I have wanted to write a blog about human nature and our inexhaustible pursuit of Perfection for months but I kept holding back as, obviously, I wanted it to be perfect. I hadn’t collected enough quotes. I needed the “just so” image. The time had to be right.
So the darn thing just never got written.
I have also recently been stricken with the curse of wanting each class I teach to be a Magical Experience for every single student. As a result I berate myself if I “mess up”, confuse my left and right (again!) or say something bizarre…”and twist from the lower nibs”.
But I do not expect perfection from my own teachers. I do not expect to be enlightened and transformed after every class. Quite often I leave feeling inspired by a word or phrase but that’s a bonus not an expectation. Mainly, I just want to do some yoga, lie down at the end and then feel a bit smug for going.
How many of us are held back by the pursuit of perfection?
We all do it and with social media revealing everyone else’s glittering lives to us 24/7, we expect to have the perfect body, home, career, relationship and family. Even our meals have to be insta-perfect. Perfection equates to success and happiness. Hmm…
It is lucky I have a 5 year old to teach me some life lessons.
On the school run this morning she had written a topical, festive book ‘Abawt Crismis’. It is September after all. She wanted to read it out to her class but was getting upset that she couldn’t read some of the words.
“Darling”, I said. “Don’t worry about the exact words, just read what you wanted to say and show them the pictures. They won’t know that it’s not exactly what you’ve written.”
“BUT I WANT IT TO BE RIGHT!”, she wailed.
Parenting tip 1: If all else fails: distract them with an obscure metaphor.
“It’s like this”, I said, “if we went to the café for breakfast and ordered you the best breakfast you could think of. It might have a sausage, egg, beans, toast and maybe Nutella on top! But what if they didn’t have any Nutella? You might be sad for a moment but you would still enjoy your very yummy breakfast, wouldn’t you?”
“Mummy, I do not understand what you are saying to me.”
“My love, sometimes in life you just don’t get any Nutella. This is not your fault and it’s ok. You just make the best of what you do get. And sometimes you can’t read all the words in your story and that’s ok too. Your friends will still love hearing it and looking at your pictures, even if you are making it up as you go along. They won’t even know you are not saying those exact words.”
I still do not know if she got the point I was trying to make but she went into school happily enough and read her book to her class. I am sure it went down a storm.
I felt her pain as a budding author. For everyone who creates something from their heart, the pursuit of perfection is a right royal pain in the arse.
Because perfection is a transient idea created in our mind. It lives in fleeting moments. It is a reflection of how we feel at any given time. It isn’t a solid, lasting thing so how on earth can we possibly replicate this in life?
We are blessed such powerful imaginations that we can imagine the impossible to be possible and frequently do.
How we can rewire this very annoying tendency of requiring perfection in every aspect of our lives?
Care less about things that do not matter.
In fact, care less about most things. Read “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” by Mark Manson and find yourself nodding in agreement to every page.
Understand that imperfection is a natural state of being.
The Yoga Sutras teach us that suffering is universal. Buddhists say that life IS suffering. Christians that suffering leads to eternal joy. Let’s face it, whatever your inclination, once you accept that imperfection is a natural state of being and stop expecting there to be no hardship or pain then you will be more content. Things can only get better. And there HAS to be pain and suffering for happiness to exist. Because…
Imperfection leads to growth.
Where there is imperfection, there is challenge and we need challenge to grow and develop. We learn from our mistakes and our physical and emotional anguish teaches us how to avoid pain in the future.
Your body, your practice.
Be honest with yourself about what your body needs and adapt your yoga practice accordingly. Don’t just do whatever everyone else is doing or what you think you should be doing. Be brave, take your practice up or down a notch as needed by you and modify poses to suit. Ask your teacher to advise on specific variations to suit your body. I am careful with Forward Folds as my sacroiliac joint feels unstable after having my children and I prefer Plough to other inversions as it opens up my tight shoulders. Have the practice that makes YOUR body feel good.
The pursuit of perfection holds us back.
It stops us from living a full, enjoyable life. We live in fear of getting it wrong and failing. We may be so afraid of not achieving perfection that we don’t even try to fulfil our dreams.
I don’t want to live like this, do you?
I want to enjoy eating my Nutella-free breakfast, teaching my non-transformative yoga class and reading my little girl’s misspelt Christmas story.
I hope you do too.
**Spoiler alert – the elves save the day!**