The Perfect Black Tank Top

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I love to dance and will dance to just about anything. I have been taking an awesome dance fitness class since April, and every couple months the instructor has a filming day. She invites folks from the class to come in and she films the dances for her YouTube channel. So when I heard there would be a filming coming up, I was first in line. Then, to boost my dance-ego the instructor asked if I would come early to do a few dances in a small group. I was so excited and felt so special.

Jump to the day before filming and we are emailing to decide what to wear. It’s decided – black leggings and black tank tops. Simple. Easy. Everyone should have them. But I don’t. I have tons of leggings, but no plain black tank tops. No biggie. I’ll just go pick something up after work. Then, I start thinking about the black tank top I am going to get. I want it to look good, it should be worth spending money on, I want it to last. It has to be the right length, with a flattering neck line, oh and please don’t make my arms look too big…This is going to be the perfect black tank top.

I head to a few shops, but now that I have build up this mythical-life-altering piece of clothing – I can’t find anything. Suddenly nothing will work. Nothing is right. Nothing comes close. I tried on every single black tank top in 5 different stores. Lululemon? No. Lucy? Nope. Calvin Klein Performance wear? Athleta? Lorna Jane? No, no, and no. By the last store, my exhaustion from pulling on scuba-like athletic wear tops is pushing me to the edge. I’m feeling hot, my eyes start to prickle and tears start coming. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find the perfect tank top? Wait. Why am I crying over a tank top? And then it dawns on me; this is not at all about the tank top. It’s about me. Somehow in the last few hours my perfectionism got the better of me. The tank top was really a metaphor – what if I wasn’t good enough? I was going to be dancing with two great dancers – who did I think I was? Somehow I let me mind convince me that if I can at least look perfect and fit the part, no one will see when I make mistakes? Right??? Wow. This was a lot to ask of one piece of clothing!

Once the penny dropped I knew what I had to do, and it wasn’t going to be comfortable. I had to talk about it. Living an authentic and imperfect life is a practice. It does not mean that I don’t experience shame or that I don’t fall for the allure of perfectionist ideals from time to time. It does mean that I take the time to stop and look at my behaviors and practice responding differently.

So…instead of letting fear and shame drive me, I met some friends for dinner that night, and I shared my story of the search for the perfect tank top. I spoke my shame and exposed my fears. I admitted to them that I was afraid that I wasn’t a good enough dancer, that I didn’t have the right body, or the right outfit. I spoke my story out loud with people who were able to respond with the empathy I needed. I exposed my shame. And it helped.

Oh, and the next day – I bought a basic tank top from Target and gave myself permission to make mistakes at the filming and have fun anyway. And I did.

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