I am a reformed perfectionist. Yoga helped me get there.
I used to worry incessantly about the details. I would get wrapped up in ensuring the final product or event or…anything, was done to my exacting standards. At the time, I didn’t understand the impact my perfectionist tendencies were having both on myself and on others in my life.
In regards to myself, insomnia was a constant companion. In fact, in my quest for perfection in college, I exhausted myself to the point where, one frosty winter morning following my 4 AM – 6 AM on-air shift at our college radio station, I returned to my dorm room and collapsed halfway into my space and halfway into the hallway. Needless to say, some of the other residents on my floor were wondering what was up with the girl laying on the floor snoring! I would rehearse dance pieces over and over again, never feeling as though I really put forward a performance that met my personal expectation. I abused myself with food and my inner monologue, constantly pushing myself further and further until one day in my early 20s, I became so ill, I literally could not walk and instead dragged myself across my apartment floor…which is where my roommate found me and immediately demanded that I go into therapy (note: I did just that and am forever grateful to my friend who used some tough love in the moment I needed it the most).
As for others, my friends and family watched from the sidelines as I demanded more and more from my body, soul, and mind. In turn, I demanded more from them as well – although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. In order to not send me into a fluster, they entertained my exacting standards for everything in life. I remember setting up for a party I was hosting in my space one summer. My now-husband had never, up until that point, experienced my need to ensure everything was perfect for the impending arrival of guests and stood in wonder (and, without doubt, some annoyance) at the agitated flurry I was making when re-arranging the way he set up the plates and silverware on the table (note: I am grateful he chose to stick with me after witnessing my perfectionist edge…he’s been a witness to this journey of letting go).
My need for perfection lessened, but still persisted, with the help of therapy and self-reflection. I didn’t want to live in the space of demand constantly. It was becoming more and more exhausting keeping up with the demands I kept putting in front of myself.
There was one place of respite…my yoga mat. There, anything and everything could happen. Toppled over in a pose? No problem…just try again! Unable to get your leg behind your head? Meh, who cares?! Handstands freaking you out? No need to push myself into something my body and system aren’t ready for.
In short, I was learning the art of the “perfectly-not-perfect.”
My release of perfection has been slow, but yoga has been instrumental in showing me that the perfection I sought was simply an illusion and, more importantly, a distraction. If I could wrap myself in the cloak of striving for perfection, I could avoid the harder work of changing what made me unhappy. I could avoid the tough conversations. I could subvert my anxiety and self-consciousness by distracting myself with the hard work being a perfectionist entails. I could avoid…myself.
Yoga taught me there isn’t perfection to strive for…only the perfect that already exists NOW. Being in the NOW means meeting yourself fully and completely, just as you are. My process of meeting myself has taken time, but I’ve fallen in love with the person I am – because she is “perfectly-not-perfect!”
When I meditate and am fully embodied in the present moment, there is nothing else to consider, nothing else to do, no striving, no working toward something. There is only what is. Once we realize that every moment on the mat is this series of “nothing else to consider, nothing else to do, no striving, no working toward something” we are suddenly free to experience everything and realize that the perfect is right here with us RIGHT NOW.
I’ll admit that I get frustrated when I hear people talking about yoga as though it is a series of goals to be accomplished. As if there is some end game to our practice once we achieve a posture. In reality, there is beauty in the never-ending process that our practice provides because it has the ability to teach us about our divinity and the perfect that exists in us just as we are – regardless of if we ever do full Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose – splits), or not. It is the perfection in every moment of getting there…the beauty of BEing in that process…that is really what our practice can be about celebrating.
Celebrate your perfection, just as you are. Celebrate the perfection in others, just as they are. There is nothing else we need to do in that regard. When honouring our perfection in this very moment, we (and those around us) are suddenly free of expectation, free of the to-do list, and free of the disappointment that comes with striving for something that can never be attained (because it never existed in the first place).
You might even fall in love with your “perfectly-not-perfect” self.