The Price of Invulnerability

As is typical of me, I have overextended myself.  Then to top it all off, I had to add NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo to my list of personal expectations and I’m failing miserably and am one step from giving up so I can say “I decided“, rather than “I failed“.  It’s a pattern of self-defeating logic.

This is a long-standing problem of mine.  Being an over-achiever and perfectionist is just the tip of the iceberg in my mental chaos and health.  But really, they are a mask.

They are a mask that says I’m knowledgeable, confident, passionate and persistent.  And I’m good with the mask.  I’m so good at it, when I do tell people I’m shy, they scoff.  When I tell people I worry about not being good enough they scorn.  They’ve become so used to the mask, they don’t see Danielle anymore.

For a start, “Good” is never “good enough”, I want to be “The Best”.  It isn’t always bad to be this way; I have definitely been successful in my careers because of it.  I certainly never could have said I won three coveted recognition awards on one day if I hadn’t tried my “best” to be “The Best”.   The downside of this glorious validation was the even higher expectations I put on myself to, not only earn them again the following year, but try for an award from yet another retail giant customer too. 

Being so driven is akin to perfectionism, but not precisely the same.  As a child I was a perfectionist in order to steal praise.  Now I strive for perfection because somewhere, I believe being so will provide me a modicum of control over my destiny. I have become a fatalist since my children were born and striving for perfection fosters some sense of being able to avoid the tragedy I believe is inevitable.  No, I don’t want to believe tragedy is inevitable, I just can’t seem to make these thoughts stop.  

Being “The Most” equals “The Best” in  my head.  The most honest, the most kind, the most generous, the most forgiving.

I strive to be “The Best” because I feel unworthy.  I feel unworthy of love, I feel unworthy of kindness, friendship, a smile, a favour.  I feel like if I just try harder, I will deserve the good things I get in life, because otherwise, I’m just a complete sham of a human.  

I call everything I do, say and even think into question, looking for the errors and areas to improve.  Being driven to be the best is exhausting.  Mind-numbingly exhausting.

In me, these two driving needs combine for a toxic, compulsive elixir.  The compulsion to behave this way is completely overwhelming, it over-rides every other behaviour.  I abandon myself in them because I’m terrified if I don’t, one day people will realize I’m a “fraud” and then what?

I guess the real question here is:  Am I?  I know, logically, the answer is no; but I still can’t shake the fear that I don’t even realize I’m a fraud  myself.

My mantra is “always do your best, no matter what”.  Unfortunately, I’ve infected my kids with this.  In my daughter, it has created a drive that rivals my own and I am witnessing its destructiveness.  In my son it has created deflation and a sense of hopelessness.  I only recognized this recently, but in my efforts to be “The Best Mom”, I’m now working on changing my motivational speaking techniques with them.

Overly high expectations.  My mother has always said “no one is as hard on you as you are on yourself, Danielle”.  I’ve heard this my whole life, but I never understood the damage I was doing to myself until recently.

Now, at 44, unemployed, doing daycare, pretending to be a writer…. Instead of being satisfied my kids are healthy, I have a husband who adores me, a beautiful home, a great best friend… all I focus on is that I’m a failure because I don’t have a “real” job, I haven’t been published, I’m not there enough for Brenda, I’m too smart to be doing daycare and generally, just not living up to my potential.  I’m not being “The Best”.

This mindset creates vulnerability which I have a great deal of difficulty accepting and coping with, can you tell?  In fact, I find vulnerability so traumatizing, I push it away with every fibre of my being, believing that to be vulnerable is to be weak and I am “Strong”.   Feeling weak creates fear and shame.  The fear and shame bring on anxiety attacks and depression, which bring on more fear and shame.

It’s all a vicious circle.

It is fitting then, that I was recently sent a link to a video of Brene Brown called “The Price of Invulnerability”.  Brene is a professor and researcher of vulnerability, courage, shame and worthiness.  (I know, right?!)   She is also a storyteller.  I was blown away by her.  She is compelling and I really needed to hear what she has to say.  I also needed a tissue or two, so grab a box.  If you watch the video, you’ll understand this whole post.  If you suffer from any mental health issues, please put this on your to do list, even if you can’t watch now.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.
Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. – Brene Brown


5 thoughts on “The Price of Invulnerability”

  1. I’ll definitely have to check this video out when I’m not at work– I love Ted Talks.
    Your perfectionism does sound exhausting :-/ I think I’m too lazy to be a perfectionist though I can understand that intense desire to be “the best” when it comes to one or two certain things in my life– and if you don’t feel that you will be then you just want to say “No, I chose not to” and walk away. I am REALLY bad about that with lots of things in life— I won’t try for fear of failure (dumb things like playing volleyball and learning how to shuffle a deck of cards).

    Crap! Everyone is evacuating. Thoughts suspended.

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