#5: Say, “I’m sorry.”

Yes, you read that right. I know I just got done telling you to STOP saying you are sorry for things, but it turns out, there are two sides to this coin.

Lately, there is a lot of talk on the internet about how women are too quick to apologize. I want people’s approval; I want them to think I am gentle, sweet, and considerate; I want to smooth over uncomfortable situations. “I’m sorry” is my go-to, my default, my gut instinct. (I shared more about this yesterday, if you missed it!)

Because of this phenomenon, I bristle at even the idea of saying sorry lately. If I catch the words slipping out of my mouth, I try to snatch them back again and quickly decide whether they are really warranted. And while they often are not, it turns out, of course, that sometimes, they are.

31-ways-to-fightperfectionism-4

Perfectionism exists in a strange paradox. On the one hand, it makes me acutely aware of every single way I fall short, replaying every mistake in my mind and convincing myself of flaws that don’t even exist. But at times, perfectionism has the opposite effect, blinding me to the areas in which I need the most help. I work so hard to never mess up, to check all the boxes, and to follow all the rules that occasionally, I manage to convince myself I’ve done it.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” –Matthew 7:3-4

But when I do recognize an honest-to-goodness mistake, I have a very hard time coming clean. Most of the time, I skip guilt and move straight to shame, and shame makes me want to hide. 

“Vulnerability is at the heart of real apologizing and amends-making. That’s why it’s so hard and why so many people struggle. Shame is also lurking around the corner when we hold on to the false belief that making a mistake = being a mistake. Guilt is that uncomfortable feeling of ‘I made a mistake and I’m outside of my integrity.’ It often drives us to making genuine amends.” —Brené Brown on Instagram

Over the past week or so, I’ve apologized for:

  • Forgetting to get back to a friend about a girl’s night
  • Hitting Leo in the head with the refrigerator door (Child makes a BEELINE for the fridge whenever he hears that door open.)
  • Scrolling through Instagram instead of listening to what my husband was saying
  • Losing my temper and speaking unkindly to Ian

Shame looks at each of those mistakes and says, “You are a bad friend. You are a bad mom. You are a bad wife.” Shame says, “Don’t fess up. There’s no point in that, because you don’t deserve forgiveness anyway. Just work harder next time. Earn your way back to their good graces.”

Guilt says, “Oops. That was a mistake. Can I make it right?” I apologize and ask for forgiveness to acknowledge the affects my mistakes might have on others, without succumbing to the lie that the mistakes are also affecting my inherent worth. Genuine apologies help create some distance in my mind and heart between “That was wrong” and “I am wrong.” 

And the greater that distance becomes, the more my life is defined by my true identity as a child of God rather than my shortcomings. The more I ask for forgiveness, the more my life is defined by grace rather than perfection. 

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Throughout October, I’m sharing 31 ways to fight perfectionism. You can find all the posts in the series here (or by clicking the “31 Days” button at the top of the blog). Tomorrow, I’ll share how getting clear on my purpose helps me loosen the chains of impossible expectations. These posts are all part of the Write 31 Days challenge.

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