Spiritual perfectionism, strategic procrastination, and feeling yummy

I started this post with

“It’s Friday, and here’s a recap of this week’s realizations. Actually, it’s a recap of yesterday’s realizations, because that’s as far back as I can remember.”

Immediately, the staff copywriter raised a red flag.

“What are you doing? What’s your message? Why should anybody bother to read this? What’s the purpose of this post?”

Yikes. Until then, I thought I was just going to talk to you. You being anyone who cared to listen. I mean, I’m not holding a gun to your head.

But I dutifully began again.

“There was a biggie (realization, that is). Now, how do I make it succinct?”

At this point the marketing director, who had been reading over my shoulder, gave a heavy sigh.

“What?” I said.
Well. It’s just that, as a reader, I still don’t know why I should read this.”

I’d written exactly three sentences, deleted one of them, and was about to delete another. And then I decided to send the staff out for coffee. Whew! I’m gonna write fast so we can have this chat before they get back.

Realization 1: It’s okay to choose a resourceful state.

I’m tired of being jaded and skeptical. Yes, I know there is a lot of BS in the world, especially when it comes to motivation, focus, the law of attraction, and the like.

And, you know what? I want as much of the good stuff for myself and for you as possible. And there is a lot of good stuff lying around just waiting for us to take it in.

What this boils down to is noticing when my Inner Cynic objects to changing from a crummy state of mind/body/spirit to a yummy one. Then, asking myself if I truly believe that crummy is morally superior to yummy.

It’s not, you know.

That doesn’t mean the crummy is morally inferior, either. Crummy and yummy are morally neutral.

Sometimes I don’t seem to be able to shift from crummy to yummy, and that’s okay. But when I can, which is a heck of a lot more often than I’ve been acknowledging, why wouldn’t I?

Realization 2: It’s okay to have a purpose.

Oh my, I’m beginning to spot a trend.

For some time know I’ve been allergic to purpose because I see so many people flailing around and not taking action because they don’t know their purpose. Looking for purpose is a bit like looking for your shadow. Sometimes you can see it in front of you or behind you or off to the side.
But regardless of where it is, you’re standing on it.

So I’ve made a religion of being anti-purpose. “I don’t need no stinkin’ purpose,” I’d think. I’m just going to take the next indicated step. And I thought I was being all humble and realistic. When I was really buying into the notion that purpose had to be grandiose, which is a kind of inverted grandiosity.

I thought I was being realistic and going with the flow. In fact, I was trying so hard to prove that I wasn’t trying to control things that I was blocking the flow.

Dunno if any of that makes sense to you, but I’m here to say that purpose is marvelous. When it shows up, go for it.

That isn’t to say that you need a purpose. Like I said, you’re standing on it. But it’s worth checking in to see if you’re standing or stuck.

Realization 3: It’s better to do things wrong than to not do them at all.

Now, I actually thought I was pretty good at this. Lord knows I make enough mistakes. And I am pretty good at letting go of some kinds of perfection.
But come to find out, I’ve been a spiritual perfectionist with a procrastination strategy. Here’s how that looks.

I realize that there’s a flaw in the way I’ve been making sense of the world. I don’t know how to make sense of things without that flawed way of thinking, but I’m determined not to continue to operate “that way.”

So I say no to the old way of making meaning and sense of things. I opt for a new way, one that, by definition, I’m not very experienced in (yet). So far, so good.

But when I require myself to be/appear fluent in the new meaning-making system, I dissociate from any part of my experience that doesn’t fit my idea of what that would look like. And, in case you haven’t noticed, dissociation makes for clumsiness, a pervasive sense of inauthenticity and, sometimes, existential terror.

Oh well.

Firmly in the embrace of spiritual perfectionism, I cast about for strategies to make me look and feel less adrift than I am. On a practical level, this means my energy and attention go to self-analysis, self-reproach, and closeted self-improvement.

Which results in an indefinite moratorium on actual growth via practice, engagement in community, and just plain living where I am. That’s the procrastination piece.

The moral of the story: When in transition, it doesn’t help to pretend you’re on the other side.

Realization 4: I don’t know who I am (and that’s okay).

Many years ago a woman I admire tremendously told me that the thing she admired about me is that I don’t care what people think of me.

If only.

Back then (circa 1990) I had a crew cut, dressed funny (arty), and owned a fiber art studio called Mollycoddles. She interpreted some or all of that as meaning I wasn’t preoccupied by what other people think.

Like I said, if only.

This week I’ve been noticing with some chagrin how much I compare myself with others and how I contract when, in my view, I come up short.

Mark Silver writes better headlines.
Jennifer Louden is nicer.
Naomi Dunford swears better.
Havi Brooks is funnier.

