Holding it Together is Overrated

I’m the oldest of seven, the product of overachievers, a hyper-competent, perpetual “woman who always has answers and knows where she’s going,” the go-to girl–the one who seems to always have it together. 

Lately I’m questioning how this affects me–what is the price I pay for stepping into this personae? Yes, I’ve come a long way, I’ve let a lot of perfectionist tendencies drop, am less controlling than before and am a big advocate for the “good is good enough” message–but what would it look like for me to be MORE vulnerable? To be less prepared, less polished, more messy and human than I have ever been before?

It takes a lot of energy to told it together. My yoga teacher Jenn shared a story about a photographer who shot Salvador Dali over a stretch of five minutes (with time-lapsed breaks in between). Seeing Dali go back and forth between “DALI!” and a tired, slightly slumped over normal guy in a chair was fascinating. It showed how much energy it took for the artist to be on stage, in personae–to “hold it together.”

Two of my close friends are going through hard times (one may lose her house, the other is navigating a rocky divorce). We’ve been talking about how essential it is for them–for all of us– to allow ourselves to come undone, feel our feelings, turn into puddles, ask for help and be vulnerable–in order to transform into who we’re meant to be … next. 
 
Author Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection) says, “What fuels this unattainable need to look like we always have it all together? At first glance we might think it’s because we admire perfection, but that’s not the case. We are actually the most attracted to people we consider to be authentic and down-to-earth. We love people who are ‘real’ – we’re drawn to those who both embrace their imperfections and radiate self-acceptance.”

I just returned with my son from a week at Omega Institute–nestled on 500 hilly acres in Rhinebeck, NY. It was amazing; he was in Architecture Camp for Kids while I Danced My Bliss. Towards the end of the week we dropped into a lunch session with singer/songwriter David Wilcox for some Music Medicine (short, original, spontaneous pieces written to soothe/inspire your heart and spirit). My son asked David for a song about “relaxing and feeling free,” and what followed was one of most beautiful, heart-wrenching pieces of songwriting I’ve heard in quite a while. As I listened to David’s lyrics about Jonah running with his friends like the wind through the woods, I felt tears run down my face.

What is the price that those around us–those we love most–pay when we feel we must “hold it together” or maintain our vision for how we think things “should be?” Don’t we all desire to let go and feel more free?

Actress Elizabeth Shue said, “I understand now that the vulnerability I’ve always felt is the greatest strength a person can have. You can’t experience life without feeling life. What I’ve learned is that being vulnerable is not a weakness, it’s a strength.”

My intention for the next few weeks is to be more vulnerable, to make more mistakes, to put myself out there as unfinished, a work in progress, maybe even clueless–and to hopefully–maybe for a minute–inspire a few others to consider doing the same. I’ll let you know how it goes.

INVITE: Interested in learning how to Find Your Center? Join me Oct. 19-21 for our New Way of Being: Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat if you want to join us at the beautiful Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness in Massachusetts! Peak leaf turning time! I’d love to hold the space for you to rest, connect with your needs and desires–and hear what your Wise Self most wants you to know.

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Photo at top: Are you willing to let yourself be unfinished, to fall apart, to come undone?

Comments

  1. Thank you for speaking to this issue. We must grant ourselves more permission to fall apart and be exactly where we are at. I’ve met a great deal of resistance lately and notice that being vulnerable does indeed make you FEEL. Perhaps that it what we are most afraid of.

  2. Thank you Christine, yes I believe this is true for many of us (oh, how many times have I run from “feeling my feelings!”). And, I’ve found tremendous power, liberation and freedom when I can move into a space of vulnerability (especially at times when it seems that’s not “the thing” to do).

  3. speenksLove, love your post, Renee! I’ve found over the past year that hope, faith and an enormous amount of trust make it much easier to live within that vulnerable space. I love that word “next,” which popped up in your post. I’m appreciating that this part of my life is just what is next – which makes it easier to accept and look at with some curiosity and without too much control.

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  5. Thanks for this post Renee! It seems to me that there is this idea out there that we need good self care for ourselves, but also so we don’t fall apart. Especially as moms it is the idea that we can’t fall apart because everyone else is depending on us. What are your thoughts on this? I know it is important to let ourselves off the hook because we can only do what we can, but there is a lot of pressure on the woman to keep it all going.

  6. Thanks for the post…Allowing ourselves to make mistakes is a wonderful step in the process of self discovery. How did we become a society who fear mistakes to the point of over preparing? Well the cats out of the bag on mistakes, they are now tools to self discovery and this understanding destroys the fear. I am looking forward to my next mistake, not so I can judge myself, but so I can look at myself with understanding and grow beyond the mistake to the next…Kind of like a video game, progressing from level to level.

  7. Carlene, Susan and Jeff–thanks for sharing your perspective. Yes, Susan–I love the “next” too. Carlene-it’s courageous work to think about stepping out of the role of “keeping it all going” isn’t it? What motivates me is realizing that my family pays a price for me trying to continually hold it together–I think it’s powerful for them to see all sides of me, especially my vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Jeff–I love this, “I am looking forward to my next mistake.” Bravo!

  8. This is lovely, Renee, and so true. Thank you for sharing your story and for being real!

    The more I allow myself to be real and vulnerable, the more other people feel safe to be vulnerable and real with me – and vice versa.

    In gratitude, Karly

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