Erik Treese & Joey Cardella
Spoiler alert: This blog post is about shame.
Ugh. Cool topic, bro.
Bear with me though.
Here I am, alone in the living room of my 1 BR apartment, having a moment where I have to laugh at myself as I attempt to write about shame. See, my intention in this blog post is to write about perfectionism and how it’s inseparable from shame – and I’ll be damned if I haven’t been sitting here for 45 minutes, researching my notes, writing, deleting, rewriting, rethinking, second-guessing, rewriting, re-deleting just this intro paragraph – because “it’s not good enough yet”.
I’m glad I finally caught on to the irony of what I was doing because it allows me to go through the process of moving through the shame that is underlying my perfectionist behaviour.
Shame is fucking tricky, man.
At its core, shame is the fear of disconnection. The fear that I am deeply flawed, and therefore unworthy of love or belonging.
This belief; this fear; will encourage behaviours such as perfectionism, so that you will have no excuse not to accept and love me. The idea is that I’m going to be so wonderful and perfect, that there could be no rational or logical reason that you, or anyone else would reject me.
“See? There’s nothing wrong with me! It’s ok to love and accept me now!”
The reality is: Perfectionism is just a mask for shame.
Shame can show up in any number of categories… money, sex, career, age, family, body image…
Any one of these categories can be a shame trigger for us. Within these categories, we often attempt to create “ideal identities” for ourselves. At the same time as we are trying to create these ideal identities, we are attempting to move away from an unwanted identity.
In our current situation, I am writing this blog post as a professional leadership coach. So with regard to my career, and professional image, I want to be perceived as intelligent, thoughtful, cohesive, creative, helpful and desirable. These qualities are what make up my ideal identity in regard to “Leadership Coach”.
I do not want to be perceived as boring, trite, stupid, unoriginal, average, or worthless. Those are the unwanted identities that my perfectionist behaviour – my shame – is attempting to avoid.
Shame has me believe that you will only accept and love me if I fit that ideal identity.
Shame has me believe that you will reject me, and prove my unworthiness if I fit that unwanted identity.
Ok. Time for some truth bombs.
TRUTH BOMB #1: Perfectionism is an unattainable goal
- Perfectionism is more about others’ perceptions of me than my own motivation to achieve perfection, and there is no way to control the way other people perceive me
TRUTH BOMB #2: Perfectionism is addictive
- When we do experience shame (or guilt or blame) we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough, thus perpetuating another perfectionism cycle, which leads me to…
TRUTH BOMB #3: Perfectionism actually sets us up to feel shame, blame and judgment
- Because we can never achieve these unrealistic goals, we are stuck in this endless cycle
So WTF can anyone do about it?
Good news – there exists tried and true steps to move through perfectionist behaviours and shame. And they’re pretty straightforward:
#1- Recognize when perfectionism is happening, or when you’re in shame, and what triggers it
#2- Speak to it
Well, yes. Keep in mind, this is a practice that must be cultivated. But, yea. Those are the basic steps.
Shame grows in isolation, by keeping it to myself, by trying to maintain this image of perfection.
I have to be vulnerable and have the courage to speak to my shame and speak to the ways in which I fear being seen. Only by speaking to my shame can I find true connection, and overcome what I’m so afraid to share about myself. The truth is people don’t love me because I’m perfect. No one can relate to a perfect person. Because they don’t exist. People love me because I’m imperfect, flawed and human, just like they are.
And that’s a fucking relief.
I want to invite you to an in-depth training on how to become more resilient to shame. Based on the groundbreaking work by Brene Brown, and led by experienced facilitators with years of practice, this workshop will help you:
- Define what shame is and where it comes from
- Recognize shame in your body
- Practice Empathy
- Understand your Shame Screens
- Create a practical plan to take these tools into your life
Sign up at https://leaderchampions.com/course/shame-resilience-for-men (FYI: The training is not just for men anymore – we have opened this up recently for a co-ed experience)