“I’m pushing myself for more, but the more I give the more I am losing myself.”

When I look back at these words, I can still feel my own brokenness and exhaustion. Yes, it was more than five years ago, and yes, a lot has changed in my life since then. But I know so well the pain I was going through, I know what it took to overcome that sense of helplessness and I know how so many women can relate to me.

On Oct 10, 2012, I wrote in my journal about the pressure of perfection. The overwhelming demands of having a perfect career, writing a perfect book, sustaining a perfect social life, creating a perfect image. Trying to have that perfect life can feel soul crushing.

I ended the entry with a mantra: “I am not perfect, I am not perfect…”

Just six days later, I wrote about emotional pain. You have probably been there: You think you have it all together, but one day, past hurt and abuse and loss can just hit you like a speeding car. All of sudden those old wounds feel fresh. “I fell off track, lost sight of what is important…holding in my pain and frustration. No more. I am not looking for perfection, just peace,” I wrote.

When I reread these entries the connection between the two strikes me. They capture so much of what it means to be a woman today: struggling in silence, holding on to pain and striving for a perfect life that simply cannot not exist. The struggle is real, and I’ve been there. So many of us have.

So here I am, writing this series that I am calling Peace Over Perfection. Because we all need a reminder that we are not alone, and now more than ever, we need to empower other women to take their power back. This series is dedicated to owning our truths and having a voice. We are celebrating imperfection — and the peace that comes with it.

And we are breaking free from our soul-crushing silence.

Women struggle in silence because of, well, fear. They fear they won’t be believed, fear they will be rejected, fear they will not live up to expectations. The #MeToo movement has been a perfect example of this. So many women had felt alone in their pain for years, decades even. When assault and harassment survivors came forward as a unified front, it created a domino effect. Women saw women being heard — and believed. They saw action. They saw victimizers being held accountable, power being lost. Then more women felt comfortable coming forward with their experiences.

Even the women who did not speak up still felt the comfort of knowing they are not alone.

Fear has the ability to make the most beautiful woman feel ugly, the smartest women feel stupid, the richest women feel poor and the most loved women feel abandoned. Fear has so much power because it is usually kept a secret, and when something is kept a secret, it hides within shame and guilt.

Shame and guilt are like the evil step sisters who you know are liars, who you know don’t love you and who you know want to see your downfall — but who you think you need to feel belonging. That’s why you stay in toxic relationships, unfulfilling jobs, emotionally draining friendships, family dysfunction and drama. You stay because you feel ashamed and guilty. You stay because you do not want to acknowledge your failings and your fear of staying… or of leaving. You stay because the hurt and pain starts to feel normal, like a creak in your bedroom floor.

Many of us were brought up to believe that love is a struggle, that love is a condition of being a certain type of way. We were taught that good girls get the guy and that we must choose between a happy marriage and a successful career. We were taught that in life “You can’t have it all!” and we just need to suck it up and deal with it.

That message is instilled in us from a young age. I am not blaming our parents, because they too were taught to believe this message. It was a seed of fear that was planted a very long time ago, and then it grew and grew and grew.

But we no longer have to allow this message to keep us stuck and fearful of living the life we truly desire. If we confront it, we can overcome it. We can be free to use our voice to heal from our pain, hurt, disappointments, pressures and fear. We don’t have to pretend anymore.

Pretending we don’t hurt or that we woke up like this may be sustainable for a short period of time. However, on those days when we definitely did not wake up looking like Beyonce or when we are hurting or when our marriage feels like it’s disintegrating or when we are abused or harassed or judged or criticized, we must reach out to those who love us. We must no longer hide in shadows, hoping that everything will be OK. We no longer need to do things the way our mothers or grandmothers did. Especially when it no longer serves us.

Our goal is to no longer to be perfect — but to be authentic. Authenticity allows us to stand in our truth and to be ourselves. And when we do that, the seed of fear is uprooted from our lives. The secret of our imperfections, mistakes and pain is part of our truth. We don’t hide or run away from it, but we share so that others can say, Me too.

So I will start: Me too. I too was abused, I too was abandoned, I too feel pain, I too have insecurities.

NOW I am: Strong. Confident. Loving. Authentic. Most of all BRAVE 

And I want to help you connect to love and find your way back to your inner strength. In love there is no competition, fear, shame or guilt. There is just freedom to be your authentic self.

So that is where we are headed over the next several months: On a journey to authenticity and love, leaving behind the pressures of perfection and those old wounds that still ache. I truly it hopes to empower you and let you know that you are most definitely not alone.

If you need support as you work on gaining Peace over Perfection in your life, a skilled therapist like myself can help. You can contact me at (864) 559-8181 to schedule an appointment. I can help people in Greenville, SC, and surrounding areas.