podcast notes: the pitfalls of perfectionism (For the Wild w/ Alexis Shotwell)

podcast link — For the Wild – Alexis Shotwell on Resisting Purity Culture

personal epiphany prompted by the conversation: i don’t need to police myself. (where i go when i feel guilty about my behavior/choices)

noteworthy phrase: “pain of complicity” – what many of us resist, especially us white people, because it’s so hard and heavy to hold the ways in which we are responsible for/benefit from systems and histories of oppression. this sense of responsibility isn’t about shame — it’s ultimately empowering; it reminds us that we can take action against these systems. it’s a call to action.

i’ve been encountering this theme repeatedly recently, the connection between responsibility and empowerment.

noteworthy point: Alexis describes qualities of people who have been resilient in social justice movements, ones who are in it for the long haul and still pleasant (lol):

  1. they have a quality of curiosity – they bring their knowledge and experience but are also flexible to see what works for the specific group, cause
  2. they don’t collapse when they make mistakes – i think of this as ego work. as white people (people in general, but we’re speaking situationally here), we’re going to fuck up. it’s about how we show up to make it right, to make amends, to work towards repair that really matters.
  3. they have an orientation towards repair and responsiveness — i think of this as accountability work. accountability for harm (that doesn’t revolve around punishment), that moves with the intention of seeking reconciliation, is an incredibly kind gesture in community.

personal musing moment: as human beings living in a fucked up system, we’re going to reflect that interpersonally at times… and so instead of falling apart at what feels like criticism or like you’re a “bad” person, we can put our energy into moving towards a path of healing.

also, i’m speaking idealistically here, cause you know i’ve fallen apart at what feels like criticism or being called out more than once. i mean, the reason this podcast resonated with me is because i’m a recovering perfectionist, which is simply not copacetic with working for real change. we gotta move forward knowing mistakes will be many. which is why pouring energy into systems of repair is so vital.

Alexis Shotwell makes the point that individual perfectionism is anti-collectivist. without the ability to endure making mistakes in relationship, there’s no way to grow. and ultimately this leads to silence and inaction due to fear of doing the “wrong” thing, which is simply inevitable if we’re truly doing the work.

as white people, whiteness is a lot to grapple with, to hold, not just the past trauma but the present. we are peeling the onion of power and oppression. so if having to confront that in yourself feels rough, it’s because it is.

and i don’t say this to center white comfort but to prepare us white folks for the fragility we may encounter in the face of racial reckoning. i think it’s helpful to be reminded that some things are just hard. not because we’re doing it wrong or because we suck (which is centering ourselves), but because it’s fucking hard and grimy and depressing to confront. it’s collective shadow work. the only way to heal is to bring it all out into the light.

Alexis mentions 3 Types of Relationships she’s been curious about recently:

  1. the power of friendship, whether animal, places, people, nature; “mushroom friends, animal friends, people friends, mountain friends,” etc. – she makes the point that it’s a myth that only our family will take care of us.
  2. “forming collective is a skill” – that’s all i wrote for this one. but i’ve been thinking about this more and more recently — is there an activism/social justice school?
  3. the importance of naming enemies and opposing them – “opposition is a relationship”

the podcast also mentions an essays of hers called “Claiming Bad Kin” that i made note to check out. here’s an excerpt:
“I am interested in what it could mean for white people and settlers more generally who benefit from historical and current effects of enslavement, colonialism, border militarism, racial distributions of environmental devastation, and capitalism to claim kin with the people producing these effects. If we are complicit in the pain of this suffering world, how might we take responsibility for our bad kin?

personal musings part 2: when we make a mistake, and we don’t make it about ourselves, about how “shitty” we are, when we don’t shame spiral, we are able to step into the responsibility and humility of being in relationship in a way that really excites and comforts me. it’s like we think there’s something righteous about “punishing” ourselves.. i’d say actually letting ourselves feel the depth of the pain of unintentionally harming another person is enough. anything more becomes self-indulgent, becomes about us, the person who’s fucked up, instead of tending to the other person and repairing the harm done.

but let me be clear: it’ll probably also take some individual processing after the fact, because if you’re a perfectionist, fucking up hurts. it feels like it could kill you. so the more we feel it, hopefully the less fragile our ego becomes in the face of it. because it’s not about me or you, it’s about us. we’re going to fuck up and we’ll all ultimately need help to figure out the road back from it.

side note: i had a hard time writing this post, because it can be hard to reflect and digest lessons without feeling like i’m lecturing. any tone of lecturing is ultimately about me towards me, not anyone else. i am the one eager to grow here. and if it resonates with others, that’s of course a lovely bonus.

