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Earth to Yogi: Perfection is a Myth

Recently in the 40 Days to Personal Revolution Program at Radiance we have been focusing on one of the Baptiste Laws of Personal Transformation: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone.

As part of this exploration we have been asking ourselves what beliefs, often long held and sometimes worn out are running us and our lives in a way that holds us in what we perceive as our “comfort zone.” The reality for many of us is that the comfort zone is actually a place where we stagnate and frustration and self-doubt, even self-pity arise. In the language of yoga, these beliefs and the habits that they fuel are called samskaras. Samskaras are like ruts in the road that we’ve gotten our wheels trapped in and that we unconsciously allow to dictate our life’s path. Identifying them and then having the courage to move out of them into uncharted territory – being willing to break a new path, is what getting out of our comfort zone is all about.

What I am realized is that while small victories like making a sales cold call, attending a social event on a whim, being open to trying a new sport, or cooking a new healthy recipe for dinner, are all ways of practicing this, there is a deeper truth for me underneath simply shifting my habits.

The belief holding me in stuckness is that perfection is the goal. My entire life – even as a child – I have felt an undercurrent of anxiety. Sometimes the stress gets so high that it causes illness in my body – primarily these days as migraine headaches.

I have been punishing myself when I haven’t lived up to some abstract set of expectations. One of the roots of suffering is unmet expectations and I’m realizing that often I suffer because I haven’t met my own perceived expectations of others – but it’s all a made-up illusion.

The myth-buster that just blew my mind – literally, this morning, is that perfection is a lie. There simply is no such thing. Perfection is something that our minds create – and often we create and then project onto others. This looks like thinking that our mother will be angry if we don’t come home with an “A,” or that our friends won’t like us if we’re not wearing the “right” brand or latest fashion. As an adult it takes on many faces – for me it has ranged from believing that if I’m perfectly groomed and outfitted at a nice restaurant or event that people will recoil in disgust and mockery, or if I don’t get my businesses email out exactly on the first of the month or update a particular part of our website – or even get the shampoo dispenser repaired immediately in the locker room that all would be lost.

A wonderful example of perfection as a myth can be found in the art world. Certain paintings are beautiful and spectacular – perfect expressions – and others are failed mishaps. But is that really true? How often have you gone to a museum and stared at some famous piece and thought – what is that? I could have vomited on paper and it would look no different.

And this fear of not living perfectly, not creating perfectly paralyzes us. I have certainly fallen into this trap. I wait to embark on endeavors big and small until I am sure that I read to give a peak performance. Which means often, I am not doing and living, but wallowing mentally in self-flagellation for why I can’t my act together and achieve, achieve, achieve. It’s enough to give anyone a headache and make them want to crawl back under the covers and hide.

It also exhausts us. The trap is in the striving for something that doesn’t exist at all – and then of course never being able to achieve it, yet still believing that we can.

For the first time I realize that life is not about striving to be perfect, and that if I am not perfect the world won’t fall apart and everyone isn’t going to despise me. In fact, it’s most likely the opposite! How can people relax around me if what they perceive is a lack of intolerance for imperfection – in myself, them or circumstances – that’s not fun and free! It’s more like being around a volcano that could erupt at any moment! Whoa – I am so present to that impact on others now!

My husband has throughout our relationship been good-naturedly threatening to smear me with mud or push me into a mud puddle at some unexpected moment. I actually had the opportunity to jump into a mud pit with him at one point, but didn’t. The closes I came is getting a mud treatment at a spa and jumping in the ocean to clean it off. I had been resisting this attempt of his to break me of my perfection habit. This morning I realized that even if I had obliged I would just have been doing it out of a desire to please him and be more “perfect” in his eyes as an imperfect person.

It wasn’t until this morning when I realize that perfection is a myth and doesn’t even exist at all, except in the subjective ruminations of our minds that I finally got it.

And what I feel now is FREEDOM & RELIEF. I feel freer that I have at probably any other point in my life. Not free to be a slacker – but free to create from a place where there’s no fear of judgment. It’s only me being free to be me!

Take this mantra I’ve created (with a little help from my husband) and see if you too can free yourself of the constraints of perfection: It is simply: “Do Good, Be Good at It & Be Authentic”!

 

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