I typically characterize myself as a perfectionist. I tackle tasks I know I can complete and I complete them well. I make sure no detail is left unconsidered and take pride in a complete job well done. For many years of my life, I saw this trait as a positive. What I put out to the world meant I’d always been seen in the best light and all those who encountered either me personally or my work would be impressed with what they saw. Recently, however, I have come to see this trait as a negative rather than a positive, and have found that in forcing myself to make peace with imperfection I could find new strengths and find out what I am truly capable of.
While I always knew this trait and quality existed in my academics and my work, I did not know how deeply rooted this idea was in my body and mind nor how much if affected my life across all areas. This month, as I commit to a yoga practice, I have found how unsettled I am with what I characterize as the imperfections of my own body and my bodies abilities. Anyone who has ever taken a gym class with me knows that flexibility is not my thing. So much so that I get frustrated after each class when the instructor leads a group stretch and frequently end up either doing my own thing or leaving the studio completely to avoid stretching, especially in front of others. While I have always found yoga to be a calming practice for my anxious mind, I find a tension that exists between my mind and body each day on the mat as I am confronted with the limits of my body and what it can achieve. I see my inability to hold a perfect downward dog or standing forward fold (with straight legs) as something to be hidden, to be kept for my knowledge alone, something that I do not want to be public knowledge. My first reaction to these perceived short-comings are that they are not compatible with the persona I want to share with the world. But a few short weeks of yoga has taught me I must make peace with these imperfections in order to succeed.
This week on the mat, I practiced silencing the negative thoughts in my head that would bubble up as soon as a difficult asana would be mentioned. I forced myself to go deeper into each, learning to accept that my best would be good enough, even if it was not what I perceived to be a perfect iteration of that posture. I quickly saw there was so much freedom to be found in learning to be okay with these imperfections and that taking the chance to explore the things that are difficult can provide great value when attempted and done with my 100% best effort. Importantly, I realized that it was okay if my best effort didn’t result in what I perceived to be perfect and that growth and advancement were found in being comfortable with being less than perfect.
I share this experience and message with you all because I truly believe it is so applicable to so many challenges that many of us face. Whether in our studies, professional life, in relationships, on the yoga mat, or in the gym, we all face circumstances that scare us as we are seek to better these aspects of our lives. After having this experience on the yoga mat, I personally am striving to take this lesson to other areas of my life by going outside of my comfort zone of perfection at my job, with this blog, and in my workouts. What areas of your life can you apply this message? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences too!