Being Perfect

Posted by Jill Chivers in Attitudes and Habits, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

A quick scan of the titles that came up when I did an online search on being perfect, as preparation for writing this piece,  came up with these:

Perfection is Overrated – Be Happy Instead

I Don’t Believe in Perfect

Perfectionists Make Themselves Miserable

On the bulletin boards for our premium program, My Year Without Clothes Shopping, we talk a lot about perfectionism.  I tell the courageous women who do our program that perfection isn’t possible.  It isn’t necessary.  And it isn’t desirable.

Oh, how I talk.

It’s so easy to be wise about perfectionism when it isn’t you that’s the subject of that sentiment.

Sure, you shouldn’t try to be perfect.  But it’s perfectly okay if I go for it, right?

I have been brought face to face with how ridiculous that idea is, and how buried it has been within me, since I started reflecting on something that happened early last year.

I had a fairly significant falling off the wagon moment 15 months ago

I purchased 3 pair of high heel shoes.  Expensive high heel shoes.  In one store.  In one shopping expedition.  With money I didn’t have set aside for the purchase.  Without identifying them as legitimate wardrobe gaps.

It was a classic unconscious shopping moment.  All the elements that signify, for me, shopping asleep at the wheel were there for me.

  • I was in an exceptionally buoyant mood.  This has always been my pattern, the conditions under which I have shopped too much. I didn’t and don’t shop when I’m down or upset or angry or lonely.  I’ve shopped when I’m celebrating, when I am feeling especially optimistic, when I’m buoyed by my life circumstances.  It’s been a way of celebrating and a form of positive acknowledgement for me.  I had just come from a very positive corporate client meeting and was as sure as I could be that I’d land a lucrative contract starting in the next few weeks.
  • I didn’t invoke the power pause –  my absolute #1 most effective break-the-compulsive-shopping-pattern strategy.  Or any other smart shopping strategy.  I went from “Aren’t they FAABulous!” to “I’ll take them all!”  No stopping to pass go, no giving myself time to consider, no letting the sequins settle, no nothin’.
  • I bought more than one pair of a similar shoe.  Well, one pair is quite a different colour to the other two (turquoise).  But two pair bear a remarkable similarity to one another.  This is called buying duplicates or multiples.  It’s a bit of a red flag that your shopping isn’t quite under full control.

Here are the shoes I purchased that day.

The spoils of my unconscious shopping haul last year.  To me they spell: regret

The spoils of my unconscious shopping haul last year. To me they spell: regret

I still have them.  Every time I look at them, I feel awful.

Not only were they ludicrously expensive and I didn’t need them but they aren’t that comfortable and I’ve had to do all kinds of things to make them wearable (interior accessories like heel grips and arch supports). And I didn’t end up winning that corporate contract which would have covered the expense.

So I was down and out on every possible level as a result of this purchase.  Excepting that they are rather gorgeous to look at.

What failure feels like

I felt so wretched about this purchasing event not just because I fell off the wagon so resoundly.

I felt so wretched because I’m now supposed to be this fabulous conscious consumer.  I’ve supposed to have slain my shopping dragon.  I’ve even talked about being triggered before and how I’ve made smarter choices, kinder choices, that didn’t involve shopping (here’s that post).

So falling off the wagon felt like a huge betrayal, like I was a liar, a fake. It felt like a more than normal size failure.

Here I’d built an entire business, a website, an audience, of people who I held myself up to as an example of how you can heal from an overshopping problem.

To say that my “self talk was negative” was a massive under-statement.  I will spare you a full rendering of all the awful names I called myself, all the horrible things I said about myself, to myself.  Repeatedly.  This is a family website after all.

And things stayed that way for, oh, about a year.  I couldn’t talk about that purchase, those shoes, that experience, without this cloying thick guilt and embarrassment shame creeping up over me.

When the (re)healing began

That brings us to early this year.

I finally started to look at that event, that experience.  Which was a step forward in and of itself – just to acknowledge it.  To see it.  To look at it as it happened.

And then I started to recognise the violence of my reaction to it. How utterly judgemental and ruthless I’d been in my treatment of myself over this experience.

How lacking in understanding, in kindness, I’d been.

How unavailable I’d been to recognise the mistake for what it was – a mistake – then take whatever useful learnings there were from the experience, and draw a line under it.

How incapable I’d been to give myself a break, to be my own best coach, or even my own mediocre friend.

If I’d treated anybody else that way, I’d have expected them to walk away from me and never come back.  If someone else had treated me that way, well, I probably would have thought I deserved it to start with.  But soon after, I’d have wondered where their humanity was.

After all, this was one mistake.  One.

Sure, an expensive one (each pair was about $280 – that’s in the interests of full disclosure people).

But it was still just one mistake, done once.

I didn’t go out and buy another $1000 worth of stuff I didn’t need.  I haven’t set about duplicating all other aspects, or even any other aspect, of my wardrobe.  In no other way since then has my shopping behaviour been cause for such intense emotion.