I could go on… (I hear you, and I won’t.)

But then I got to thinking about The Self Employment Telesummit. If there weren’t people who did things better than me, I’d do the blinkin’ thing myself.

And it would be a much, much different event.

Because yesterday I started to see the purpose of it all, my purpose, if you will. And that’s to change the context of self-employment from a competitive, lonely, overwhelming slog up a never-ending hill to a collaborative, resource-full, supportive creative process.

I’ve always been fascinated with how our lives unfold, how we do and don’t consciously participate in the ongoing creation of meaning, substance, and connection.

And now I get to play a bigger, more generous game integrating all that life knowledge with business know-how so that creative self-employed people can experience was less overwhelm and a lot more success.

If that’s the result of not knowing who I am, it works for me.

Wow, if you read this far, thank you. Now it’s your turn. What realizations have you had this week? How are you seeing and doing things a little differently?

11 Comments

  1. Great post. I had a realization awhile back (not this week but hopefully this counts): I was addicted to seeing myself as a victim. Stuck in a “poor me” stance.
    I have been in an abusive marriage (that I’m finally getting out of) for 14 years. I recently lost my job. My friends and family are very supportive and they have been providing me sympathy that I was feeding off of. Thankfully I saw that I was projecting negative energy and decided to stop doing it.
    Now when I talk about my current situation I explain it the way I see it – both these tough situations are huge blessings in disguise. I have the world open to me now. I can figure out who I am. I can build a life that suits me better. I am so lucky.
    What I appreciated most about your post is the part about spiritual perfectionism. I’ve been beating myself up lately when I hit those inevitable times where I’m back in “poor me” mode. Where I just feel like crap about everything. I try to pretend that everything is ok. And that’s been my problem forever – I’m just getting back into the same rut from a different direction.
    So this comment turned out to be longer than I anticipated . . . maybe I need to do a blog post. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
  2. Well, Naomi *does* swear better. At least publicly. That might actually be a good thing, as far your particular niche is concerned.
    I’d question the other stuff!
    I had the thought that “From Crummy to Yummy” would have been a snappier headline for this blog entry (says this sort-of former copywriter), but maybe not the best Molly headline. You’re a you, ya know? Uniquely so. And your headline, as seen on Facebook, made *me* open it.
    And in that vein, my realization this week is that I do not have to get on any bandwagons…to only get on the ones where I feel totally comfortable being a passenger.
    Whew!

    Reply
  3. Loved this, Molly! And I was about to turn off the computer and go to bed, so I definitely felt motivated to come over and check this out, then I just had to keep reading. Found humor. Found much about me. And I love your solution to the competitive thing which has been a problem for me all my life!

    Reply
  4. Jessica: Thank you so much for commenting. Absolutely your realization counts. Hurrah for getting out of victim mode and hurrah for letting it be okay when that’s what’s happening.
    Carol: Too funny! And, as usual, you are right on the money, IMHO. I especially love that you posted because I was going to include you as “Carol Skolnick does The Work better than I do.”
    Lynne: Competition is such a bugger. I used to think I wasn’t competitive. Then I realized I only competed when I figured I’d be the best. 🙂 That fell apart when I discovered there’s just no way of being best, not for sure and always.

    Reply
  5. If only we were busier we would not have so much time to think!!!!!

    Reply
  6. peggyiileen: 🙂 Actually, I think busy-ness breeds circular thinking. It’s when we allow our minds to settle that the muddy thinking clears.
    PS: I love the photo on your site. Talk about being your brand!

    Reply
  7. “I used to think I wasn’t competitive. Then I realized I only competed when I figured I’d be the best. :)”
    That was my modus operandi as well. And I’d quit when I wasn’t!
    “That fell apart when I discovered there’s just no way of being best, not for sure and always.”
    Don’t you just hate that? 🙂

    Reply
  8. “That fell apart when I discovered there’s just no way of being best, not for sure and always.”
    Don’t you just hate that? 🙂

    Yup.

    Reply
  9. I agree that it’s better to do things wrong because there is no failure only feedback in life. The more mistakes we make the clearer our picture becomes.

    Reply
  10. Interesting thoughts. One big realization I’ve had myself about life purpose is that overthinking it can really get in the way of the life purpose. Rather paying attention to how I’m feeling, the state I am in is a much better indicator of whether my actions are line with a deeper purpose. When I feel connected and in the flow I know I am closer to living my life purpose.

    Reply
  11. Thanks for this post. I enjyed the self deprecation and the section on “purpose”.
    I have a page on my website dedicated to this:
    http://www.LifestyleBook.com/purpose
    Oli Hille
    Author
    “Creating the Perfect Lifestyle”

    Reply

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