Writing this to you, I set up my own cafe experience on my couch, as if I am sitting in my local Starbucks or neighbourhood cafe. I've got my headphones on, jazz music playing, a coffee by my side (my last one before my quarterly detox) and a tiny bowl of raw nuts. I went through an emotionally upheaving few hours this morning, purged a million and one emotions, peeled another layer of my emotional onion, and I know that for the rest of the day I need to take it really easy on myself, to nurture what has happened, and to help ease the transition to my new state. From that big emotional purge came this idea for this blog, about the PERFECT YOU.
How many of you feel that you need to be perfect, both for yourselves and those around you?
Much of what was released by me were withheld childhood emotions and this ingrained need to be perfect for myself and those around me, and that if this isn't so, then it is as if I have a huge blemish apparent to all, and coping with that blemish on top of the perfectionism is an even bigger burden to bear.
I would not, by any means, describe myself as a perfectionist. I could tell you 99% of my flaws. Yet, ever since I can remember, the need to be good and perfect was instilled in me as a way of being. Now, as I grow wiser, I acknowledge that there are so many other ways of being - ways of being that I would like to embrace and include in my life more fully, like laughing at the little things and shrugging things off as insignificant. I do practice it. I teach it! I do it, but I guess that little part of myself needs me to do that perfectly too. Ha! I need to be perfect at being ok with being imperfect. How can one be perfect even at that. You try, that is the perfection, the trying.
When I was young, around 14, 16 or so, I had found a quote "imperfections are perfection". I wrote it in all of my journals and notebooks, and had it pinned on my bedroom wall near my computer. I saw it everywhere and always. I believed it to my core, but my conditioning taught me otherwise. My conditioning taught me that perfect didn't have room for mistakes. Perfect was exactly that, flawless, no room for error. So, as I peel another layer of my emotional onion I realize that I am still, in some ways, trying to be perfect.
Have you ever felt so weak in your strength; so strong in your weaknesses?
Now, you will ask me, Donna how does that even make sense? I will explain. We all have a point, a tipping point, a threshold, a homeostatic line, that when we approach it from either direction (from positive or negative, left or right, ascending or descending), approaching this balance point means we find a congruency between our opposites. Our weakness may seem to be that we are really sensitive, yet when we feel balanced, that sensitivity becomes a strength. We are able to empathize with others, for example. In this way, our greatest weakness (emotional sensitivity) can also be our strength and our greatest ally (empathy, understanding and compassion).
How does this relate to being the perfect you? By acknowledging that we have a tendency for perfection, and we may also have a set of expectations for ourselves and, in effect, for others as well - we develop an awareness for this habit. Awareness leads to insight and change. For instance, when I notice I am being hard on others I also realize that this directly relates to how hard I am being on myself - to be the perfect mom, partner, coach, daughter, etc. Sometimes it may seem easier to leave and even sever relationships, since you can't actually be perfect for anyone. These relationships aren't necessary severed by conscious choice, but by a subconscious need to protect oneself from the work and burden of needing to prove you are in perfect condition to yourself and the other. This ritual is exhausting and can lead to severe burnout. Even though it may be very healthy and safe to distance yourself from extremely unhealthy and abusive relationships, the relationship you have with yourself is the one that ultimately needs the work. By noticing the habit that steers you towards "perfecting" yourself, simply the noticing is half the work!
Awareness is an excellent tool for self-discovery. I am aware, therefore I am awake to my apparent reality, thus I can make a choice and change my course of action. Ultimately, that is what is going to steer us in a new direction, the ability to choose and pivot.
Pivoting is another great tool. To pivot means I am able to decide to change directions. This means I am flexible in my ideas and able to accept other points of view to a situation. This level of pliability serves us greatly. It means we are lenient with ourselves and accepting of other outcomes - outcomes that can lead us to better solutions. Solutions or alternative ways of being that can serve our growth and our expansion as spiritual beings, doing our work on this planet.
Expressing emotions through words, writing, song, movement or dance is another excellent tool for moving the feeling and giving it a way to flow and move through you. As I mentioned at the very beginning, it is like peeling yet another layer of the emotional onion. We are complex beings, and one emotional onion needs time to peel and express. Some people need to cry, others yell, and others break out in laughter. All of these expressions move emotion out of the body. We are not trying to throw away these emotions, simply to shake them, move them, change their habitual way of being, so that they find a new route and if they are no longer needed to protect us (usually from our childhood memories and abusers), then they are freed through this movement to lovingly leave their residence in our bodies.
Breathwork is an amazing tool I have used for years to work with the emotional body and move emotion. In Kripalu yoga there is a beautiful technique called B.R.F.W.A. which we call bre-f-wa, and stands for Breathe - Relax - Feel - Watch - Allow. Your emotions may feel like rollercoasters at times, and once you reach the peak it feels like either you may never come down, or there may be fear for how far and fast you might come crashing down. Emotion comes, breathe. Relax into the breathing and the feeling of the feeling. Relax into your body and breath, as it moves, how it moves, the quality and frequency of the breath. Feel what is happening within you. Feel where it is happening. If you slow down and deepen your breathing, the feelings themselves become much less scary. If you watch what is happening within your body or mind as if it is a movie, it takes away any crippling grip that the thoughts may have on you. As you breathe, relax, feel and watch, then you slowly learn to allow. You allow the feelings (they don't own you); you allow them to exist, to move, to be, to express. This process can allow you to process any emotion you may be feeling. Combine that with some of the above-mentioned movement like dance, fitness, or mind-body techniques such as yoga or tai-chi (for example), and you have a beautiful framework for helping to process emotions and habits.
Perfection is in the progress ;)
Can we ever be perfect, and why even try? Rationally we can understand that there actually is no perfect, that perfection is a flawed concept in our imperfect world. Even if we aimed for perfection, there are so many variables in life, improvements, alterations, discoveries, etc. that in effect disprove any notion that perfection can exist. We are SO falsely given this idea of perfection in our childhood, school-aged years that there is some "perfect grade" that we can achieve, but that is also in the eyes and perspective of the teacher or teaching method. Even in math, a very linear and calculated subject, we recently debated this with my 12 year-old son, the answers may be final but how one gets to the answer can be varied and incoherent with the teaching methods one was shown. That child can still be correct in what they see and how they prove it. Perhaps they see something the rest of us do not, or perhaps they don't see what we see, does that make them wrong? I think not. Yet, growing up with these strict, calculated measures, it placed within me this pressure, measure, this compass, that couldn't stray very far from its appointed direction.
What's the solution? Awareness of the habit - pivot, express, move, and shake up the response to create a new direction.
As I write this, a pigeon comes and sits directly in front of me on my balcony, a first after 3 years of living in this home. So I look up the symbolism of pigeons, similar to doves, and it is love, grace, peace, They may also represent sacrifice. So I add, sacrifice of the old ways of being to grow gracefully and lovingly into the new way of being.
I hope I have given you some ideas of how to handle flare-ups of old emotions, ways to ride the wave of emotional episodes, and ways to change course from habitual actions or reactions that haven't served you, such as the need and expectation for perfection of self and others. Processing these old emotional frameworks and giving them new direction, it doesn't need to be done overnight. It is a process, not a perfect. It is about progress. Maybe our new motto can become:
Perfection is in the progress ;)
Need help to navigate these waters? I am here for you.