There are a few questions that I've been asking myself as something of a recovering perfectionist. And you can ask yourself these questions too. Are you motivated by ego or spirit? By fear or love? Is it a method of self-protection or are you showing up for your highest self and good?
You're listening to The Prana + Patchouli Podcast with me, Amy Davies. I'm a restorative yoga teacher and every week I'll be sharing practice tips, spiritual tools, breathwork and guided meditations to reduce stress and raise your vibration. If you haven't already, be sure to hit subscribe, so you never miss an episode.
Welcome back to another episode. Today, I wanted to approach a kind of big topic that's been on my radar for a while and that is perfectionism. It's one of those things that I think a lot of us struggle with. And it's this idea that we have to be perfect… that we have to be perfect and do everything perfectly. We kind of have these internalised high standards for ourselves. And as we talk about this, I want to explore this part of ourselves, especially if you're something of a perfectionist, with curiosity, instead of judgement. I talk about that on the yoga mat a lot but it's really easy to find ourselves judging, especially when we're perfectionists.
But this idea of perfectionism can go either way. We can either see it as a strength in that we have these high standards and we are intentional about the way that we put ourselves out in the world, that we're conscientious, that we care about the work we do and who we are in the world. On the other side of that we might see, or other people might see that perfectionism as a weakness, in the sense that it slows us down, it filters what we really want to share with the world, it prevents us from sharing our really true, raw, authentic selves with the world. But one thing that I've come to realise is that it's okay, it is safe to have high standards and we can pride ourselves on that. But there are a few questions that I’ve been asking myself as something of a recovering perfectionist and you can ask yourself these questions too. Are you motivated by ego or spirit? By fear or love? Is it a method of self-protection or are you showing up for your highest self and good? And when I ask myself these questions, especially when I feel that kind of perfectionistic tendency arising, it really helps me to drop the things that really don't matter. The things that are perhaps affecting my pleasure, relaxation, my health, self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment or having a satisfying relationship.
All of these things can be affected by perfectionism, and the truth is, there's no such thing as perfect, it doesn't exist. So we're always going to be reaching for something, which can lead to anxiety, depression, burnout, and even a persistent feeling of what I call “not-enoughness”. And perhaps you've experienced some combination, or even all of these things as a perfectionist? But we can start to change that pattern and change that story. So that that perfectionistic part of us doesn't have to control every aspect of our lives and we can relax a little bit more, we can go with the flow. And for me, the more I do this, I find that life becomes just a little bit easier. Things feel a little lighter as I let go of those habits and tendencies that really don't serve me or the greater good. So in this episode, I want to share a couple of things that have really helped me navigate this path as a perfectionist, so that I can just let go a little bit more, and I hope that they will help you do the same. And like I said, this isn't about judging ourselves, it isn't about seeing perfectionism as bad or wrong, or something that we need to remove from our lives or even necessarily heal. Like I said before, it's what is the energy behind that perfectionism? Is it self-protection? Or are we leaning into our highest self?
So one thing to ask yourself is: what is the origin story of your perfectionism? We all have one, or it might not just be one big story, it might be several things that have all contributed to that idea of perfectionism in your life. And for me, going right back to primary school. You know, I did well in school, I did well in class, and my teachers loved me, my parents were proud of me. And so it created this story, this idea, that success equals love. And that's something that I've carried throughout my life. Consciously, I know that I don't need to be successful in order to be loved, but that story has led to me showing up in a certain way, to having these internalised high standards, and believing that I have to work hard and create success. And if I don't attain that level of success, then I feel like I'm not good enough. And then there's also another story for me, which goes back to high school, and I'm sure a lot of us can relate to this. Where I kind of felt like, I was a little bit different to everybody else. I didn't quite fit in. Actually, I discovered yoga in high school and I've always said that the yoga mat was the only place that I ever felt like I truly belonged! But going back to this idea of perfectionism in high school, for me, it was a mechanism for self-protection.
You know, there's always that group of mean girls in high school and mine was certainly no different! And I think I developed this tendency towards perfectionism as a way of avoiding criticism, rejection, and even unkindness. And this is something that I think I still do today. I'm running my own business, I'm responsible for all the moving parts and the work that I create and put out there. And so for me, as this recovering perfectionist, awareness truly heals, because once you're aware of this pattern or tendency, then you can start to heal it or mould it. And there are a couple of ways that you can do that by releasing the hold that these stories have over you, and you might want to do a little bit of journalling to explore why perfectionism comes up for you. Can you trace those tendencies back to a particular origin story, or to several little anecdotes throughout your life that have come up that have contributed to this feeling within you?
