Permission To Be Human

This week I watched the HBO documentary "Love, Marilyn". A few years ago several boxes of Marilyn Monroe's journals, notes and letters were found in storage. The documentary tells the story of Marilyn through her own voice, her own reality as laid out in these papers. Marilyn, arguably one of the most beautiful, sexy and adored woman ever to be in this world spent much of her life feeling insecure, unsure, afraid, and stupid. Why?

When I was about 13 I found a book about Marilyn "Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe" by Anthony Summer. I read it from cover to cover, more than once. I was immediately fascinated by her. I related to the stories of her struggles growing up and her deep longing to be loved and accepted. 

As I read the book I remember feeling so much empathy for her. I felt her sadness and her need for belonging. Sometimes that need causes people to try to be perfect. That is what I sensed from her. A teacher once told me that perfectionism is a pathology behind many addictions and much of the anxiety and fear we often live with.  I related to that too.

Like many people I know, I grew up trying to be perfect. In my mind perfect was some place I would arrive at never to be tested, challenged, or made to look silly, unsure, insecure, stupid or afraid...ever, ever again.  I imagined the day where I would have the perfect clothes, the perfect job, the perfect car, the perfect house, the perfect husband and of course be loved by everyone. Oh and I had a much smaller nose and my skin would be freckle-free. No one would have anything negative to say about me or have any reason to dislike me. Life would be absolutely flawless. 

To me, when I was young, perfection was only about what appeared on the outside. And that is what so many of our images in magazines, televsion and movies instill within us. Just have all of this stuff and you will be happy.

In the wellbeing modalities I study it is taught that our perception, where we place our focus, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and our place in this world, in part shape our reality.

And the story I told myself about finding this magic land of perfection where I would never be judged again, was "try harder"; "be better"; "do more"; "don't ever let anyone know that you are scared".   In some of Marilyn's letters she would have lists and lists to do more, be more, more, more...

In her TED Talk about vulnerability, Brene Brown, discusses the difference between people who believe they are worthy and those that believe they are unworthy.  One of the main differences is that those who believe they are worthy of love, or anything else, allow themselves to be seen as they are-flaws and all. Those of us who don't believe we are worthy often put on a show, or present an image to the world; living in fear that we will one day be discovered as the dreaded "imperfect". That's how I traveled on this earth for many years. At the age of 24 things began to change. I began to change.

"Comfortably Numb"-one of my all time favorite Pink Floyd songs, is in part, to me about just getting by. As we go along trying to guard our fears and insecurities we also surprisingly cut ourselves off from any real joy or happiness-and any chance of real serenity; the very thing in my life that I was aiming for! That is because as Brene Brown puts it "we can't selectively numb" rather everything gets numbed. And eventually life, my life, had become painful, anything but comfortable.

In sanskrit, the word "purnatva" means fullness or perfection.  It's not the kind of perfection I was seeking for so many years-the kind that comes from attaining something outside of ourselves. It's not about looking out and trying to be "that"-instead purnatva is about looking in and knowing you are "that". It's the perfection of experiencing your own confidence and joy-your own fullness.  I believe these qualities are our birthright. They are gifts that are divinely bestowed within us.  Yet we search for them everywhere else but there.

I have come to understand that when I try to be perfect I can't learn from my set-backs because I am too busy trying to hide or ignore them, and ultimately I numb myself from the real source of the very things I am looking for.

I spent many years working tirelessly to hide my failures. Paradoxically sharing them has brought me much joy. It's been through allowing myself to be imperfect that I have experienced my deepest connections and relationships that shape my life today. By recognizing my own worth and allowing all of me to be seen I have truly experienced the perfection of love, security, belonging and the happiness I was seeking.

Here is a quote I love by Carl Rogers, "what is most personal is most general". In other words, we are more alike then we are different. In the words of my teacher "Let's give ourselves permission to be human"!

If you are interested click the link to watch the TED Talk with Brene Brown "Vulnerability"