Being a therapist is so intimate. In session, some people are more honest and open with me than they are with pretty much anyone else in their lives. I get to hear the sound of their internal dialogue. You know, the inner voices that we all have which are constantly chattering away inside our head. I’m here to tell you that whomever you admire or think has it all together, chances are good that they still have an internal voice that is harder on them than you might expect.

I work and hang out with so many smart, high-achieving, good, and kind people, mostly women.  And still, they have that insidious, critical internal voice that permeates so much of what they do, telling them that they could do better. It’s the voice of “coulda-shoulda-woulda.”

It hurts my heart. And it’s oh-so-familiar.

I understand where it comes from. That hard-driving, critical voice in our heads is there for a reason. That critic has been tirelessly driving us toward success and perfection. It deserves to be acknowledged for all its effort. And, we need to acknowledge that it has also caused us pain. The pain of self-doubt, stress, disconnection with others, and being out of balance. While it’s bossy at times, it’s not qualified to be the only voice in our heads. The work of therapy often involves taming the critic while growing a kind, nurturing voice in our internal dialogue.

I had a lovely conversation with a young woman recently. She has a strong internal drive for perfection. It has served her well and she’s been very successful. But that drive for perfection interferes with her internal peace. It messes with her ability to set and keep boundaries. It keeps her stressed. She said that her “perfection mindset” was causing her troubles. For a few moments, instead of letting her “internal pusher” run the show, she listened to the voice of her heart. This is a wise, gentle, loving voice inside of her that is learning to assert itself and have a little more “air time.” It’s beautiful to watch that voice grow.

I asked her, “What does your heart have to say?”

She said, “That I’m ok. That I’ve done enough. It’s not gonna be perfect. It’s not supposed to be perfect. There’s never going to be perfection.”

She came up with:

“You’re ok, you’re loved.”

“Imperfection is ok.”


“Imperfection is not brokenness.”

“Imperfection is freeing.”

“Imperfection is freedom.”

“Live like yourself with great delight.”

“Live authentically with great delight.”

“Just be yourself. Authentic. You, yourself, right now.”

“Live imperfectly with great delight and you’ll be ok.”

This woman’s internal driver hasn’t gone away. But how lovely that she can create space for a kinder voice to allow for internal calm and acceptance even when life is imperfect. As she grows her wise, nurturing voice, she can stay calm when faced with challenges that are out of her control.

My wish for all of us is to have a voice inside our heads saying that we don’t have to be perfect in order to be good enough. When we can be kind to ourselves, we do better at being kind to our children. And our partners. And the world around us. I call this “Living imperfectly with great delight.” It’s finding joy in spite of imperfection in ourselves, our relationships, and our circumstances.

The image above is this woman’s daily reminder that it’s ok to be imperfect. And the story of her work in therapy is shared with her permission.

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