“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quinlen
I’ve spent most of my life focused on Beauty, Perfection, and “Success”, I fall into the trap that “at some moment in the future, everything will be better,” even, “Perfect.”
My love and appreciation of beauty is a gift. I see it as a God-given gift – something I was born with. It was encouraged and nurtured by my family. I’ ve always been drawn to and inspired by Beauty in Art, Dance, Music, and the Human body.
Beauty and Perfection. Are they the same?
Most of my struggles come from my unconscious pairing of Beauty and Perfection. Here’s the problem, in search for Perfection, my ideal is never reached. Let’s face it, almost nobody’s can. The moment, I sneak up to the goal, desire or dream, I raise the bar. That, imaginary bar that is unreachable, setting myself up for failure, every single time.
Here’s an example: Dance is one of my passions. I danced as a child, teenager and throughout my adult years because I loved it, and still do. I didn’t dream of becoming a Professional Dancer. Dance was a place to experience beauty, joy movement and creative expression.
But even there, standing and moving in front of the big mirrors, I found myself focused on the Perfectionist ideal, the perfect Dancer’s body, the long lean legs, the “perfectly” arched feet, the choreography executed with precision – the truly unattainable. I compared and compared my body to others in the rooms and those I had seen on stage, and I never made the mark. I now practice more compassion, but this compassion didn’t come quickly.
Twenty “some” years ago, I was in the best shape of my life, as most of us are in our twenties. “My fighting weight” to quote my sister. My ability to recover from injury was the speed of light compared to the recovery time in my fifties. Yet even then from my perspective, my body didn’t measure up. I was never enough.
But for whom? My teachers? The Dance world? The current Hollywood standard of Beauty? My Modeling and Acting agents? The American standard for how women are supposed to look? The idea of what is attractive and sexy kept changing either from outside influences or simply from me raising the bar on myself and simultaneously lowering it on my self-esteem.
What about me? What about my opinion? I relied, even survived on what other people said was right and Beautiful and acceptable, I didn’t stop to consider my own thoughts. A lifetime of Dance, working out, loads of crazy diets and 26 years of Pilates later, my thoughts have changed. So has my practice of acceptance.
A friend once told me: “Change is a process, not an event”
Cultivating acceptance has taken a very long time, and it’s a process – a daily process. If I make it a goal or an event it sends me reeling back into my Perfectionist vortex and straight down the rabbit hole.
Today, I’m drawing my own conclusions about beauty, my body, and what’s true, inspiring and perfect. I’m redefining perfection. Which, by the way, is fantastically imperfect!
I do things I love because I’m inspired, to feel good about myself doing it. The truth is, I’m no longer willing to do something I love if it means setting myself up to feel bad. I now consciously choose activities, experiences, and practices that make me feel good and are good for me.
For the past 3 decades, I’ve had the honor of teaching movement. Not a single day of teaching goes by where I don’t observe someone talking negatively and even viciously about their body. It’s usually women, but not always. It saddens me to watch these amazing, gifted, educated and talented people spend so much energy berating themselves while doing something they enjoy and in some cases love.
Today, I’m making a conscious choice to celebrate the joy of movement, the gifts of movement and the creativity of movement: whether that is, a morning walk in the desert, a Dance class, Pilates, Yoga, a hike, or a gentle evening stretch. I marvel at the mystery my body is and the human body in general; this delicate, often complicated, powerful, ever-changing miracle.
3 Practices to stop negative thinking and boost self-esteem.
1. Meditate or Pray
Meditation allows for space and opportunity to step away from our thoughts and emotions.
This practice of stepping away strengthens the observer and helps us become a witness of our mind activity/thoughts. In this witnessing state, you can more easily step away from your reactions as well as negativity.
2. Move your Body
- Practice a short series of stretches for your back and spine.
- Sit in a chair and go through the six directions of the spine from Pilates & Yoga.
- Get on the Foam Roller for 10-15 minutes.
- Go through 2-5 rounds of Standing Sun Salutations.
- Take a short walk outside.
- Above all, move your body in a way you enjoy.
3. Practice Gratitude
Cultivate a daily or weekly journaling practice focused on gratitude. Being in a place of gratitude opens us up to acceptance and ultimately, love. We simply cannot be in anger, frustration, irritation, perfectionism or disappointment and simultaneously be in gratitude.
Journaling is a wonderful way to change your emotional state and move into joy, appreciation, and love. I spend 20-30 minutes daily in gratitude journaling. My writing includes giving thanks for my parents, husband sister, cousins, friends, colleagues, my meditation practice, my body, my health and even my physical health challenges which give me an opportunity for growth I may not have had… you get the idea!
I encourage you to be gentle with yourself as you commit to new practices or being more consistent with your current practices. Mindfulness lifestyle practices combined with consistent exercise and mindful movement will help you increase your awareness, gain greater clarity and release negative feelings and thoughts.
Yours in health.
If you struggle with Body Image issues, Perfectionism or Shame and would like to receive support and strategies for feeling better, please contact me: (520) 299-6541 or email@example.com.