This is the look I get on my face when I remember that things don’t need to be perfect. PHEW! They can simply be good enough. Can you see the calm and relief that then seep into me?
I once lived in the perpetual land of ‘striving for perfect’. Whatever my focus was on, it needed to be perfect or it was wrong. Maybe you know this place? When ‘striving for perfect’ is driving the boat, decisions are HARD to make!!! A rather hilarious (now, not then!) example of this was over 20 years ago when I gave good friends three different wedding gifts and ask them to pick their favorite because I was so stressed that I might pick the wrong one for them! The decision felt so hard at the time. If they’re reading this now, they are probably getting a good chuckle remembering this!
The holidays historically flipped my ‘striving for perfect’ focus into high gear as I hunted for the perfect presents, food, etc. And then I nearly broke my neck trying to get the house cleaned and organized so it was exactly how I wanted it for my guests. Does any of this sound familiar?
But here’s the great news: there’s another lens available to each of us: a lens of rightness. This lens often remains undiscovered because of life experiences like trauma, heightened anxiety from growing up with dysfunction or addiction, or simply from living in our culture. I mean, let’s face it, our culture itself fosters a lens of wrongness. But you see, there IS so much rightness in and around us! When the mind has been on the hunt for wrongness for so long, this becomes a default mode that’s wired into the brain.But guess what? It’s possible to help the brain become rewired so that this lens of wrongness is no longer driving your life and instead, the rightness around you suddenly becomes visible, too.
When I came out in my 30’s, my perfection tendencies softened a bit, which was a welcome relief and an unexpected perk (I also developed wavy hair, which I’d always wished for. Who knew I had to let go of the ‘straight’ to gain the waves!!!)!
But I’ll tell you what changed my experience with the perpetual land of ‘striving for perfect’ more than anything else. It was when I learned how to stop and NOTICE how it felt to be in my body while trying to get things perfect. You see, I’d never before stopped to truly notice. And it turned out it felt terrible! The sense of pressure in my body was intense. It felt like my blood was racing too fast. I felt an incredible weight on my shoulders. My brain didn’t work well because I was going at such a speedy pace. I was usually exhausted or starving yet unaware of it because pushing that hard required that I disregard my body’s cues. It was impossible for me to genuinely connect with others because I wasn’t even connected with myself and my family often bore the brunt of this. It turned out that ‘striving for perfect’ actually CREATED more anxiety and stress in me!
As I practiced pausing in the middle of the ’striving for perfect’ moments to notice how I was feeling in my body, I realized that my body and mind thought I was in the middle of a dire emergency, even if I was simply picking presents or preparing for guests I love so much. Isn’t that wild to realize how the nervous system responds?
As this current holiday season began, I noticed myself feeling swept up in the collective stress and dipping my toes into the land of ‘striving for perfect’ again. Have you ever noticed how contagious the frenzied energy of the holidays can feel?! The good news is that I’ve come to understand that when feelings like perfectionism, stress or anxiety show up, these feelings are RIGHT, not wrong. Isn’t that so contrary to what we often believe?! But guess what happens when you pause in the presence of feelings like this? It gives you a moment to notice how you feel in your body. And it gives you a choice you didn’t know you had: to choose the experience of holiday frenzy and striving to get things perfect or to choose the relief of having things be good enough so you can be present for the joy.
So why not give this pause a try in the weeks ahead as you catch yourself in the depths of the holiday madness trying to get it all done? Pause for a moment and notice how the stress feels in your body. Tuning in to this in the middle of the madness is the first step in creating a different experience with your holiday season so that time for being becomes possible amidst all the doing. Ask yourself how you WANT to feel this season. Consider the possibility that there’s a rightness tucked into the frenzied feelings as they are simply guidance from your Inner Compass, calling you back home to yourself, your body, those around you and the perfectly imperfect rightness of the present moment. They are inviting you into a different experience with them, one that’s easier, lighter, and makes more room for joy.
Ten years ago I would have given anything to know how to create a different experience with the perfectionism, anxiety and stress that ruled my life. I only knew how to experience the difficulty and wrongness of them. Discovering my lens of rightness over the last ten years changed this for me and today I know a different way, which is what inspires me to teach others how to do this, too. And I’m happy to report that it can be done imperfectly and still work great!
If the weight of your stress and anxiety is heavy on your shoulders, reach out to me. If you’re using so much energy trying to make things less wrong and more perfect in your life so there’s less room for joy or genuine connection with yourself, your kids, family or friends schedule a discovery call with me. We can talk about working together in private sessions and I can show you how you can create a different experience with your anxiety, stress, and perfectionism so that they no longer drive your life or feel so wrong. I can show you how you can discover your own lens of rightness. This might just be the best gift you’ll ever give yourself.
DO you notice yourself feeling sucked into the holiday stress and madness? How does it show up for you? I’d love to hear.
Know anyone who could benefit from reading this post? Take a few seconds to share it with them! It could be just the hope they’ve been looking for.
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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