alison armstrong Archives - Dr. Mary Pritchard

Perfect Imperfection

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beauty girl cry

Last night I cried.

I was reading Chapter 2 of Alison Armstrong’s book Queen’s Code and I experienced some powerful aha moments. Things about myself that I knew, but hadn’t wanted to accept. Things about myself that I know I need to work on so I don’t continue to make the same mistakes in my relationships with colleagues, students, clients, family, and friends. And it all has to do with the illusive Perfect Person.

“Women are instinctively motivated by perfection, and the need to be perceived as perfect enough to be pleasing… But not too perfect so as to cause jealousy in other women. This is the source of our drive to improve ourselves, and our fear of standing out at the same time.” ~ Alison Armstrong

Armstrong’s words ring so true for me. I have been motivated by perfection my whole life, and it has only been in the past couple of years that I’ve realized two things: 1) there is no such thing as “perfect” and 2) everything is perfect just as it is, or it wouldn’t be that way.

But we, as women, don’t accept our inherent perfection; we only see flaws. We criticize, we judge, we blame – others, and most of all, ourselves – when we can’t meet this illusive standard of being the “Perfect Person.” But I think it’s even worse than that. We hold impossibly high standards for ourselves, and then criticize, blame, and judge ourselves when we can’t meet these standards. Then we internalize that blame and shame and feel that we can never be good enough because we are too much or too little of something we thing we should be ‘just the right amount’ of. So we keep striving, we keep trying to become “perfect” and we fail every single time. And we become depressed or anxious or engage in self-harming behaviors (e.g., overeating, over-exercising, gambling, excessive shopping, other addictive behaviors) to punish ourselves for not being perfect.

Until the damn breaks. Until we can’t take the blame and shame and self-loathing anymore, and we turn it outward.

“When women cannot get what they need — no matter how they change themselves — it hurts, deeply. They react to hurt with anger. If the hurt is not healed, the anger ages into resentment. Accumulated resentment makes a woman bitter.” ~ Alison Armstrong

I’ve seen this happen so many times – in my mother, in my female friends, in myself. And it scares me because when a woman has been pushed so far that she has become bitter, you can bet that behind that bitterness lays a sense of self-worth in shambles. And behind that obliterated sense of self-worth lays an innocent child who really and truly has no idea what she’s done wrong, only that she wasn’t perfect enough to please [insert authority figure from your childhood]. And the sad thing is she’s still trying to please that person. She doesn’t know that they’ve moved on, that adult she has moved on. She still thinks she has to be more (or less) of something; she’s still locked in a prison of perfection – a cage of her own inadvertent making – resisting change, resisting acceptance, resisting her own perceived imperfections.

Ladies, this has got to change. We have to heal these wounded parts of ourselves; we have to stop the blame and shame and judging and criticism. We have to stop suppressing our light, our authenticity, our voice. We have to let go of resistance, replace the can’ts with cans; the shouldn’ts with shoulds.

 

I want you to do something for me – for yourself – today. Take your Life Satisfaction list from last week and for every area you rated less than a 7 ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I resisting? What am I judging in myself as imperfect that is causing this number to be so low?
  • What can I replace this resistance with? How can I alter my mindset/belief system to approach this from a healthier place?

For example, I rated my finances as a 6 because I have some debt. Doing this process revealed the following:

  • What am I resisting? What am I judging in myself as imperfect that is causing this number to be so low?

I am resisting my debt because I have judged that having any debt means I’m irresponsible with my money.

  • What can I replace this resistance with? How can I alter my mindset/belief system to approach this from a healthier place?

I can change my belief to be that investing in myself and my company is a smart move when it feels in alignment and congruent with my mission.

Now doesn’t that feel so much better than blame and shame? While you’re at it turn your new beliefs into affirmations and recite them every morning as you look at yourself in the mirror and watch your life change for the better!

 

The Princess and the Frog Farmer

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Rana con corona e castello sullo sfondoI’m re-reading Alison Armstrong’s books, specifically the Queen’s Code and I had an ‘aha’ moment that I’d like to share with you in the hopes that it serves you.

In her book Keys to the Kingdom, Armstrong argues that men go through 4 stages of development: the Page (boys who want to be Knights), the Knight (adventurers), Prince (empire builders), and King (sovereign ruler of the empire he’s built). What I realized is this: I think women go through similar stages: Maiden/Princess, Mother, Queen, and Crone/Wise Woman, although I think there may be overlap in some of these stages.

When I was a little girl, I loved to dress up as a Fairy Princess. In an era where all Disney movies portrayed women as either Fairy Princesses or Evil Queens, who didn’t want to be the Princess? She got all the good stuff and didn’t really have to do anything to get there. That’s not to say that the Princesses didn’t struggle (ala Cinderella) before getting their due, but Disney really portrayed life as: Put Up with the Evil Queen until you Find Your Prince and then Live Happily Ever After.

Only real life never works that way. At least, it didn’t for me. Which gets me back to my ‘aha’ moment.

At 41, I am getting past my Mother stage in terms of reproductive years (although I still tend to play that role to a large extent in my academic job where my students come to me for guidance – more on that later). But what I realized is that at 41, when it comes to romantic relationships I’ve been stuck in the Princess stage my entire life. Although I know there is no such thing as Prince Charming, I’ve been waiting for him. Thus, I enter romantic relationships under the misguided assumption that my “Prince” will save me and provide for my every wish. But he can’t; for two reasons: 1) Men aren’t mind readers, so the notion that your Prince will know exactly what you want and provide for your every need is ridiculous. (And good luck trying to demand what you need from him.) 2) “Princes” – that is men in Armstrong’s Prince stage – aren’t at the point where they can provide you what you need anyway because they are still too busy trying to figure out what they need and building their empires.

In Fairy Tales when a Princess meets her Prince, her life becomes everything she always wanted and more. In reality when a ‘Princess’ meets her ‘Prince’, she more than likely turns him into a frog (what Alison Armstrong calls Frog Farming). Why? Because she has unrealistic expectations of him and he’s so caught up in building his empire that he can barely see the forest for the trees let alone anticipate and take care of his Princess’ needs.

So this weekend I made a decision: I no longer want to be a Princess waiting for her Prince to save her/fix her/make her happy. It’s time to become a Queen – in all areas of my life. It’s time to be sovereign of my own life, both at work (the Mother energy that I have been using to mentor students actually hinders them because it ends up being more of me do-ing it for them than teaching them how to do it themselves and challenging them to rise to the occasion) and in my relationships with friends (no more trying to ‘help’ my friends fix their lives; again that’s Mother energy and my friends are not children and don’t usually ask for my help or advice – they want to vent not help ‘fixing’ their lives) and romantic partners (I’m done Frog Farming, thank you very much!).

I’ve been exploring Queen energy for several months now, but only in the past month have I really begun to figure out what that means/looks like/etc. I’d love it if you’d take the journey with me. Are you ready to become Queen of Your Life? Ready to Design and Create your Ideal Life rather than waiting for it to be delivered to you all wrapped up with a shiny bow? Me too.

If you’re ready, I invite you to download and take the Life-Satisfaction-Worksheet. In my next post, we'll talk about what to do with the information you gathered on your worksheet.

I look forward to becoming Queens together!

Much love!

Goddess (and Queen of Her Own Life) Mary