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46. Cultivating self-compassion around perfectionism

How many of us would say we have perfectionistic tendencies *waves hand in the air in resignation.

Perfectionism is something many of us can unwittingly creak under the pressure of, especially in times such as these. Striving to better ourselves, our capabilities, the work we do, the many hats we juggle – admirable qualities, but it can often manifest in a form of self-criticism. I'm not good/smart/clever/insightful/organised/approachable enough…. the list goes on.

These days I'm hearing from friends and loved ones comments such as 'I'm not doing a great job of home-schooling, I'm not able to juggle home and work as well as I'd like, I'm not handling stress very well, I feel I'm letting my family down, I feel I'm letting work down, I should have learnt a new skill, I should be able to do a triple back-flip and tuck jump whilst keeping my glass of fizz upright because that's what so and so can do now and he's a thousand years older than me…'

If you can relate to this, you might appreciate this poem,,,

If you can sit quietly after difficult news;

if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm;

if you can see your neighbours travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy;

if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate;

if you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill;

if you can always find contentment just where you are:

you are probably a dog.

– Jack Kornfield

It's important therefore for us to work with that voice, that inner critic and learn to find a way to accept ourselves – flaws, warts n all. Because let us face it – it's what we have and who we are.

We can support ourselves in a few ways,

  1. noticing thoughts and labelling them as judging thoughts, or critical thoughts and allowing them to pass by in our mind, as if they are clouds, they may be darker and grumblier than your average, but they are clouds nevertheless

  2. you can take the above one step further and start to count them too if helpful. It may offer great insight into how pernicious and non-personal our thoughts are. Thoughts can be the enemy, but awareness can be our friend, awareness can take us by the hand and lead us off down a much more thoughtful and less judgemental path.

  3. build on our loving kindness practice. By changing our baseline, spending time cultivating kind and compassionate emotions can impact positively on tough moods, thought patterns and perfectionistic tendencies.

  4. challenge the assumption that some of us make, that self-care is selfish, not for me, or you have not time for. Noticing too, that these are simply a thought.

Bell Hooks, American Author says…

'Self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it our other efforts to love fail.'

Our starting point is not flawed, there is tremendous goodness in all of us, we just need to find a way to burrow beneath the judging voice that inner critic to the well of brilliance that's there all the time. You are enough, you are good enough, smart enough, worthy enough exactly as you are.

And you'll find the flaws and the goodness in all of us. Often when it comes to self-judgement the language we use toward ourselves is that we are the worst, and the only ones doing so badly. So how do we remember the shared humanity of this? Next time you are with family or friends try this little experiment.

As everyone to raise their hand and ask:

  • Have you ever let anyone down?

  • Have you ever hurt anyone?

  • Have you ever given less than your best?

I bet you my entire trainer collection (and i love trainers so you can back right off) that every single person will answer yes to all of the above.

We are flawed, we are imperfect, we all make mistakes, and we are all connected to each other in that fundamental part that makes us human.

So important right now.

'Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo' AA Milne, Winnie the Pooh.

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