Lifting The Burden of Perfectionism: How to Love Yourself Better
Everything is waiting for you.
Turn on this song: "Praying" by Kesha.
I open my eyes and I roll over to check on the time. 7:13am on a Sunday morning.
The jovial sunlight pulled me out of sleep way too soon and melancholy is racing through my mind already. This new life. I feel I am back at the beginning and at the end of having accomplished anything. I am almost 37 and I lost my publishing contract, my place is half-furnished, and I remain unclaimed.
I have some blurry plans to study journalism in the Fall of 2017, and I am working on the project of a lifetime. But that's not what comes my mind first thing in the morning.
What shows up in the morning dew is how I fall short from executing the perfect in my life.
I got up and made some Italian dark brew in my Ikea French press and I sat with that hot cup, reflecting on what I could possibly write for myself that I will return to when my mind drops in vibes and hope in myself.
Perfectionism. That's was it. The heaviest and most consistent weight on my mind.
Perfectionism is the ultimate flirt. It seduces us every day, pulls us in its dainty and irresistible grasp. It flirts with our heart on social media, in print media, in reality shows, in ads. We are told we must reach perfection everywhere, all the darn time.
Unaware of its charisma and magnetism, we begin to chase after perfectionism because those glittery images and impossible standards reflect back to us the beauty and perfection of our own being.
We begin to believe that if our life becomes perfect on the outside, we will retrieve what we unconsciously know to be perfect about ourselves. There is a lie that we don't often catch right away though. The lies shouting that we are not already perfect and we need to become more and more perfect on the outside to be ok in the world.
Well it's actually quite the opposite. When we learn to accept ourselves within, we see life as a wild, surprising, magnetic ride.
I am realizing that perfection is something I need to keep at arm's length so that I may not lose my heart and my worth in the impossible-to-win game of the perfect life on every level.
Is the myth of a perfect life (in love, work, health, style, friendships, image) the poison that condemns the worth of ordinary life? There is an aversion to ordinary life that perverts our ability to enjoy the simplest and purest joys of life.
When I stepped away from my thoughts this morning, post-Italian coffee and prayer, I felt that a sunny field opened up in my mind. A glorious field of endless possibilities that were waiting to present themselves to me assuming that I was willing to release the poison of perfection.
We were never meant to attain a one fits all perfection box -- we were born to live through diverse experiences to bring us back to our inner perfection.
The tornado of perfectionism : Expectations of perfection —> chase perfection —> Fail short —> Discouragement moves in —> Sentiments of depression —> Self-loathing —> Hopelessness —> Low self-esteem.
The perception is not being good enough is a byproduct of perfectionism. Perfectionism is self-condemnation and the most unfair attitude we can have towards ourselves. Shame expert and researcher Brene Brown said, “perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect." Perfectionism places an "all or nothing" filter in our experience of reality and each time we fail to attain perfection, we fall back into the perception that we are nothing and have accomplished nothing, which is a blatant lie.
I have to parent myself when my wound of perfection gets activated and erupts all over the place. I know I need to use heaping doses of kindness, of patience, of tenderness towards my life and everything it holds...not pointing my nasty, critical finger towards anything that is part of me or else I get caught in that spiral of perfection —> all or nothing —> failing at perfection —> despising life.
I know that my belief that everything has to be perfect to be worthy has been one of the greatest sources of unhappiness in my life. It's like an under-current that pulls me under if I allow it to creep into my mind even just an inch.
It's like a closet that I constantly have to air out. Thoughts that I constantly have to dust off.
Steps you can take to release perfectionism and love yourself —
- Step away from your thoughts. Are your expectations of how life should look like fair and good? Are your thoughts punitive wands that are just trying to keep you small or are they loving and objective about your life? Witness your thoughts and side with the most loving voice you can find in your heart.
- Who is the voice expressing itself in your head? Is it your strict mother for who you could never be good enough to receive her love and approval? Or is the distant dad you tried to impress every day of your childhood and teen years? Or maybe it's the voice of the ex-boyfriend who pulled you down so that he could feel better about his own shortcomings?
- Standards exist to inspire us to move towards who we already are underneath the wound -- NOT to freeze us into littleness. My standards are emblems of how I feel about my true self -- not branding a hot iron of impossible perfection onto my poor soul.
- Lift each other. By accepting our own imperfection and sharing our acceptance with others, we become living reminders that our humanity is worth the highest.
- Create your own definition of success. I have been writing for nearly 4 years now and I have really experienced success yet. Yes yes yes I know what you are about to write...success is in your own head. TRUE dat. We are, however, wired for recognition and not admitting that desire is a huge bypass no-no. I do have to walk myself back to the WHY of my writing. It runs in my blood and I am fortunate enough to have such a passion. I remember what life was like before I found my innermost meaning and it was a slice of Hell.
- Stop overgeneralizing. Another thought pattern I have to catch before it enflames every aspect of my life. Ideas such as "it didn't work out with him so I am meant to be alone" or "my last piece of writing didn't resonate with many people so I am not meant to write." Noooooo!!!! Failures are initiations penciled in our existence by the Universe to teach us something.
Every time I lift the fog of perfectionism, I once again see life as a vast field of bright and happy opportunities, a walking invitation to feel everything life gifts us with.
May endless curtains of grace fall upon you each day,