also, these ideas are fresh to me, and it can feel awkward working out ideas in real time. oh, the irony about my perfectionist taking over as i try to write about resisting it. it’s hard to learn in public, to rationalize mistakes as a part of growth (especially in a shaming culture). shame and social rejection are powerful tools for silencing and causing action paralysis. it leads to us trying to stay “safe” from criticism, which is the opposite of what change is about. but goddamn is it scary.

good luck out there ❤ ❤ ❤

prayer: when i have made a mistake, when i am being held accountable for harm done, may i remember that i am one of many folks who will walk this path of reconciliation. may i not collapse under the weight of imperfection. may i remember, as Alexis says, that i am “good enough,” and that most importantly, i will show up for repair.

bored and lonely.. what are the edges?

summer feels like a time to be bored, to let the boredom flourish in the unendurably hot days that seem to last forever.

i feel loneliness creep into my bones, a familiar feeling. but not as familiar as the distracting and dopamine seeking i do as a coping mechanism.

avoidance, this is the typical strategy for the vicious duo that is boredom and loneliness.. it’s so isolating, it feels like an experience that’s only happening to you. well, me.

i’ve been meaning to write. or to be more accurate, i’ve been thinking about how writing would be good for me, of how i could be good at it if i just stuck with it. how it could liberate me from the thoughts typically confined to my headspace.

is it narcissistic to appreciate my own ideas? maybe it’s the love of thinking, of working things out. or more so mulling things over. problems are not often solved in my head, they’re picked apart.

what do i do with this loneliness that kickstarts my insecurity? i become hesitant, paranoid in my interactions, like i may say or do something “wrong.”

i just picked up a practice of doing a little dance when my perfectionism kicks in, when i get really down on myself for making what i perceive to be a mistake.

in my mind’s eye, this dance is kind of shtick-y, really poking fun at taking myself so seriously. almost like an “did i do that?” type moment where i look at the non-existent audience and gesture farcically. we’ll see if i remember to do so. an “oops” dance seems like the type of thing we’d teach a kid but never an adult.. and yet to me it seems like a means of resilience that’s as appropriate in adulthood as anywhere else in life.

there’s a part of me that’s resistant to this, poking fun at how seriously i can take myself. there’s a part of me that quips, “well life is a serious matter.” which is true.

what’s also true is that the serious matter of life demands levity to be digestible, to be, dare i say, enjoyable. i don’t know where i learned to feel guilty for enjoy life, but it seems to live in my bones.

there are some mistakes that do not warrant a silly dance afterwards. but let’s be real: most of the shit i beat myself up over does not matter beyond learning from it. i don’t benefit from berating myself, from replaying a situation in my head a dozen times to determine the exact moment i fucked things up. there is an obsessiveness to perfectionism that is wholly unproductive and unhelpful.

and this is what the oops dance is working against, what it’ll hopefully interrupt.

because fucking up can be silly. it can be the perfect reminder of how imperfectly human we are. it can connect me with all of humanity, with everyone who’s fucked up.

and it’s also just fun.

❤ ❤ ❤

welcome back!

hey y’all, welcome back!

it’s tuesday morning for me, on the cusp of spring, both externally and internally.

i’m here to make an announcement, a proclamation, mostly to myself.

it struck me this morning, a writing schedule i’d like to practice, which is: writing my daily pages (preferably first thing in the morning), posting here on wordpress (even if it’s just 3 sentences) daily, and then posting on my medium account weekly (which means figuring out a routine around research and outlining).

i feel grateful to have some sort of clarity around this, even if it doesn’t pan out exactly, even if it needs to be tweaked along the way. i’m navigating the terrain of routine with flexibility.

previously, back in 2018, i got obsessive about routine from a place of perfectionism, rigidity, and low self-worth. i was doing it all to prove to myself that i was worthy.

it’s not like that today, at least that’s not my intention. routine at this point is a means for me to create a container, a structure that allows me to do the rich, deep work i want to do. i want to accomplish a lot, and not for capitalism/”productivity” reasons, but for myself, and hopefully for others.

i want to be of service to this world before i leave this plane, and writing seems to be one of the best tools i have to do that.

my experience with routine back in 2018 was dominated by the perspectives of mostly wealthy white men.
this time around, i’m diversifying my sources. mostly because i can’t relate to wealthy straight dudes — they approach the world very differently, and i don’t particularly want to recreate those ways of relating to myself, to life, and to the world.
there’s a lot of entitlement there (inevitably), and a fair amount of delusion, and i’m trying to work myself out of these mindsets as a white person.

anyway, i don’t have much else to say here at this moment, other than i’m excited. i’ve often been wary of letting others in on my shifts and changes, my attempts at practicing new habits and ways of being. because i fear if i don’t hold true to it, people will judge me as a failure, as full of shit, as worthless. because this is how i respond to myself when i “fall short.”

this time around, i don’t feel so self-conscious. because i recognize it’s all practice, it’s all a work in progress, it’s all in the name of finding what works and what doesn’t.