However you count it, the number to put on this mistake remains one.

Awareness precedes choice, and being able to acknowledge this situation gave me the opportunity to move on.

I started to see the opportunity for forgiveness.  To stop being so mean to myself.

And part of my healing from that relapse, from that mistake, was to tell the truth about it.

The truth about being perfect

And I truly began to understand, really get it, that perfection is not necessary, not required and not desirable – for me as much as for anyone.  Perfection is not required or necessary or desirable for me.

If I am to be an example of healing from overshopping, then I need to allow myself to be fully human.  I need to be kind to myself when I’m not perfect, when I make mistakes.

I need to be as kind to myself as I am to you, and to those courageous women who do my programs and who journey toward being more conscious, better shoppers.

Every mistake is an opportunity to be more compassionate.  Every mistake is an opportunity to start over.

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    8 Responses to “Being Perfect”

    1. Rebecca says:

      I understand so well what you are saying Jill. Several years ago, I was crying about my high credit card debt to a friend saying I only had $150 left on my limit. So – what did I do??? Spent it on a watch that day!
      You have come so far in curbing your spending habits so I feel that you should not beat yourself up about this one lapse. In fact in NYC, $280 for a pair of great heels is a bargain with many nice brands going for over $300!

      • Jill Chivers says:

        Thanks Rebecca, really appreciate your comment. You know the funny thing is, as expensive as those shoes seemed to me (especially in aggregate), the money part of it was not the worst part for me. It didn’t help, but I felt far (far) worse about the emotional aspects of that shopping trip!

    2. Robyn says:

      Dear Jill,
      You were so kind to me when I fell off my wagon recently. I’m glad you are reaching the point of being kind to yourself. Do this. Do this every day! And I hope in time you will come to feel better about the shoes themselves. After all, they are delicous. Those teal sparklers are utterly gorgeous. Teal (turquoise, peacock, whatever) is a temptation for me. I’ll feel very very happy if I know that you are dancing in those little teal numbers on behalf of all of us who are imperfect, yes, but also lovely.

      • Jill Chivers says:

        thank you Robyn… writing that post was actually quite a healing experience for me. And seeing your comment here has made it even more so. thank you.

    3. Chris says:

      I think that sometimes we HAVE to be tough on ourselves…otherwise we let ourselves “get away with that one mistake” and then another and another….if you make yourself feel like crap you may think twice about doing it again. At least that seems to work for me. I am currently reading Larry Winget’s book called “You’re Broke Because You Want to Be” and he really gets in your face about the idiotic things we do with our money. I hope I’m not making you feel worse, but sometimes “tough love” is what we need.

      • Jill Chivers says:

        I agree Chris that sometimes the tough lessons make us feel real uncomfortable. And that’s not only okay, it’s necessary. Otherwise, we’d never learn the important lesson. Which means we’d keep repeating the same idiot things (to borrow from Larry Winget) over and over. No sense in that.

        And believe me, my friend, I’ve been plenty tough on myself (so thank you for the offer of tough love – got it in spades here! And no, please rest assured that you didn’t make me feel worse. Not sure that would even be possible…!). And the lesson has been learned.

        After the lesson has been well and truly learned, then self kindness is what’s required, I believe. You’ve done the tough stuff, you don’t need any more tough. And too much tough and we can give up – it’s just all too hard, all the time. I’m all for sustainable change, change that lasts, so you have to mix the tough love up with the helping hand and the sympathetic ear.

        Thanks for reading, and commenting. Much appreciated!

    4. Chris says:

      You are right, Jill, about not needing any more “tough” in life – we’ve gotten enough of that. Larry Winget is known as the “Pit bull of Personal Development” for a good reason – but it has worked for me. He really gets to the heart of WHY we do self-destructive things in our lives and how we need to WAKE-UP & stop ACTING in a careless way -or we’ll end up BROKE AND HOMELESS! (Then I’d really hate myself). But yes- kindness toward oneself is very important, too. I guess I just have to have it tough in order for it to sink in. Sad, but true. But I’m tough and can take it. He does have a sense of humor, too, so I can laugh while reading the book AND at myself. I don’t hate myself, I just hate my actions sometimes!! Thank you for all you do!!! You have a wonderful blog/website.

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Chris – I had a laugh at the “pit bull of personal development”. It’s almost an oxymoron, really! But if it works, well it works. I guess that’s the thing with personal, and professional, development – one size definitely does not fit all. Suze Orman also has a similar in-your-face approach with her famous SLAP DOWNS. And those kinds of deliberately provocative unignorable strategies definitely have their place. As does kindness from others and self-kindness. I’m glad you don’t hate yourself – I’ve met many people who do, and I’ve struggled with self-disliking, even self-loathing, from time to time. And I so appreciate your kind words about my blog and site. It is a labour of love.

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