I was about to write “New Year’s resolutions can add to the pressure we feel to be perfect…” Then I thought about it and realised that we are almost always under pressure to “be perfect”.
The holidays are fraught with pressure around social events, gifts, meals, family and relationships. Come February and we face a bombardment of messages about “perfect” love and romance on Valentine’s Day. Before long the annual push for the “perfect” summer body will begin, along with the expectation of dreamy holiday to show off said body. Before we know it, we’ll be back to Christmas again!
Our culture loves to judge and critique. There is always something to aim for, whether it’s more money, better legs, a bigger house, or a sexier relationship. Once we step on that perfection treadmill it is hard to step off. We start measuring ourselves by impossible standards and become fearful of taking a break or falling short.
Perfectionism can seep into every part of our life, including yoga, and when it does, we lose something precious. We lose the joy of doing things for their own sake. When we are chasing an exterior measure of “perfection” we can’t experience the activity in the moment. Instead of mindfulness, we cultivate anxiety.
There is no easy solution for perfectionism. When we get something right, there is an intoxicating feeling of satisfaction. The problem is it that this is external and temporary. If someone does “better” we immediately feel bad. Genuine well-being and happiness is based on knowing that we have done our best. Not on measuring up to someone else’s idea of success. In order to cultivate that internal satisfaction, we have to be willing to trust our own minds, bodies and values.
These words, from B Grace Bullock, offer a new way to think about “perfection”
Yoga is an exercise in befriending our imperfection. You stand up, wobble, resist, thrash about, and fall down. And in that struggle you discover one absolutely perfect truth—imperfection is liberation.
Imperfection is the essence of being human. It is what motivates us to engage in svadhyaya (self-study), to change what isn’t working, and to accept what we can’t change. It makes living authentically possible.
Next time you’re in the studio, or practicing at home, set your intention to allow imperfection. Instead of chasing an impossible idea, give yourself space to sink deeply into the unity of yoga, and your life. Feel what you feel, move mindfully, and don’t be afraid to fail because that is when something new and beautiful happens.
Share your thoughts on perfection in the comments.