I had the distinct pleasure of having a Most Embarrassing Stories session with one of my favorite friends. We did this because she was upset about something that had recently happened to her. Well, not really TO her, but the moment was hers. And it was a hard moment to own, trust me.
Lucky for me, I’m reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, which is all about shame and embarrassment and owning our stories, even the crime-worthy ones. What I have gleaned most from her words, stories, and research is a life lesson that has already begun serving me well. You ready? I’m about to change your life:
You’re SUPPOSED to make a fool of yourself!
Did you know that? Did you know we’re not supposed to be perfect? We’re supposed to fall in front of a large crowd, belly flop (literally and figuratively), and fail. Those things are actually supposed to be part of our lives. On a regular basis. And do you know what else? We’re supposed to be okay with it! We’re even supposed to invite that embarrassment into our lives and own it. By owning it, I mean we don’t hide from it, we feel through it, then – life a magic trick – we let it go.
How many times in one day would you estimate you attempt perfection? You attempt perfection and avoid perceived failure like the 10 plagues God laid on Egypt? You try with all your might to avoid looking like an idiot. About once every… 40 seconds? Well you, my friend, are not alone.
Nobody likes to be thought a fool. We’re all under This (unhealthy) notion that everyone BUT us has it together. We think the perfect skin means perfect marriage. Or a perfect body means prefect health. And a perfect job evaluation means they know everything and never screw up. And then we think that all these things combined mean this person never makes a fool of themselves; how could they? They’re super human.
When our rational side comes back out we remember the above is false, an illusion made possible by the other person’s own attempt at perfection; they’re hiding their humanness well, aren’t they?
Here’s what I think: we’re underestimating what this fool-making (and sharing said fool-making) can bring into our lives:
— Bonding moments. I dare you to deny a deeper connection with either the person who experienced your goof with you, or with the person to whom you turned for solace.
— Good stories. Whether you use them in your writing, at a party, or to console a friend or your offspring, when you tell it you’re going to have at least a little pride in living through the embarrassment with your head eventually held high. And like your mama said, you’ll laugh about it later!
— Catharsis. When you do something you perceive as imperfect or humiliating, the moment you speak it out loud to someone, it is released from your spirit. You’re not holding it in any longer. And if you share it with someone who is kind and compassionate, the release will be that much more meaningful.
— Perspective. Because whatever you’ve done, if you can get to a place where you say, “ok, this happened, but at least…”, you have a better chance of seeing the bigger picture. And the proverbial Bigger Picture is always a healthy place to be. Example: I once publicly, and soberly I might add, knocked down a Christmas tree. A whole tree, in a coffee shop halfway full of people. I can’t even tell you how that happened. But I can tell you that at least nothing broke, it became an inside joke with the company I was keeping that day, and I am pretty sure for at least awhile I became more aware of the space I occupied, so as to not ruin Christmas for everyone. 😉 (And, let’s be honest,you can’t have the lack of coordination I have and dance every weekend without regular gaffes, but there are just to many to choose from to share one of those stories!)
Ultimatately, our humanness dictates that we makes regular ‘fools’ of ourselves. And we really only consider it foolishness because we’re afraid of what other people might say. But if we can remember to own it, to say, “Oopsy daisy!” And just press on, I purport or lives would be richer, deeper, and maybe even a little more fun. Who’s with me?