is working out in the morning ideal or during my afternoon slump? should i make a meal schedule on sundays, so i don’t have to think about what i’m cooking every evening?

anyways, i love y’all. i hope you’re all doing well, and i’d love for anyone who’s interested to partake with me, in whatever way feels right for you.

i’m very grateful to not be doing this life thing alone, even when i’m literally alone. i’m grateful today to feel the presence of so many others who have come before and who are practicing with me today, even if i don’t know them.

the web of interconnection and interdependence lives on, no matter our circumstances.
sending you a hug if you need one ❤

i don’t know what i’m feeling…

so often, when i hit the pause button and attempt to embody my emotions, i struggle to identify what is going on inside me. maybe because it’s more a pulling back of layers than trying to hit a target…

i feel insecurity, that’s for sure. i live with the fear that if i say or do something wrong, i’ll lose access to love. it’s an exhausting place to navigate from. beyond the counterproductive and toxic nature of perfectionism, it’s also a self-absorbed place to navigate from — it centers any particular interaction around me, my words, my thoughts, my behavior. but when i make the circle bigger, inclusive of other people and elements, i realize it’s not about me. which doesn’t mean i’m not a part of the whole, but that the state of things doesn’t revolve around me. and what a fucking relief.

the fierce individualism of our culture is not just exahausting, it’s a complete and total mindfuck. it totally ignores the nature of life and well, nature. none of us does anything alone. even the functioning of your individual body is the product of innumerable beings working in harmony to make you happen.

as science catches up with ancient wisdom, we learn more and more about the ways in which who we are and what we carry is passed down to us through our genes, our blood (not to mention generational wealth and privilege). i reflect back on my coming-of-age years and how insistent i was on my own individuality, insistent that who i was was a product of me and totally within my control. i can’t exactly fault myself for my naive hope that i was in control and nothing else. but honestly, the older i get, the more grateful i feel to not be in total control of my life and its outcomes. because i have absolutely no fuck what i’m doing 90+% of the time.

i remember being in a yoga class (dropping wisdom from a yoga class def makes me feel like a cliche white lady but here we are) and the teacher saying: “what if, instead of viewing life as a problem to be solved, we viewed it as a mystery to be unfolded?” *insert mindblown emoji* i mean, how silly it is that a simple shift in perspective can flip reality on its head.

i want to be clear that my point here is not deny life’s problems. problems are 100% real and suck lol. i’m a human, i don’t like things not going my way. also, pain is very real. tragedy is real. and terrible, awful, unjust things happen on a daily basis. i’m not trying to simply paint the rainbow over here. because if i were to paint the rainbow of life, it’d surely include the colors that represent the shit of life as well as the beautiful.

i can’t make sense of anyone else’s life, not even my own. but i get glimpses. i get moments of understanding, understanding that this web that’s been woven since the beginning of time is much more complex than i could wrap my mind around in one lifetime. and beyond that, i don’t even think it’s meant to be understood in our heads. and sometimes, when the stars align, i can feel that understanding in my body, visceral and potent. i can feel the interconnectedness, and it both excites and terrifies me.

cause us humans are not exactly killing it right now. to be more specific, those of us occupying the “United States,” cause i have no interest in calling out anyone other than the people i’m in forced community with.

okay, but back to feelings, to sensing and understanding them. on an episode of the podcast How to Survive the End of the World, one of the guests spoke an Octavia Butler quote to power along the lines of, “writing is a type of therapy.”

and so as i sit here, prompted by the need to express i know not what. as i feel the internal knot begin to detangle, i remain uncertain about what resides in me, why certain moments stick with me more than others, why the rumination continues on and on, or what to make of all of it.

going back to the yoga teacher quote, instead of relating to my feelings as something to figure out, maybe my role as a human is to simply experience them, to let them pass through me and to engage with them as fully as feels appropriate.

will i forever live in fear of losing love? maybe. is that bad? i don’t think life is that simple.

with the rise of self help/improvement/care at the forefront of our western internet experience, with the insistence that we can make our life what we want it to be, that we can discipline and manifest our way to our best lives, i question what is lost in this selling point? by no means am i discouraging someone from living their “best life,” but i question how this is measured. i wonder if it’s yet another motivator to be a better productive capitalist. is our self-care routine simply another external measurement of our success?

i wonder the ways in which empowerment is co-opted, emptied out, and fed to the mainstream. this isn’t an argument against trying to manifest enough money to retire when you’re 40, it’s an exploration of the why behind it.

i don’t think i can truly engage with goals that do not include the collective at this point in my life. even the care of my self ties in with my ability to be of service to the collective.

but also, to be clear: i, like the rest of all beings, am divine and deserving of the most potent of loves.

okay, i’m starting to feel a bit self-righteous and discombobulated, so i’m going to close this one out. love y’all ❤