How Perfectionism Can Get In the Way of Speaking Your Truth
Speaking your truth without blame or judgment is one of the most powerful ways you can show up in every aspect of your life and be seen. It is how you affect change, resolve conflict, cultivate authentic & trusting relationships with others, and increase your creativity and freedom. It helps you remain connected to what has meaning and purpose in your life as you navigate through the noise and static that is generated every single day. The benefits of communicating in this way are vast, and yet we often don’t do it.
So what’s going on there? Chances are it’s a lot. Maybe you don’t know what your truth is, or you feel it’s really nebulous and you don’t know how to express it. How much of it has to do with a fear of messing something up? We often perceive that there is risk associated with speaking your truth, and fear that sounds a lot like this: What if I do it wrong? What if it hurts someone’s feelings, ruins a relationship, or prevents me from being part of a project or getting position I want? What if I look stupid or come across as mean or unkind? What if I don’t get my real point across and they misunderstand or judge me?
When we’re faced with those fears and let our worry about messing something up stop us from speaking our truth, proposing our idea, giving that feedback, etc., we lose our voice and move forward on uncertain ground. We work hard, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, to say and do things that make us appear to others as someone we think we should be – blameless, faultless, all-knowing, capable, immune to failure, infinitely likable – the list could go on forever (what does yours look like?). How much time and energy do you put into hiding your truth, and what is its emotional toll?
We all struggle with this phenomenon of perfectionism to a certain degree.
“Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is a defensive move. It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.”
“I found that most of us fall somewhere on a perfectionism continuum. In other words, when it comes to hiding our flaws, managing perception, and wanting to winover folks, we’re all hustling a little. For some folks, perfectionism may only emerge when they’re feeling particularly vulnerable. For others, perfectionism is compulsive, chronic, and debilitating – it looks and feels like an addiction.”
Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
Think about the people or situations you’re in where you’re doing more hiding, covering up, withholding, sugar-coating, or “going along with” than truth-speaking. Why are you doing it? What are you afraid will happen if you show up as yourself or say what you need to say, imperfections and all? What are you losing if you keep hustling? What are the great things that could happen if you stopped?
If you find that there is a little (or a lot) of perfectionism driving you away from being yourself or speaking your truth, sit with that for a while and show yourself some compassion. There really is no right or wrong here, there is awareness and choice. If you decide you’d like to show up differently than the way you have been, talk about it with someone you trust and see if you can figure out a new direction that feels good to you. And remember, it’s possible that “perfect” is overrated. In the wise words of Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”