What comes up for you when you hear the word perfection?

Many of us spend our lives striving for perfection, believing that we cannot live the life of our dreams until we reach this illusive quality. We put conditions on ourselves and beat ourselves up when we are not able to achieve what we perceive as perfection. We think of ourselves as failures because we have not been able to live up to a version of ourselves that lives only in our heads.

Let’s spend a few moments talking about that perception.

When we try to achieve our version of perfection we set ourselves up for that failure. How do I know? I spent many years in that place and I would be willing to bet many of you have as well. I tried to be something or someone I thought others wanted me to be, or thought I should be. I believed the stories I told myself about how I could not be happy until I reached an unattainable level of flawlessness. That included not only how I looked, but also how much I weighed, the size of my thighs or my stomach. I tried for years to get my curly hair to be straight, torturing myself with every method I found in magazines to straighten it, everything from ironing it to sleeping on huge rollers the night before class pictures. It was a temporary fix at best, and with the rain and humidity, the curls came back and with them my sense of failure; failure to conform to someone else’s view of how I should look.

Why do we listen to these stories about perfection? The underlying reason is we want to be loved and accepted. This constant striving to believe someone else’s idea of what we should look like, or how much we should weigh, or how we should act, can drive us more than a little crazy. Self-abuse lives right around the corner from perfection. Think about that for a minute. When we do not achieve our version of perfection, we beat ourselves up. We may engage in self hate talk, or tell ourselves there are things we cannot do until we reach an imaginary unattainable goal.

Can you relate? Have you ever told yourself that you cannot wear a certain outfit until you lose that last 5 or 10 pounds, or that you do not deserve to go somewhere or have something until you look a certain way? There is no limit to the things we tell ourselves in the quest to find perfection.

What if I told you if you stopped beating yourself up and loved yourself the way you are now, and gave your self permission to do the things you have been putting off until you achieve that unattainable goal, that you will have a better chance of getting what you want.

You will be enjoying your life now instead of waiting.

How is this possible? It is possible because when you start experiencing pleasure in your life now instead of putting off enjoying life until you think you are more worthy you relax. When you relax, you can slow down long enough to recognize your true essence, find your own rhythm, and the things that truly bring you pleasure. When you begin dancing now instead of waiting until you lose enough weight to look good dancing you experience the pure joy of dancing. That is where the alchemy is, in the joy of listening to your soul and doing what brings it joy.

A few days ago I found out that the “contact me” link on my website was not working.

I was duly horrified.

It was tested and it worked when my website first went live. I began to lambast myself for having a broken link on my website and wondered what someone who tried to contact me thought when I did not respond. It is hard enough for someone to gather courage to ask for help with their grief journey and here I was not responding when they did. I could have continued on this track until I convinced myself that I was useless and that I did not deserve to be helping people in this way, I did not deserve to publish my book, I did not deserve to…, but I stopped and took a deep breath.

Yes, it was deeply disturbing that people may have tried to contacted me and did not get a response but I reminded myself that I am human, the people who put my website together are human, and that the issue is fixed now. I said a prayer for anyone who contacted me and did not get a response, that they found what they needed. I also forgave myself for berating myself up about it. Yes, I am still horrified and embarrassed, and I have given myself permission to be imperfect and human. I want to give you the same permission.

When you find yourself beating yourself up, or telling yourself you cannot do “x” until you achieve “y,” there are ways to put an end to that construct and begin to move out of the self-abuse pattern and into a self-acceptance pattern.

Make a list of all the things you want to do and find yourself putting off. There may be many stories you are telling yourself about why you are putting them off. For this exercise, just write down all the things you want to do; do not censure yourself.

Make a list of everything that brings you pleasure; activities, people, places, food, and so on.

Continue to add to both lists as you think of more things.

Now look at both lists and choose one item from each that you can do right now. Pick anything because you do not have to wait until you attain perfection before you let yourself do it.

Contemplate how you feel when you give yourself permission to enjoy your life now.

Each day look at your lists and make a choice to enjoy life now rather than putting it off until you achieve the unachievable. The more you engage in your life now the more you will become familiar with what will bring you joy. The more you live a joyful life the better care you will take of yourself, your body, your spirit, and your essence. You do not have to wait to reach a version of yourself deemed beautiful by someone else’s standards because you are taking care of yourself from a deeper place, from a place of respect and loving-kindness.