'When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun and fear is that annoying backseat driver' – Brené Brown
Yesterday…the day before that, and two days before that…I worked myself into crazy meltdown mode, completely overwhelmed by everything that I felt was not perfect in my life. I’m taking time from work, but the house is still messy. I should be back at work by now. I’m taking too long to ‘get better’. Eggs for dinner three times this week because I was too exhausted to cook. Exhausted, even though I’m not working?... I didn’t lose any weight this week. I shouldn’t have eaten so many eggs. One dripped on the top I wanted to wear today. The laundry is a disaster. So much judgment…from myself. Criticisms I’d never cast on a friend, but here I am, throwing them around like confetti.
Perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. I’ve spent hours, days, years and SO many tears chasing it – sure that if I found it, that that would be it. Love. Joy. Happiness. How does it get any better than that? Instead, here I am treading water. Floods of frustration, guilt, no sleep, anger and sadness. How does it get any better than THAT?
Truth - perfection has nothing to do with what perfection actually looks like, but has everything to do with the elusive idea of ‘enough’. What would it take to recognize, that good bad, happy sad, clean clothes or that huge pile of washing…we are enough, just as we are? What if we are more than enough – in all our glorious imperfection – exactly what the universe needs, or the lady at the grocery store, who just needs to know she’s not the only one having a rough week?
2 years ago, I stepped on the scales. I was planning a wedding, so in love with my best friend…but unable to fathom or even partially receive the love he had for me. It was the lightest thing in my life. So true. But I avoided it, because I couldn’t understand it. I was 157kg. Ashamed. I decided that something had to change. Not for the wedding, although I’m sure that’s what most people thought. I was shutting down - scared of life – frightened I’d make a fool of myself. If I did, people would look at me. What would they see, and think, when they did? I dreamt of something so beautiful. A home. Love. Family. Children. Andy wanted children. I wanted so badly to be a mum…a good mum…perfect… And so began my journey.
Stumbling blind...I actually had no idea what to do. But I bought a pair of joggers. I stopped eating bread…and I LOVE bread. We got rid of the chocolate, said no to nachos and bought the biggest water bottles you’d ever seen. I started walking. To work. Two and half km’s in the morning and again in the afternoon. I was choosing different. Small things, actually so big at the time…but they seemed so insignificant and hardly ‘enough’. So I bought a bike. I vaguely remembered a time, as a child, where I enjoyed riding my bike. Andrew and I pegged cardboard to our tires so that our deadly treadlies sounded more like grumbling Harley Davidsons. Jemma and I would ride up and down the driveway, laughing so hard, that once I actually wet myself. Did I just say that? Yes, I just said that. But if it had bought me that much joy, however long ago – this could be my ticket into the exercise game.
My bicycle was beautiful – retro red with a brown wicker basket. I was excited. Andy bought a bike too. This was it.Little steps. I was anxious. The bikes sat on our veranda for two weeks. I was scared, self-conscious, you name it. It was slow going, but I hadn’t given up and finally, it happened. I woke up feeling brave. Ready. I buckled up my helmet, climbed on and popped the tires. Just 10m up the road – but the walk back home was heartbreaking. Andy took them to be fixed, but frankly, I’d never felt so ashamed. I was too embarrassed to try again. The bikes went back on the veranda and I continued to walk. I walked to work, we walked to the shops, I walked around our yard for half an hour every afternoon. I did what I could, and every day, I’d look at my beautiful red bike.
6 months later, 25kg down…Andy asked if I’d like to try again. We put our bikes in the car and took them to the cycling track. We went early. Really early. My guards were up. I couldn’t bare the thought of it happening again but I had to try. There was lots of deep breathing. Questions. Doubts. But I fastened my helmet, tentatively jumped on and I did it!! I felt the wind in my hair. My smile was so big that my face hurt. I couldn’t steer. I fell off. Definitely NOT perfect. Andy laughed, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t care, and thankfully, he rushed to help his clumsy wife off the grass. I rode that red bike with all the joy of an innocent child. I had never felt as free as I did in that moment.
I’ve shed more than 60 kilos now, and you’d think…that doubting monkey mind. I love riding my bike. But I still panic every time a car drives past. What are they thinking? The girl that popped the tires - what a joke. I still pick up size 26 pants in the store…which my husband promptly snatches and replaces with 18’s. I still hold my breath every time I sit on a plastic chair, and look in the opposite direction when I walk past Lorna Jane, sure I don’t deserve to look at the pretty ‘active wear’.
Yesterday, I was raw. I pulled on my jumpsuit, too tired to work out tops and bottoms and went to the shop to find something for dinner. Of course, there was no meal plan this week. Andy bought me a cushion. A pink strawberry with gold spots and a smile. I was so happy. I loved it. Trying to fish it out of the bag before we’d even left the store, I almost ran into another customer. I looked up to see one of my passed students. She smiled and waved. I did the same, sorting racing feelings of guilt, panic and fear. There it is. Perfectionism is the decision not to experience joy. In an instant, I made myself ‘less than’ and the judgment became overwhelming. I cried in the car. Tore myself to pieces. Again. Then I came home to to this message.
“You looked so lovely today! I wanted to stop and tell you in person. I just wanted to let you know how proud I am for you! I have watched your journey and you are amazing! You always push through and never give up no matter the hurdles put in front of you! You are so inspiring and one hell of a woman! I wish you all the best! Ps. Andy and you are super cute together and I'm so happy for you! Xx”
More tears. I picked myself up, dusted myself off. And last night, made it to Hulacise. A new class at the gym. No hula-hoops. Hawaiian hips. I threw on my happiest top, put my flowers in my hair and I was ready. My friend and I laughed so much, I’m sure we doubled our calories burned. I felt like I needed 2 extra legs to shake my hips that quickly. I’m fairly new at the gym. Two months new, because even after the weight loss…It’s a lot, but I know I’m not done, and I didn’t think I was good ‘enough’ for the gym. I actually love going now, and try to manage a class every day. I beat myself up when I don’t mind you, but it makes me happy. Gets me out of my head. And I’m so thankful for the beautiful friends that encouraged me to give it a go. I haven’t met all of the instructors yet. I’m definitely not at the ‘Hi, I’m Shayna’ stage. But after class, Emma took me to meet Katie. The owner of the gym. She said ‘This is Shayna. She’s lost 60kg. She’s my inspiration. Isn’t she amazing?’
Enough. All of the bad days, all of the breakdowns, the bumps and bruises…I’m inspiring people. I’ve had letters from strangers. New dresses sent in the mail ‘just because’. I cry every time. Sure if they only saw all the things I saw, they’d share their beautiful warm hearts with someone else. What if perfect isn’t inspiring? Perfect isn’t real.
Now I make a choice. I give myself permission to be imperfect, to laugh out loud, to let things go, to make a mess, play, trust myself, take a nap, feel beautiful, to try and fail, to say the wrong thing, to cry when I need to, to speak up, to be wrong, to hug my gorgeous smiling strawberry and be joyful. What would it take?