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#148 – The Toxic Trait You MUST Release to Be An Effective Communicator
The one thing we all need to move on from
This is Adventures in Storytelling your weekly note with resources, insights, and actionable tools for better communication through storytelling. This week is (hopefully) about insights) Enjoy.
I describe myself as a recovering perfectionist.
I spent much of my childhood, 20s, and part of my 30s living my life in pursuit of perfect. The perfect grade, the perfect cookie recipe, the perfect job, the perfect family. A perfect life really. And do you want to know where that got me? Burnout and perfect misery.
I was always pushing myself harder and further than was necessary. My cortisol and adrenal default was set to high and overloaded. I was making myself sick as I lived in a constant state of overstimulation and overfocus on what was next. Because the thing about perfection is that you never quite achieve it, yet it drives you to keep trying in the misguided hope and belief that it is just around the corner. So much so that I spent a good portion of my life living in the pursuit of perfection and the awful dismay of not achieving it.
And in that state, I was almost always the person to blame when I missed that zenith that is perfection. I was never enough, I had failed myself and my loved ones somehow. And. I might not ever be enough (remember what I said about misery?).
But I’m also lucky. I come from a family of people whose bodies will only let us go so far pushing beyond its limit before they rebel. They pull us back to reality whether through injury or a refusal to perform so that the only choice is to eventually choose differently.
In my case that push back from my body was complete and utter burnout. Picture it: me sitting on blue velvet couch needing to start my new project and just sobbing because I had nothing in me to take even a small step toward the latest new attempt at perfect. That experience forced a reckoning. And a six-month break from working full time. Instead, I essentially became a burnout and wellbeing researcher. I read all the books on what leads to burnout (no surprise I had all the work conditions leading up to it that causes burnout) and how to heal from it.
I needed to unlearn a lot of thinking around how I “should” be in the world and step into who I could be if I let go of that toxic (and yes I came to recognize that it was toxic) pursuit of perfection. Because how can you share your stories and communicate effectively if you are constantly second guessing or finding the story itself wanting. For me stories (and words) flow when I am grounded and I let go of perfection. Because, as I’ve said before, the beauty and compelling components of your story are in the imperfections. It is where the tension often lives.
It’s funny because I’d learned a lesson from one of my teachers long before I burnt out that I thought I had embraced. I taught (and continue to teach) it in my workshops and coached other people on with enthusiasm. I’d learned it from Marie Forleo who I included in my list of teachers last week and it’s a simple idea that when embraced can really help you take a deep breath, ground, and be okay with where you are and what’s possible. It’s the idea of “progress, not perfection.” It’s about refocusing your effort toward learning and not necessarily getting it right or perfect.
Since burning out it’s become a mantra for me. Part of why it began to hit home in new ways was because of a program Marie offered for the first time the same year I burned out, called Time Genius. She and her team asked me to be a mentor in the program created to help other people struggling to manage their stress and time. After having spent most of that year learning about stress and burnout I still felt underqualified. But I was willing to try. And it became and remains a standout moment in my life and career. I got to coach and learn and grow with a group of people just trying to figure it out. To capture joy and let go of the toxic elements of work and life that we’d inherited from a society that doesn’t always prioritize our individual joy. In practical ways, which I personally LOVED.
So what am I saying you need to let go of? To step into your unique abilities as a storyteller and communicator?
Perfection. And the pursuit of it.
Simple, right? Of course not. But I’m going to share a few things over the next few weeks that I learned on what I call my burnout journey (including that course from Marie which has a new enrolment period opening soon!) that helped me heal AND become a better storyteller in the process. Did I mention that the same year I burnt out and stepped back from work was also the year I wrote a magical, beautiful, inspiring kids book about having the courage to be yourself that I hope both kids and adults will cherish AND started a business grounded in being mindful and never burning out again? I did. Because I had the tools and guides.
[If you’re interested in learning more about Marie’s program, let me know by hitting reply to this email or putting a note in the comments if you’re reading on the app. I’ll send you the link when she opens up free training and enrolment around it—I’ll also include some fun additional resources from me as well that I usually charge clients for.]
So yes, the lesson today is simple but complex. I’d encourage you to just start by asking yourself how your life and approach to sharing your stories might change if you let go of perfectionism and joined me in the world of recovering perfectionist?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on this one. I’ve learned that community and sharing is a huge part of being able to let go and move forward with some semblance of confidence. Remember, progress not perfection, even in the pursuit of releasing perfectionism 😅
A Story Well Told
Renaissance. It means the revival of art and literature. A resurgence. And truly, Beyonce Knowles Carter named her world tour exactly as it should be. I was lucky enough to go to her Toronto show a few weeks ago and as the tour begins the end of its North American leg, I can’t help but remember the spark of creative inspiration and awe (truly awe, no exaggeration) I experienced in the Sky Dome in Toronto that night. I went because Renaissance the album resonated so much with me, beginning with the single You Won’t Break My Soul, which literally encourages people to “release your job.” It’s an homage to Black and queer culture that none of us (cis hetero people among us) knew we needed, but oh did we need. All I wanted in a concert was for her to just perform the entire album front to back live. She did not do that. She did so much more and from the first strains of the concert to the end, I danced, I screamed, I released, and I did not sit down. I went to church—or what I imagine church is like for the deeply devout. The tour hasn’t been without its moments of imperfection, but that’s what made it magical. So, if you haven’t listened to the album do that. If you live on the west coast and can afford it, go. But if you do nothing else, seek experiences that help you transcend and step out of life for a moment and into beauty and art. Because that’s what this show did for me and I want that feeling for everyone. The rush, the clarity, the magic of artistry.
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