And then one way, or one powerful way of clearing that energy, so that you can start to move forwards, so that you no longer have to let that perfectionism take over your life, control your life. I'm not saying get rid of it completely, especially, you know, if you do have those highest standards, it's not a bad thing. But when it controls your life, and it slows you down from sharing your gifts with the world, then there's something that needs to be looked at, that's coming up, so that this part of you can be healed. And so like I said, one powerful way to remove that power that it has over you is forgiveness.
And things like forgiveness meditations or just using a forgiveness mantra, and one of my favourites is: “I forgive you and I release you”, and just directing that towards anyone that may have contributed to that story that you've created. It's all a projection that we’ve created in our minds. So you know, for me, it might be my teachers, my parents… and I'm not saying that they did anything wrong by encouraging me and supporting me and being proud of me in school, but also forgiving myself for creating that story. Going back to high school and forgiving those mean girls, and anyone else that made me feel like I was less than enough, and you can do the same. It just releases that hold on your heart, that energetic connection. And you might need to cut those cords, if you have those cords connecting you energetically to other people. And so a cord-cutting meditation is really great, great way to release that energy as well. I have a couple of previous episodes on forgiveness and cord-cutting, where I share meditations and other tools that you can use to release these origin stories to help you overcome some of that fear-based perfectionism. And I'll put the link to those episodes in the show notes below. But like I said before, it doesn't have to be judgmental in any way. You can do this in a really loving way. Leaning into love instead of the fear and self-protection, and instead wanting to reconnect with your highest self.
And then the second step is to change the story. A really great way to do this is with a mantra. A mantra is just a word or a phrase that you can repeat to yourself either silently or out loud, and it just interrupts that negative flow, or the momentum in your mind, especially if you're getting wrapped up in one of these stories or beliefs. When it comes to perfectionism, (and this is actually my personal mantra for 2022… I always like to have one for the year, which kind of sets the tone for my energy and my intentions) and it's this: purpose over perfect. Or, you can say, “I choose purpose over perfect”.
So now, whenever I notice those sneaky self-sabotages of perfectionism, I turn to my mantra. It reminds me of my purpose in life, my why? Why am I doing what I'm doing? And once I connect to that, then the little things seem less important. I'm leaning into love instead of that self-protective fear. And it also clears up mental, emotional, and even spiritual bandwidth. And there’s this lyric from a Leonard Cohen song, and he says: “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in”.
And it's so true, that when we let go of that need to control, those perfectionistic tendencies, or that belief that, if we're not perfect, we're not enough, we block those amazing synchronicities and ideas and inspiration that can flow to us naturally, when we just allow ourselves to let go. When we have these unrelenting standards, I think we often underestimate how good or great we actually are in relation to the norm. Our lives tend to be filled with shoulds and we can be preoccupied with time and efficiency and making the most of every single minute. Even just talking about that makes me feel exhausted!
I remember once, in one of the business groups that I'm part of, somebody said, “it's okay to be a B plus, you don't have to be an A, all of the time”. And for me, this was really hard to understand. But the more that I've given myself permission, that it's okay for this to be a B plus today, the more I see how much energy this frees up, the more time this actually gives me because I'm not wasting precious moments on things that really aren't important. I can actually allow myself to speed up rather than that perfectionism, which I think actually slows us down. So that I can be my best where it really matters. The truth is, we're all gifted, but just not at the same things. So what I think is maybe a B plus maybe someone else's absolute best, and that is okay. So whether it's in relation to your work, relationships, creativity, parenting, on the yoga mat, or just how you show up in the world from day to day, choose purpose over perfect. It has a very different kind of energy and it reminds you of the truth, that you are on this earth for a reason and you were born as being enough.
And like the text, A Course in Miracles says: “Perfection created me perfect”. You already are, by nature. So just remembering that, and in those moments when perfectionism does flare up, and slows you down, or creates anxiety or other emotions that perhaps don't feel as good, remember my mantra: choose purpose over perfect.
I really hope that this mantra serves you. Take it out and test it in your life. And please let me know how it goes! You can connect with me over on Instagram, I'm @pranapatchouli. Either leave me a comment, or send me a DM and let me know what you struggle with when it comes to perfectionism. And try out this mantra, then let me know how it goes.
That's all I wanted to say for now but I’ll be back next week so I'll see you then!
I really hope you loved this episode of The Prana + Patchouli Podcast. If you want more support and inspiration for your practice, then be sure to join our community of seekers, feelers and dreamers, by signing up for my weekly emails at pranapatchouli.com. You’ll also get my free mini retreat to help you stress less and restore peace right away. I’ll be back next week with a brand new episode, so until then, from my heart to yours, Namaste.