Perfectionism, Bird by Bird, Episode 95

What if we dropped our self-imposed demands for perfection (in ourselves particularly) and instead saw that the one gift we really have to bring is our own aliveness and creativity? And what would happen if we really allowed ourselves to feel, taste and act on what calls us? A conversation about letting go, taking on, fiercely resisting the forces of perfectionism, and bringing ourselves fully to this one life, with Lizzie Winn and Justin Wise of Thirdspace.

Here’s Episode 95 of Turning Towards Life, a weekly live 30 minute conversation hosted by Thirdspace in which Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn dive deep into big questions of human living. Find us on FaceBook to watch live and join in the lively conversation on this episode. We’re also on YouTube, and as a podcast on Apple, Google and Spotify

It’s so easy for us to bury our aliveness under a suffocating layer of self-criticism and perfectionism, and it can be hard for us to work with because so many of us live in a narrative that to be a human is to be ‘efficient’ rather than ‘alive’. But what if we caught on to how short time is, and how quickly life goes, and the possibility that the one gift we really have to bring is our own aliveness and creativity? And what would happen if we really allowed ourselves to feel, taste and act on what calls us?

Join us for a conversation about letting go, taking on, fiercely resisting the forces of perfectionism, and bringing ourselves fully to this one life, which springs out of this wonderful piece by Anne Lamott:

On Perfectionism

by Anne Lamott

There’s a whole chapter on perfectionism in Bird by Bird, because it is the great enemy of the writer, and of life, our sweet messy beautiful screwed up human lives. It is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you very scared and restless your entire life if you do not awaken, and fight back, and if you’re an artist, it will destroy you.

Do you mind even a little that you are still addicted to people-pleasing, and are still putting everyone else’s needs and laundry and career ahead of your creative, spiritual life? Giving all your life force away, to “help” and impress. Well, your help is not helpful, and falls short.

Look, I struggle with this. I hate to be criticized. I am just the tiniest bit more sensitive than the average bear. And yet, I’m a writer, so I periodically put my work out there, and sometimes like all writers, I get terrible reviews, so personal in nature that they leave me panting. Even with a Facebook post … do you have any idea what it’s like to get 500-plus negative attacks, on my character, from truly bizarre strangers.

Really, it’s not ideal.

Yet, I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That’s why I’m alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer, is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine. As I’ve said a hundred times, if people wanted me to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Is it okay with you that you blow off your writing, or whatever your creative/spiritual calling, because your priority is to go to the gym or do yoga five days a week? Would you give us one of those days back, to play or study poetry? To have an awakening? Have you asked yourself lately, “How alive am I willing to be?” It’s all going very quickly. It’s mid-May, for God’s sake. Who knew. I thought it was late February.

It’s time to get serious about joy and fulfillment, work on our books, songs, dances, gardens. But perfectionism is always lurking nearby, like the demonic prowling lion in the Old Testament, waiting to pounce. It will convince you that your work-in-progress is not great, and that you may never get published. (Wait, forget the prowling satanic lion — your parents, living or dead, almost just as loudly either way, and your aunt Beth, and your passive-aggressive friends, whom we all think you should ditch, are going to ask, “Oh, you’re writing again? That’s nice. Do you have an agent?”)

Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird

Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash