One of my favorite courses as an undergraduate was titled Theories of Personality. It was filled with information on mindfulness, intercultural communication and various personal growth topics. That class forced me to be introspective in a way that still impacts my life.
One of our assignments was to read a self-development book, and I chose one titled “Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control” by Dr. Allan Mallinger and Jeanette Dewyze. The text challenged me to examine my root behaviors of perfectionism to understand the why and the impacts it was having on my life. Wanting to control every aspect of my life was linked to childhood trauma where many things were beyond my control. This also manifested into the desire for stability, structure, obsessive-compulsive traits and striving for perfection.
While these may not be overwhelmingly negative in their impact, they also came with being overly critical (of myself others), resistant to change, being less spontaneous and not willing to take risks — even if those risk were tied to my greater. Taking that class in the yearly 2000s really changed my life and helped me to understand the power of letting go to grow.
We are in a season of transition. Over the last several weeks, I’ve seen many social media posts with children’s first days of school, college students are preparing to start their semester, people are transitioning into new jobs and careers (including me), relationships are transitioning, new homes, new babies, just so much change is happening all around us. Through all of this, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had moments of questioning, fear or anxiousness about transitioning.
I believe sometimes we have difficulty in trusting the future and engage in this unnecessary struggle of making room for our greater. I’m hoping by sharing some of my self-work tactics, it will encourage someone else who needs to boldly walk into their transition. For my own transition process, I’ve been focusing on doing these three things: purging, celebrating and embracing.
First, I’m taking the time to purge and release stuff — not just physical stuff but the mental/emotional stuff, too. Like many, we carry baggage from one place to another, and I realize that in order for me to fully step into my future, it is past time to purge. I cleaned out my work office recently and came across so many notes, files, artifacts that dated back several years. Time after time I struggled with the choice of discarding things, even though they had no connection to my future; it was very difficult to let go.
What that book in undergrad taught me is that this is another side effect of being in control. I finally realized that I had to release things in order to truly make room — room for new memories, room for new stuff, etc. Someone else is holding on to stuff, just like me. If you needed a sign to release stuff, people, whatever, here it is: It is time to purge.
I’m also going to be deliberate in celebrating me! One of the impacts of perfectionism is that you question and even diminish your own accomplishments. Instead of pausing to celebrate, I find myself overanalyzing my actions and trying to determine what I could have done better. It’s a dangerous cycle — being in competition with yourself. So, I’m vowing and challenging others to pause and celebrate YOU — the small successes and the great ones. Don’t just receive your flowers; stop and smell them.
Lastly, I’m embracing my transition — full throttle. Embracing change is easier said than done, though — the questioning, the fears, the worry of what you must purge, how people will react. So much to consider. In this season of transition, I have been reminded of my favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for You, declares the Lord. Plans to Prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” It is already written, predestined, and I have made the intentional choice to embrace it — all of it.
I realize that not all transitions are good or will feel good, but what I do know is that it’s so important to trust the future. For those who are in this season of transition or expecting one, prepare to purge, celebrate and embrace it every step of the way. We are imperfectly perfect, but what is for you is for you!
Dr. Khalilah A. Shabazz shares wisdom, lessons and insights on personal, social and societal issues of today. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.