This post is composed of the Sunday Self-Reflection and the Monday Talk and Guided Practice, two of the three parts of my Mindful Awareness Practice Support Membership (MAPS) from the week of March 20th, 2016. For more information about MAPS Membership please click here.
This Self-Reflection was inspired by a quote I heard a few years back from actress and author Jane Fonda:
"…we are not meant to be perfect, we are meant to be whole."
How did you respond to this quote? What does being perfect mean to you? What does being whole mean to you? When you reflect upon each quality, how does each one make you feel? What thoughts, memories or physical sensations arise? Take some time to reflect upon and/or journal about your experiences, with a spirit of learning and increasing self-awareness.
Working on yourself to become the "best that you can be" is an honorable quality for anyone who wants to experience work and life success. It's important to bring an attitude of excellence to perform at your highest level, and those who set high standards are typically high achievers who don't just do to the minimum to just "get by" and live a life stuck in mediocrity.
However, when one's level of self-expectation becomes obsessive, their behavior can become irrational and self-defeating. Chasing after perfectionism is counterproductive and highly stressful. Clinical studies have shown there is a correlation between what I call "toxic" perfectionism and depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health problems.
Perfectionists cannot live in the moment. Their insecurities drive them to put unreasonable, self-imposed demands that only allow them to focus on the past and their weakness and not on their strengths. There is a constant sense of urgency to protect the future. This can backfire, creating the reverse effect - procrastination and unproductivity.
When we strive for perfection in ourselves we are more prone to judge others. When we strive for perfection in ourselves we often attempt to control everyone and everything around us. When we strive for perfection in ourselves, we block out true acceptance and forgiveness toward others.
And since we share the world with our fellow imperfect human beings, if you seek perfectionism you will alienate yourself from everyone else and even become devoid of empathy. You actually impede authentic success to take place in your life.
If one's self-worth is dependent upon the expectations, ideals and approval of others, the individual will feel even worse when they feel they fall short. This causes them to mentally beat themselves up, what I consider an act of self-violence. When unrealistic goals are not achieved, feelings of depression, anxiety, and a series of psychological disorders can follow.
Mindfulness practices that foster greater self-acceptance are highly beneficial and can be part of an empowering self-help approach; that is, if your perfectionism is not at an extreme level and creating problems in multiple areas of your life.
However, if your level of perfectionism is causing other behavioral, health or situational problems, it is recommended that you seek the assistance of a licensed mental health professional or psychotherapist to work with you. This is an act of power. The most important thing is to be kind, compassionate and caring toward yourself as you work to let go of old patterns and establish new ones.
Talk and Guided Practice: "Wabi-Sabi Meditation"
Suzanne Matthiessen has been teaching, coaching and writing about holistic approaches to mindful awareness and integrated wellbeing for over two and one-half decades. She presents mindfulness as an awareness-sharpening Life Skill that can benefit literally every aspect of anyone's day-to-day life, personal as well as professional. Whether it's within our home, relationship, workplace, educational, social, community and service environments, she teaches that mindful awareness can grant you greater physical/cognitive/emotional/spiritual balance, presence and engagement with the people, situations and tasks in front on you - as well as with yourself.
Suzanne has taught in-person and live/online basic, intermediate and advanced mindfulness courses for employees of large organizations, mid-sized companies and small businesses, as well as the general public. Her experience has taught her that when mindfulness training is offered within an organization of any size, if it does not become part of their overall culture and transparently reflected and continuously supported by leadership and managerial staff, it is less likely to be adopted on a lasting basis. Suzanne believes Mindful Leadership coaching and training is not just for executives and managers of large organizations; in fact she's convinced that each of us has the ability to lead by contagious, positive and ethical example, no matter who we are or what we do. Her dedication to providing on-going practice education and support for everyone who may benefit is reflected in her affordable Mindful Awareness Practice Support membership (MAPS). For more information, please visit holisticmindfulness.org.