Notes from an Imperfectionist...
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." --Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
"There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen
"Does this mean I'm crazy?" she asked as she fidgeted with the stress-toy in my office. "I never thought I'd talk to a counselor; I almost turned around and left before I came in today." Many people feel this way; I cannot count how many times I have had some version of this conversation with a new client. It might also be "My faith must be pretty weak; aren't I supposed to be able to just 'give it to God' and be done with it?"
Sharing our struggles with another can sometimes feel like a defeat. It can feel like one has just entered another category of people: the people who can't do it on their own. But therein lies the issue: we aren't created to do it on our own. As human beings, we are designed to be intimately connected with one another, to share our struggles and strengths, our fears and triumphs, and most of all, to share our stories. We live in a world that increasingly fragments us and makes it difficult to foster this kind of connection. It's the same world that communicates that we have to present a picture of "having it together", with little room for cracks or flaws in the facade.
I cannot tell you how many times that, just as someone is sharing their fear that they are "weak" or "crazy" for feeling the need to seek counseling, I am simultaneously thinking of what a sign of health and hope that is. --That they are aware on some level of our innate human need for connection, our need to lean on another. I am also aware of the fact that rather than being a sign of weakness, walking through that door to the therapist's office is a sign of great courage and strength. Pretending to be perfect, not allowing for times of messiness & weakness, is the real irrationality.
To take it even further, what people often find once they start to tell their stories, share their vulnerabilities and the "cracks" in their lives, is that these, in fact, are the areas where the most strength and beauty start to become apparent, where the "light comes in." Our greatest vulnerabilities often overlap with our greatest gifts.
This applies in so many areas of life. Physically, it's the stronger scar tissue that grows where the wound happened, or the immune system boost we get from surviving the illness. Emotionally, sharing our struggles becomes the starting point for increased emotional and relational health. Spiritually, admitting our areas of need & weakness can lead to a deeper encounter with the strength of God.
Whether it's through counseling or not, I encourage you to practice embracing, rather than running from, the areas of messiness, of not-knowing, of fear and confusion and need in your life. Practice being an "imperfectionist", and most of all, do so in the context of connection with another person or persons. See the richness that follows when you share your story.