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March 19, 2015

The Insight that Finally Killed my Perfectionism.

I am enough

‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” ~ Marianne Williamson

Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that in order to be “good enough” I had to keep myself in line. I grew up, without even knowing it, a relentless perfectionist.

I value quality. I am a “can do” person. I am motivated to fix, change and improve.

That is my modus operandi and, in my best moments, it’s a great thing.

In its positive aspect, the desire to win is driven by a belief in and honor for the infinite potential of human beings. Yet, in its unbalanced aspect, it’s a punitive form of flagellation and re-play of conditions that were set long ago.

The “perfectionist” idea is so central to my identity that it never even occurred to me there was another way of being—until now.

Looking back, I have always not only set high standards of achievement for myself, but I’ve also had very narrowly defined rules for what I consider “good enough.” But strangely, I don’t think I’ve even once met these standards in an honest way.

I am always setting these bars, and somehow I never meet them. (In my line of work, I often talk about setting realistic expectations as a benchmark, e.g. “If the goal isn’t attainable, it’s not a useful goal”). I realized today that the way I’ve gone about “keeping myself inline” isn’t a positive motivator, but rather the very thing that prevents me from realizing success.

By nature, this approach is punitive—I have been punishing myself for not being good enough by continually reinforcing the idea: “I’m not good enough” because I haven’t met my goal (“see, I’m not good enough”, “see, I’m not good enough”, “see, I’m not good enough”). That’s the voice of my ever-present disciplinarian, watching over my shoulder with her scrutinizing eye, her ruler in one hand, threatening me with a “whack!”.

But who can perform their best under these conditions? How can I ever be good enough if I don’t ever allow myself the “luxury” of believing in my inherent worthiness?

Success and self-acceptance go hand-in-hand. I have the power to choose whether I succeed, and that depends on my willingness to accept myself for who I am.

Yoga has been teaching me this all along, of course, but I’ve never realized its significance in my every day life until now. In that forum, it wasn’t until I accepted the uncomfortable sensations in my body that my body changed.

Not until I accept myself as perfect just the way I am, at my very core, can I grow and be the best version of my true self. That is authentic success.

Of course, all of this sounds good in theory, but what are the practical effects of my realization?

Just like in yoga, they may take awhile to see. In my own life, I’ve found that strokes of insight don’t usually produce an immediate result, but instead take time to show up in my attitudes and actions. After this pattern revealed itself to me, I had to confront a few situations that challenged my new beliefs before they became “real.”

So, a secondary lesson in all this has been that insights don’t equal change. It takes practice and reinforcement for new ways of thinking and being to become grooved. It’s been a work in progress, but I beat myself up much less than I used to. Wow, that feels good.

Finally, if you take anything away from this article I hope it’s this: There is only one you. And only you can be it. The world needs you to share your vision, your ideas and your perspective. It’s precious—the only one of its kind. Every one of us, in our unique variations and perceived “imperfections,” are equal in our inherent, flawless quality.

Are you holding yourself back from success with your own self-doubt or criticism? If so, I hope you decide to free yourself! And if you need a little push in that direction, please enjoy this awesome scene:

Author: Megan Starkey

Editor: Caroline Beaton

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