Hello dear friends!
Something has been weighing heavy on my mind the past couple of weeks, and that’s the topic of perfectionism in the realms of health, wellness, and spirituality. And boy, is that stuff rampant! It’s so infiltrated that we often don’t even see or recognize it most of the time, and it masquerades under such trending buzzwords like “self-improvement” and “positivity”. And who wouldn’t want to cultivate those things? I’m definitely on board.
But the problem lies in our too-often militant enforcement of these ideas and rituals in order to reach a certain goal…because we feel like we aren’t enough just as we are right now. And that is especially transparent in the health and wellness community, because the goals are both concrete (e.g. I want to lose ten pounds) and socially enforced in a positive manner. Nearly every advertisement today plays off of our desire for self-improvement and change. We want to be healthier, fitter, prettier, more adventurous, more well-liked, more spiritual. And we believe (whether consciously or unconsciously) that we won’t be happy/fulfilled/respected until we’ve reached these goals.
The truth is that that shit is only making things worse.
When you come from a place of “I’m not enough”, then you feel immense pressure to do everything perfectly in order to bring value to yourself. We believe that we should do this, we should do that. We should be getting up early and meditating every morning. We should finally give up sugar. We should be doing yoga every day. We should always think positive thoughts.
Well, I for one think it’s about time that we stop should-ing all over ourselves!
I admit, I fall into this way of thinking on a regular basis, even though I am consciously aware of the kind of damage that it does. I think it’s just ingrained in our culture to obsess about things like nutrition, exercise, and spiritual practice. We hail the most dedicated among us. Those who sit on the cushion every day for two hours, those who roll out their yoga mats first thing every morning, those who eat 100% clean all the time and never cheat. We somehow aspire to be them, and then feel horrible about ourselves when we fall short.
This shaming is particularly sharp in the chronically ill community, where all of us are desperately trying to heal our bodies and spirits, and we feel like we’ve failed when we aren’t able to miraculously cure ourselves through our diligent actions. I am no stranger to the crushing blow of yet another diet that failed, another natural supplement that I gave up on, another day of waking up still being sick and wondering what I could have done differently to have prevented it. And man, that is a slippery slope, my friends. The downward shame spiral is hard to pull out of, for every one of us, but especially those who are sick.
The (admittedly frustrating) thing is that the true healing can only happen when we let go of perfection and embrace the messiness and reality of our existence.
We just need to loosen up those reins we’ve been clutching so tight for so long. And not let our brains fly into disaster mode every time we skip yoga or space out during meditation or eat something with gluten. The anxiety that we’ve created around our health is frankly, crippling, and I’ve had my fair share of mild panic attacks over things like this. On one hand, I am a young woman living with a chronic illness, and on the other hand, I am entering the field of professional wellness and alternative healing. So trying to balance those two aspects of who I am can be a bit frightening at times. I get worried about people judging me or not taking me seriously because I’m not “perfect”.
So I confess, I do not meditate every single day, nor do I do yoga every single day. I do adhere to a mostly paleo diet, but yes, I do eat a cupcake or take milk in my coffee now and then. Yes, I still use prescription drugs to manage my sleep and pain. And there are lots of days where I just sit on the couch in front of the TV (the horror!) and don’t do much of anything at all. And I have the gall to call myself a holistic health professional!
And all of that is absolutely, positively, one hundred and ten percent…okay!
I think the world in general needs more messages of acceptance, but especially the wellness industry needs them desperately. People should be shown and told that they are beautiful, well, and worthy just as they are right now. Not that they should lose ten pounds or cut their caffeine intake. You are enough and you are worthy just because you are here on this earth, living this life right now. Not because you worked out every day this week and didn’t eat a single cookie. Screw that.
When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we need to rearrange our thought processes and start doing it from a place of love and treating ourselves instead of a place of shame and punishing ourselves. Get on the yoga mat when you feel that your body and mind are calling for that place of peace and nourishing movement. Choose the veggies instead of the bread when you truly want your body to feel good and energized and full of vitamins. And sit down a close your eyes to meditate because you know it’s an awesome investment in your mental health…and know that it’s perfectly okay if you don’t do it again tomorrow.
So right now, visualize what you have on your to-do list tomorrow and what your day would look and feel like if you accomplished every single one of those things. Now, I want you to drop the expectations and imagine your day unfolding with you having nothing to change about yourself and nothing to prove to the world. Can you feel the relaxed spaciousness? It feels pretty good, doesn't it?
I’m a firm believer that healing adventures are just that…they’re adventures! Things will change all the time, things will happen spontaneously, and things cannot be forced or anticipated. Healing doesn’t happen when you follow a strict formula of x,y, and z, it happens when you let go and allow yourself to be enough right in this moment. So I urge you to reflect on your life right now and pay attention to your motivations behind the actions you take every day. When you go to spin class, are you coming from a place of love and enjoyment or a place of shame and perfectionism? What about when you do your pranayama exercises or write in your journal? Or cook your meals? Or say your prayers?
Perhaps it’s time for all of us to free ourselves from the shackles of health-focused perfectionism and feel what it’s like to roam wild and free, knowing that we are flawed and awesome?
Tell me your thoughts.
And as always…
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~