What might it feel like to let go of the requirement to be perfect? I explored this with a friend in an inquiry process I describe below. But first, some of her answers:
Disbelief and terror:
• I can’t conceive of it! I wouldn’t know what to do, or how to begin things.
• It would be terrifying to not have a script.
Sensing the freedom:
• I could try more things without worrying that I wouldn’t be good at it.
• I wouldn’t need to hold myself so tightly wrapped, especially in my chest.
• I might fail at something, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
• I could make mistakes.
• I see so many eyes that have followed me. I would no longer feel watched.
• I could sing off-key and not care!
The awareness of lost time:
• I would be angry at having lived within the restrictions for so long.
• It would be like a caged bird not knowing the door was open.
And the promise:
• I could feel open space around me, expansiveness.
• There would be more willingness to share who I am.
• There would be no judgment, and then anything is possible.
Can you feel how exhilarating and dizzying this freedom might feel for anyone who has lived within the excruciatingly tight vise of needing to be perfect? A first step is to open the cage door by imagining the possibility. Feeling that possibility sets it up as an invitation, that then has some drawing power.
The exercise used a format known as a Repeating Question. I asked her the same question for 25 minutes. Her job was to hear it fresh and respond with whatever she was aware of. Questions that begin with “What might happen” are especially good at bringing out the whole spectrum of fears and stunning, new possibilities.
If you suffer from the scourge of perfectionism, you might try working with this question, either with a partner (verbally) or by yourself on paper. Wouldn’t it be nice to loosen the restrictions and sing? What if you didn’t have to be perfect?
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