cared for well. The road is just doing what it is made to do and cracks are inevitable.
Conversations in my head and feeling defensive for an inanimate object were good clues a nerve had been touched.
I took a deep breathe and checked the source of my vulnerability.
Walking home, I found myself looking at the cracks in the road that had not been repaved yet. Some were small and others could hold a roll of dimes.
And I could not shake the heaviness I was feeling about the neighborhood walking buddies already betting on when the newly paved road was going to “fail” to be “perfect”.
The pressure to be perfect and meet all of the various standards of those who see us when we show up in life is truly intense at times.
We devote a lot of time, effort and resources to covering up or trying to get rid of our own imperfections.
Scarcity fuels critics like my two power walking neighbors.
Scarcity shows up ever where.
Bathing suit season, finals, tax time, finding a job or changing careers, relationships, parenting, creativity – you name it – there are a whole host of triggers these days that make chasing the perfection carrot a daily grind.
Seeing the messy, the cracked as beautiful is hard when your lens on life is in defend/perfect mode.
Cover Up. Protect. Do Not Be Seen.
The critics are here to stay. As long as there are products to be sold and love to be desired, the critics will be present.
I do my best to push back on the power and influence of critics in the world and in my head.
But one of the most effective, sustaining and rewarding resources to managing the relentless critics has been developing my own life-long shame resilience practice.
Doing this work involved me getting clear on:
- my personal shame triggers. Shame work is trauma work and trauma work is shame work.
- how I respond when my shame is triggered.
- what vulnerability is, is not and how vulnerability is the pathway to living the life I am called to live.
- who my go-to support team is in my life. And how sometimes my support team shifts depending on the season and the issue.
- who I thought I was striving to be and who God is calling me to be
- how best to care for, rest and feed my body and my soul
- what values guide my decisions personally and professionally
- the importance of maintaining good boundaries so I do not overextend, live in regret or resentment
- how to move away from unhealthy perfection and towards healthy striving.
My shame resilience practice has helped me understand – in action, not just intellectually – the concept of wholehearted living:
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left is undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” – The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown Ph.D. LMSW
Cracks and all, we need to dare to show up and be seen.
If you are ready to develop your own shame resilience practice, please join us at one of our upcoming (re) Define Courage workshops. This work is life-giving soul work that helps you take insight to sustained change so you can (re) define the cracks in your life.
How do you feel about the cracks in your story? Do they allow shame to drive your choices or do they inspire you?
Cheering you on and respecting the cracks in the road –