Perfectionism is something that I tend to struggle with. I used to be shocked when people would tell me that they thought I had it all together. To me it felt like I was a mess! I went to bed with a running list (and sometimes I had an actual one) of things to do that I could never finish. I just never felt good enough.
We can struggle with this in several areas of our lives. We can take something that is supposed to be healthy and then turn it into stress. A run can suddenly become excruciating as we judge our steps, our breathing and our speed, rather than celebrating that we made it out the door and we’re working toward our goals. Instead of congratulating ourselves for meditating for 10 minutes, we judge ourselves for too many thoughts, shifting too much or not meditating for 30 minutes. Perfectionism robs us of our joy.
When you’re a perfectionist you argue that you are trying to be the best and other people just can’t see that. The truth is that perfectionism doesn’t come from a deep desire to be the best, but from a fear of not feeling like your good enough. Deep down there’s a fear a failure and how you will think of yourself, as well as how others might view you. There’s fear that if people see how imperfect you are they may feel about you the way that you feel about you.
The only way to start to conquer your perfectionism to accept and love yourself, but that doesn’t happen overnight. People are slow to let go of perfectionism because they feel that it serves a purpose in their life. That it propels them forward and makes them better. They don’t know how to function in life without it. They feel that it somehow gives them a competitive edge that others don’t have.
I hope that you can learn use meditation and yoga as a beginning step to conquer your perfectionism. In meditation we learn to be patient with ourselves. Thoughts, feelings and sensations come and we simply focus on the breath and begin again. There is no reason to judge, just feel and begin again. In our yoga practice we learn not to compete. A pose shouldn’t be about what the person on the mat beside you is doing, or even what your body did yesterday. You should feel your body and breath as it is right now and move to with it, not against it. To be impatient or not gentle with ourselves can result in injury. If we don’t approach our practice with this gentle, patient and open manner, then we aren’t receiving all of the benefits of our practice.
So wherever you practice today, do it in a loving manner. And as you move from your mat to the real world try to take some of that attitude with you. When you make a mistake remember how you approached yourself on the mat and continue to take that approach with yourself. With time this will become habit. Look for ways to care for yourself more on and off the mat and with time you’ll also be kinder and gentler with others.