For at least 20 years, I have wished there was an eighth day of the week. A space in time that the outside world didn’t know about; a time to rest, play catch up, strategize, and invite in only what I wanted to. But with a little life and learning, my desire for the eighth day has turned into awareness that that eighth day is never coming so a better goal is to make the seven real days feel the way we want them to feel.
So what stops us? Mindset mostly. Finding that sweet spot between mastering the simple amidst the complex, understanding ourselves and then having the courage to be her, playing on our strengths, and that quest for lifelong learning, are the things that have gotten me closer to let my insides match my outsides and create the days that I want to have. But there is one thing that I know now has stopped me in my tracks - perfectionism. This feeling that we can get it all right, please all people, achieve all the things we want to and still put a healthy dinner on the table every night is something that so many of us wrestle with. It’s presence in my life is something that has affected too much for too long. The idea of perfect is good at setting roadblocks to progress that exhaust us as we try to navigate around them. All of my life, I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but it was always there bubbling under the surface and tiring me out. There was always a place I needed to steel away to recharge my perfection seeking system, to be alone so I could manage the pressure that I was letting into my life. That pressure can feel so real that it seems to dictate what we are “supposed to do” and if you follow it, instead of the instinct of your own heart, you end up so far out of alignment you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. The irony of perfectionism is that it keeps you from the moments of joy that are as close to perfect as life ever gets. Perfect only exists in tiny slivers …the moment a baby is born, the first light that comes over the horizon in the morning, the hug that comes at just the exact time that you needed it without having to ask. I’m sure you can add your own examples to this list if you slow down long enough to think about it, but life will forever lace these perfect moments with periods of struggle and challenge (hello 2020!) that are there to strengthen us and give us enough perspective to recognize what we value, what is worth working for in this life, and what is best left undone or unsaid. In breaking free from this perfectionist tendency of mine, here are a few things that have helped me free my mind and energy to create, love myself and others with compassion, and move more freely through my days:
STOP CARING OR TRYING TO GUESS WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK - as the old saying goes, “what other people think about me is none of my business.” The better question to explore is what do I think about me? Finding purpose and meaning in life doesn’t happen without making mistakes, failing, and falling down. We will never have the courage to do any of those things if we are worried about how things look to other people who, in truth, are more busy managing their own imperfect lives than worrying about what is going on with you. Think and act with intention, but by all means, it’s your life, cut the excuses and do what you want to do.
STOP COMPARING. - yes, it has been said, “comparison is the thief of joy” and whoever came up with that quote I would guess worked through their own perfectionist complex. Stay in your own lane. The voice in your head is your fiercest competition. We can waste so much energy trying to keep up and compare when our time is better spent figuring out and then honoring our uniqueness. My life isn’t supposed to look like anyone else’s. There is such deep peace in believing that we are the masters of our own path and that our way of doing things is unique to ourselves and exactly what will highlight what is special about us in a world that is begging to see it. I don’t care if you look different, talk different, believe different, or act different thatn me, real connection happens when you learn to be yourself and nothing beat the freedom you feel when you start to string together those moments of alignment.
Learn to Let Yourself Off The Hook - this life is here for us to encounter and enjoy. Enjoy what is, instead of focusing on what it should be, or some greater expectation that you have invented in your head. If there is a roof over your head, or a hot cup of coffee in the morning, there is something to be grateful for and deep contentment will grow from the seeds of gratitude if we allow it to. Letting yourself off the hook looks like deep recovery, down time, delegating, and quieting the voices in our head to do what we we want to do.
Newsflash, that eighth day of the week isn’t coming. The present is all we have. What are you going to do this week to be kinder to yourself, and enjoy the moments that flow naturally into your life? We can face imperfect reality with grace and inspire others to do the same. Give yourself a safe place to land, slow down, recover, drop the exceptions and just be…you’ll find out that feeling is as close to perfect as life is ever going to get.
I’m following my own advice and taking a few weeks off from my Sunday Blog for my own rest and recovery project. I will continue with daily microblogs over at Everyday Optimism, click here if you want to subscribe to daily micro doses of optimism to strengthen your mindset and find the beauty in the joy and the challenge of life. Or If you want to take some time to listen…here is a great conversation I had with Jason Dibilius last week on The Option podcast. We covered a lot, but you can always listen in that downtime you are going to give yourself:)