As perfectionists, we tend a little toward isolation. We have friends. But, we’ve learned that in order to keep up with our impossible standards of being perfect, we must keep them at a safe distance, or they will see all our imperfections.
Seriously. Who are we kidding?
But that is exactly what I spent the first 30-something years of my life doing…
I was like a trapeze artist.
Specifically, I was the self-appointed spotter, the one who starts and finishes the show, but somehow manages to comfortably fade into the background. You know, the one with all the muscles who holds on tightly to each performer until he releases them to do something amazing. Everyone depends on him to be exactly where he is supposed to be at exactly the right time. If he is good at what he does, you stop noticing that he’s even there. But if he screws up, his absence will be felt. Someone is going to get hurt. This guy is…functional; he plays a supporting role to everyone else. He knows he is needed. He remains in control, and he never lets go.
But every once in a while, I’ve been to a circus where something unexpected happens. At the very end of the trapeze performance, someone takes his place. And the spotter bravely steps out of his traditional role. In that moment, he lets go. He depends on someone else’s strength to hold him…and he soars.
When you are used to being the one who is always depended upon, it becomes a comfort zone. Even if no one asks, you make it your role to keep everything together—especially yourself. And it is hard to let go and trust someone else to be there to catch you.
But I finally got brave enough to let go.
After decades of keeping up appearances and protecting myself from being truly seen, I let go of the bar. I let go of the impossible standard I held myself to. I let go of the role I had boxed myself into. And I let a few very special people into the deepest parts of my life. It was hard. It still is sometimes. But now when I fall, I have a safety net. When I feel myself slipping, my closest friends are there to grasp my hands in mid-air. It is beautiful. But it’s not yet my comfort zone. I’m still learning to let go, still daring to fly, and still very cautious about the falls.
Letting people in means they see me when I don’t have all my stuff together. And I hate that. But my dearest friends listen to me, help me sort out life, and love me the same without criticism or judgment. They are my safety net, my very safe place to fall. And I love that.
There is a sweet exchange. We applaud each other’s awesomeness. And we catch each other when we miss the bar. It is the reciprocity of genuine friendship. And I now have the most intimate relationships I’ve ever had in my life. There’s no pressure anymore to always be the one who is strong, to always be functional and have it all together…to always be perfect.
I can exhale.
I can be vulnerable.
I can take risks.
I can get it all wrong.
I can let go…
…because I am no longer working without a net.
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