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.

lessons > failure ; sometimes you only make it a week

i set a goal to not smoke for 3 weeks. and i made it a week.. this lands heavily as a failure for me. i woke up around 2:45 last night and couldn’t get back to sleep for hoursss.

i started shame spiraling about smoking, feeling “weak” and like a loser and generally “bad.” i reminded myself of cultural practices like lent, in which people give up something for 40 days, and used that fact against myself, as proof of my incompetence.

i thought of others i know who consistently give things up for long periods of time, measuring myself against them to prove how weak i am.

i struggle with mainstream narratives of addiction, not because i think they’re inaccurate, but because i don’t feel like they tell the full story for me.

leading up to smoking, i was feeling pretty awful, physically and emotionally, struggling to hold space for feeling both physically sick and deeply saddened by how fucked up the world can be.

once i got home from a shockingly exhausting day in the city, i smoked. and it definitely helped, especially with my mood.

and although i knew i’d have to grapple with my decision, i didn’t feel guilt or regret. i don’t really feel regret over smoking even now, more so shame at thinking i could “make it” so long without it. i feel like a failure, a loser.

i’m trying really hard to focus on learning over criticizing, so that i can become more aligned with what works and what doesn’t.

one thing i came to a place of clarity around is quitting smoking tobacco (i smoke spliffs with both tobacco and cannabis mixed).
one reason is so i have a better idea of which withdrawal symptoms are related to which plant.
another is my heart health — i already have low blood pressure, and it doesn’t take much to get my heart racing. so i generally have this idea that tobacco weakens my heart (which, i imagine, is validated by science).

i’m trying to learn how to set myself up for success, trying different approaches and methods. one of the more confusing elements of all of this is, i’ve been able to quit smoking for a month at a time on numerous occasions without much struggle.

but since i broke my long-term sobriety, i’ve found taking longer breaks consistently challenging.
the longest break i’ve taken recently was back in the fall/winter, which lasted for a couple of months, and wasn’t hard.
i simply didn’t really have the desire to smoke, so i didn’t.

i’m trying to parse out why it’s so hard at times and yet so easeful at others. i imagine it has something to do with alignment and intention.

nonetheless, i figure re-focusing my attention on cutting out tobacco is a good place to start. and to then go from there.

i really have no idea what i’m doing, and i feel self-conscious in it. self-conscious in the start and stop, the back and forth… trying to parse out the ways i use cannabis in a medicinal way, to treat anxiety and depression, and the ways it might be working against me. and reminding myself that dependence is typical with medicine, and that the need to “wean off” is common.

to paraphrase from a cannabis break guide i was reading: is it helping, or is it hurting? likely both.

in order to have the space to truly work out my relationship with cannabis and to reframe it in ways that better serve me, i need to be honest with myself about its impact on my life. which means not letting the shame take the wheel and becoming blinded by the idea of being “bad.”

well, i think that’s all i have for now.

i named a new-ish practice of mine today the “remember” practice. it’s essentially a prayer that revolves around remembering:
may i remember my truest nature as a divine being. may i remember the goddesses, the Love of the ancestors, the spirit guides, my connection to Source, my service to this Earth.

may i remember Love, if nothing else. may i remember i am here to serve. may i remember grace begins with myself.

❤ ❤ ❤