Recovering from Perfectionism

I have a new model in which I choose to live my life by and find happiness on a daily basis, because if I let perfection (old model) be the driver of my vehicle, I will crash.

See, I’ve done this before and I’ve collided head-on… with myself.

In my late twenties, I was a junior high school teacher, and up until an awakening moment at the age of 29, I craved perfection! I made sure that I had the best grades in school so I could be rewarded by my parents and teachers with words of affirmation about their pride in me. Yet, the reality was that once one thing was complete and the attention faded, I was onto the next “achievement.” I spent zero time in reflection or stillness. Throughout my twenties it continued, as I completed two university degrees and yoga teacher training, coached sports teams, volunteered with organizations, and worked multiple jobs. But it was just NEVER ENOUGH (by no one else’s standards but my own.) I took this drive into the classroom with me and wanted every lesson, every conversation with a student or parent, and every report card comment to be perfect. There would be no rest until I knew I would be acknowledged afterward for my efforts in giving back to others.

This all makes sense to me now, after reading The 5 Love Languages and discovering that I feel love through words of affirmation. This realization accompanied months of therapy to resolve my discontent when I wasn’t being praised.

Too many times in my early adulthood I caught myself daydreaming of another life, one where every day I felt content and could give myself praise, rather than waiting for the next long weekend, summer vacation, or someone’s verbal worship… I needed to discover how to give myself this love, care, and attention.

In April 2016, I gave my resignation to the school board, got a one-year working holiday visa, sold all my belongings, and boarded flight for a year of self-discovery on the Gold Coast of Australia.

It turned out that when I stopped working 80 hours a week and volunteering all of my extra hours in between, when I stopped putting so much pressure and expectation on myself, I found a new way of living, one that is more in rhythm with nature, a lifestyle that is balanced, whole, nurturing and free of expectations. I set new guidelines for myself that would only ENHANCE my self-love and value. These rules were:

  • Get outside daily
  • Meditate: even if only for a minute
  • Find gratitude: every. single. day.
  • Rise and fall with the sun.
  • Rest
  • Nourish myself with whole food.

Notably, none of the above required another person: it was all self. And boy-oh-boy was it a lesson to be learned.

When this became my new normal, quite seamlessly things began to happen. I wrote a book and got it published. The book describes my experience teaching in an isolated northern community and bringing yoga and mindfulness to my classroom. Soon after, while sitting in my daily meditation, I realized with this new passive income I would receive, I had a gift to give back to youth and the entire idea of creating and a non-profit scholarship fund appeared. Within two months of writing my book, The Om Work Project scholarship fund was registered and my dream of sending teens and young female-identifying participants to travel abroad and complete their yoga teacher training became official. These opportunities have allowed me to move back to Canada and settle on the West Coast, a dream I’ve had for the past seven years. I am happy to say that my days consist of getting outside, teaching lots of yoga, sharing my book with schools and universities and having the opportunity to be only a ferry ride away from my sister.

I wouldn’t be here today if I waited for ‘perfect’. Now I just want complete.

My advice for anyone feeling stuck mentally is to begin to acknowledge your own self-talk. Write it down, observe, and listen. How are you speaking to yourself – is it true, necessary, and kind? Do you allow yourself to feel free, abundant and loved, or are you constantly in an argument with yourself that you need to do more, check more boxes off the list, make more money, work more hours, or exercise more? I challenge you to do this because I can speak from experience that more doesn’t equate better, and perfect doesn’t equate complete.

Do you dare to be different?