Why I Welcome My Perfectionism and Self Doubt

And living with The Fear

Like many of us, I have struggled with perfectionism. In my twenties, I thought perfectionism was a good thing. Now, not so much. People who know me might laugh at my self description as a perfectionist because it doesn’t really manifest in obvious ways. I left my obsessive habits behind (mostly) at the same time as I dealt with my anxiety with the help of a skilled mental health professional. Today, I let my kids run wild with messy hair and dirty clothes and faces and I write indecipherable text messages because I do not re-read them before hitting send. Does my life sound pretty free and easy?

But I also live with what I have come to call The Fear. A way of thinking that makes me doubt myself. Am I doing this right? Does that person think I’m an idiot? Am I an idiot? How can I call myself a yoga teacher when every time I sit down to meditate my brain immediately goes to my to do list? Who am I kidding? I better not try that because I might fail, and that would be a disaster right? If I can’t exercise for an hour a day 6 days a week then don’t bother at all. After 10 years of practice as a barrister at the Victorian Bar, with barely a day out of court, I am still sure that one day people will figure out that I am actually not as good at my job as they seem to think.

Instead of having them trigger the same old unhelpful reactions and behaviours, you can begin to respond to them with deeper understanding, purpose and thoughtfulness.

Does that way of thinking sound familiar? Perfectionism and black and white thinking. All or nothing. Thinking underlined by a deep self doubt. Yoga and Ayurveda teaches that you are inherently perfect, that you are part of the perfection of the cosmos and all you have to do is remember it. Your task is simply to crack open the layers of armour that you have built around you and be your real self. That’s a pretty radical concept in a world that tells us to work harder, lean in, transform our body and mind, adopt a particular lifestyle to solve our problems. A world that seems to promote above all the need to transform youself into a better brand of you. Alternatively, perhaps you can simply be who you really are. You can fail and make mistakes and still be perfect in every moment just as you are. So how do you translate this radical idea into you every day life and start giving yourself some of the kindness, generosity and benefit of the doubt that you give to everyone in your life?

It starts with acknowledging the parts of yourself that might make you uncomfortable—the anger that boils over at a minor infraction at the end of a long day, the jealousy you might feel for a colleague you percieve as more successful than you, the part of you who would rather lie on the couch and watch TV with a glass of wine than go to the gym or yoga class. You acknowledge them and then welcome them in. See them and accept them for what they are—not shameful personal failings, but simply small parts of you and your life’s experience.

When you hide away or block off these parts of yourself they can easily manifest themselves in sneaky ways. Like unpredictable blow ups, unkind words about others and excuses to not do the work you had set yourself.  If you leave these parts of you to the shadows where they currently live, they will continue to exert their invisbile power and make you react in the same old ways. If you can shine a light on these parts of yourself and begin to acknowledge them without judgment, then you can start to actively and consciously participate in how you respond to them. Instead of having them trigger the same old unhelpful reactions and behaviours, you can begin to respond to them with deeper understanding, purpose and thoughtfulness.

Changing the way you think and feel about yourself is not as simple as flicking a switch. It is a process you must follow, refine and continue to work on. Fortunately, the rewards you receive for working so hard on yourself can be truly life changing.