Bucket of Dreams

“Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and sense of purpose, its’ the hazardous detour.”  Brene Brown

I feel like time is running out as my bucket list overfloweth.  I am 47 years old and I want to drink it all up before I can’t tie my own shoe laces.  I want to hike Patagonia, The Camino de Santiago and Pacific Crest Trails. Travel to Ireland and kiss the Blarney Stone.  Sail to Greece and have a love affair on San Torini.  Walk the beaches of Costa Rica.  Spend a week at Burning Man.  See Cake play in Missouri on my birthday.  Take Maggie to see the Foo Fighters and meet Dave Grohl.  Zip line across the Amazon.  Dance in a flash mob.  Finish my book, get it published and travel the world on a book tour.  Play at the House of Blues.  Hit 10,000 likes on the Yes Mom.  Buy an R.V. and drive across all 48 contiguous states right after I return from my cruise to Alaska.  I want to do it all and I want to do it NOW!

But there are obstacles.  I still have three kids living at home, commitments to keep and responsibilities to fulfill.  Amid all of these barriers, however, I know deep down in my core my biggest obstacle is me.

You see, I am a perfectionist. And at times, it can keep me from my bucket of dreams.

Typically, people that are perfectionists attach their self worth to their accomplishments.  According to Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, “Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports).  Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system, “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please.  Perform.  Perfect.”

I so get this.  I went to an all girl Catholic High School.  Need I say more?

I had this crazy belief that if I look perfect and act perfect my life will turn out perfect.  Ha!  This is the biggest deception of our so called American Dream endorsed not only by the media, but by our schools, our churches and even our own families.  And I fell for it.

The truth is perfectionism is destructive.  It’s a highly addictive coping mechanism, a shield we use to put up our defenses.  It’s as if we are wearing a full body cast.  A cast that not only paralyzes us but keeps us from taking action, resulting in missed opportunities and blocking our growth.  Because perfectionism is a result of gaining approval, it thwarts our efforts to be real, to be seen and to be vulnerable.

How does perfectionism do all that you ask?  Because, there is no such thing as being perfect.  It is impossible to achieve even though many die trying.  And then there are those that don’t try at all, giving up before they ever got started, not able to live up to such high standards and expectations.

We all fall somewhere on this perfectionism spectrum.  For some, it may be we do not feel particularly worthy or feel that we deserve a trip around the world.  For others, it may be more like an addiction; compulsive, habitual, and chronic.  We think it will protect us from judgment.  But it won’t.

“Regardless of where we are on this continuum,” says Brene Brown, “if we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough.”

Interestingly, I do care about what others think but I care more about what I think of myself.  I am my toughest critic.  We perfectionists are like that.  We are very hard on ourselves.  We have high expectations and high standards of living.  According to an article in Psychology Today, 5 Steps to Taming Perfectionism, “Perfectionists often have a harsh inner voice that castigates them as lazy or losers when they fail to measure up to their unrealistic expectations. This internal critic is always on the lookout for flaws.”

So true.  One of my biggest fears is that I will not measure up to my own measuring stick.  I am afraid I will fall short of my aspirations; that I will not finish my bucket list and the Camino de Santiago, my book, Burning Man, the Blarney Stone and The House of Blues will become pipe dreams.

When I begin to feel overwhelmed and besieged by the enormity of my dreams, the next thing I know, I am cleaning the house, stalking people on Facebook or watching three episodes of Breaking Bad in a row.  I become counterproductive

This is not a surprise according to the article.  When we have unrealistic expectations we tend to procrastinate which can cause a whirlwind of problems and get us into trouble. There is a way out, says Psychology Today, by shifting our goals and making them a bit more realistic. “When people pursue realistic goals, their anxiety tends to be manageable and might actually increase their motivation and concentration”


Is Psychology Today suggesting we lower our expectations?  Tame our dreams?  Compromise?  What happened to Dream Bigger?  What happened to the belief that if our dreams don’t scare the shit out of us then they aren’t big enough?  I am always toting depression is regression; anxiety means you are moving forward.  Am I wrong?  What if Steve Jobs, Janis Joplin, Michelangelo or J.K. Rowling decided to be more realistic?  The iphone, Bobby McGee, The Sistine Chapel, Harry.  Hello…

My friend Graham wants to compete in a triathlon.  As you probably already know, a triathlon includes running, cycling and swimming in the ocean.  There is just one problem.  Graham can’t swim.  But, that is not going to stop him.  He plans to take swimming lessons.  I am so glad nobody told him to be a bit more realistic.  Or, maybe they did but he chose not to listen.

I’m not going to listen either.  I am going after my dreams.  Yes, they are big.  Yes, some may even say unrealistic.  But I don’t care.  They are my dreams.  I am worthy of each and every one of them.  And, so are you!  So, no more procrastinating people!  Let’s turn off our phones, log out of Facebook and let Walter and Jesse cook meth without us.  The clock is ticking.  My daughter starts high school in exactly two weeks after a lifetime of homeschooling.  My boys will be in college and working.  For the very first time in what seems like a millennium I will finally have time to dive into my book.  I will start then.

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