A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk to some business women. And I wore jeans!
Last time I made a speech to a group of business women I went out and bought myself a nice crisp new blouse and teamed it with a pair of black pants that I had saved from my corporate days for these “special business occasions”. In my mind the only way you could address business women was in business women attire. It was a little rule I’d made up and I needed to make sure I nailed it.
Of course, the blouse was made of synthetic material and made me hot and sweaty and the pants were completely out of date and made me feel frumpy. And so my business attire had the opposite to the desired effect. I no longer looked professional, I looked like a sweaty red-faced personal trainer in her mother’s clothes. And I vowed then and there to never wear that sort of clothing again.
So here I was a couple of weeks ago, facilitating a business workshop, in my jeans. The only difference now is if I felt like wearing the old corporate get up at some stage again I would. I no longer need to keep that vow… because I no longer need to be perfect!
Here’s the thing – these days I am a health coach, personal trainer and yoga teacher and founder of my business, Blue Sky Vitality. I can honestly make my own rules (and legitimately get away with wearing sweat pants every single day if I wanted…)
But it’s not easy being a recovering perfectionist. I can definitely be my own worst enemy at times.
Everyday I coach busy, stressed out working women and help them find the middle road. Most of them have tried some sort of hard core crash diet and exercise plan at least once but usually multiple times only to then completely go in the opposite direction of “letting themselves go” while piling on the weight, getting tired and unwell and feeling like they will never keep up with their families, their peers or their friends.
The one thing they all have in common is this little voice inside their head that screams “you’re not good enough. If only you could get your body perfect you will be worthy, If only you raise perfect children you’ll be admired, if only you get that promotion at work you will be respected.” It’s exhausting.
I had one of those voices too. Five years ago I was working in my corporate job, single, travelling a lot, lonely, sick, sad, drinking & eating too much. And my inner voice was saying the same thing… And it lead to a complete adrenal melt down (i.e. exhaustion) and to a couple of surgeries to beat endometriosis. I honestly believed that if I had a banging body, nailed every single sales target at work, always made myself available to catch up with friends (in other words was out every night) and found myself prince charming, I would be happy.
But guess what – that sort of perfectionism doesn’t exist (except maybe in the latest rom-com).
Here is what I know now…
- Perfectionism means not trying new things for fear of failure – so stick to what you know even if it’s not working.
- Perfectionism means a lot of guilt if you ever do things that won’t make you the perfect mother, wife, friend or employee (i.e. anything that is time for you, especially doing nothing at all).
- Perfectionism means taking results-based actions – i.e. calorie counting to try and get to a certain weight, or staying late at the office to look good to the boss, or over-committing to kids activities so you’ll be loved/admired by them or the other mums.
- Perfectionism means expecting there to be a destination to your actions rather than enjoying the journey.
- Perfectionism is a recipe for exhaustion, unhappiness and ill-health.
How have I healed myself from my old perfectionism?
It all started with meditation – after crashing my car, getting my first speeding ticket and breaking my wrist in a bike accident all within a couple of weeks my boss told me I wasn’t being mindful. That really resonated with me because my brain was rushing at a hundred miles an hour with all the things I “should” be doing and not paying attention at all to the present moment.
So, of course I got myself a “mindfulness coach” because I needed to nail mindfulness and be the best at it (whatever IT was…) Instead, thankfully, what I learned was that mindfulness practices relieve oneself from the need for perfectionism. No need to strive for results when you are just taking each moment as it comes. Oh, and it’s impossible to be perfect at mindfulness. And that’s the whole point!
I got started with meditation using the Headspace app. You can too – get it here.
Another practice that I aim to daily is writing in my gratitude journal. At least 3 things every day that I am grateful for. That way I am reminded that even if I had a less than perfect day there are still things to be grateful for. There are studies that show once we start to become aware of our gratitude the brain starts looking or more and more things to be grateful for. Pretty cool huh?
Emotional Freedom Technique is another thing I do most days. It’s weird. I don’t know how it works. But it seems to work for me! The best thing about it for me is the script you use as you tap “even though I “I am not mindful, am a loser, am fat…. whatever, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. Saying that you love yourself NO MATTER WHAT out loud is very powerful stuff. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, feeling unworthy is a big trigger for perfectionism. So if learning to love myself means I am safe to take imperfect actions because I will still have my own back.
Another thing that has been a complete game changer for me is the act of forgiveness. I need to forgive a lot of people in my life but mostly I needed to forgive myself – A LOT! It’s a practice I do very regularly and almost without thinking. Learn more about it here.
And nowadays I love the idea of “throwing everything at it” – if there is something I want to feel or achieve in my life now, I just throw everything at it. Come at it from all sides and I take action – not for the result but for the sake of taking action. No more procrastination.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have down time, rest days and periods of inaction but they are deliberate and I take notice of how nourishing they are (rather than mindlessly eating potato chips and/or feeling guilty for doing nothing).
There are no silver bullets. Life really is a journey not a destination and a lot of patience is needed.
And I now understand that the perfectionist in me still comes out and I love myself anyway.
I want to keep upgrading my life simply by crowding out the unwanted habits with more and more of what I do want. But as a Virgo, I am very practical and I like having a framework to fall back on. And many of my clients are looking for step by step guidelines too
So I’ve devised a framework called 30 days of imperfect action that I would like to share with you.
I am presenting my first half day workshop in Albany on Sunday June 11th at 11.30pm. In this session we will discuss all things perfectionism, the #30imperfectdays framework and do a little bit of yoga a meditation. Participants will also receive a workbook and some light refreshments. The workshop is strictly limited to 6 participants to allow for personal coaching. Early bird tickets are $99 until 31st May or $149 if any are left after that!