I had a really interesting experience the other day. I was getting on the G train to go home after yoga class. I was sweaty, my hair was frizzy, no makeup, and my chin was sporting this lovely red bump after too many celebratory donuts the previous weekend. I was also eating popcorn because I was famished after yoga. I say this just to set the scene because I normally feel that eating on the train, on the platform, or anywhere in the vicinity of the train is fairly gross. Suffice to say, not my best look.
So, I’m walking on the train shoveling popcorn in my mouth and this man walking off the train looks me in the eyes and says,
“You Are Absolutely Perfect.”
I laughed! What fun! Really? Even when I look like this? I didn’t know…I don’t think anyone has ever said that to me before. I thought all these things and then; I just smiled and said Thank You.
I don’t know about you but when a complete stranger delivers a line like that, I see it as a divine message from the Universe. This man didn’t want money and he didn’t want my number. The exchange was very clear. He saw me and wanted to communicate a deep truth to me. I heard it and took it in.
I have been thinking about this concept of perfection for a while because it feels like something a lot of us battle.
What if someone sat you down when you were young and had this talk with you?
“These are the rules. This is how to make sure that everybody likes you, you always receive the love that you need, and that you never feel alone.
You must always color in between the lines.
You must be uninhibited/demure, wildly intelligent/dumbed down, utterly gorgeous/utterly plain, outspoken/quiet, blond/brunette, pale/dark, funny/not funny, voluptuous/thin, sexy/restrained, tall/short, etc.
You must be all of these things all the time at any given moment to suit the mood and to mold your personality to whatever works best for others.
You must not be too shiny and sparkly because it might be offensive.
You must alter and reshape yourself constantly because if you don’t, you will never receive the love you want.
You must be PERFECT.”
I am hoping that you would tell this person to shove it. If it were ever spelled out for us like that, it would be so much easier to not buy into it! Instead, we receive this message in all these subtle ways throughout our life.
You see that a guy you had a crush on chose someone else. The brain says, “If you were cuter, funnier, or looked like her, you would have been chosen.” You resolve to cultivate those qualities that she had so that you won’t miss out on love next time. You get passed over for a promotion. The brain says, “If I was more confident, more aggressive, looked more professional, I would have been chosen.”
These messages worm their way into our psyches and can affect all of our relationships-with our friends, our lovers, our bosses, our family, and most of all ourselves. If I were BETTER, if I just tried harder, I would get what I need.
There is nothing wrong with striving to be your highest self but it should always be according to your standards. Self-improvement should be on your terms and should bring you more joy, more peace, more ease. It should never be a shift that we make in order to accommodate others or to seek approval.
We know intellectually that we can’t actually be perfect. What’s going on in our heads isn’t logical or rational, it’s purely emotional. It’s a trap that keeps us from being our most authentic selves.
I attended a Manifestation Yoga workshop last Sunday with an incredible woman named Jennifer Pastiloff. Definitely check her out whether you practice yoga or not. She is a powerful, relatable, very human teacher. She makes you sweat and then she has you write. And what comes out when you’ve been cobra-ing and upward dogging is a whole lot of truth. A whole lot of deep, soul, uninhibited, this is exactly who I am stuff.
One of the writing exercises was “I forgive myself for ______________.”
We sat cross-legged, stretched our arms to the sky, lifted our hearts, and did a special breathing technique called Breath of Fire. We generated heat through our breath to burn away all the ways we beat ourselves up on a daily basis. It’s a breath where you pump your belly and do quick, sharp exhales through the nose.
It’s really, really, really hard to do when you are bawling your eyes out. Pretty much all of us were. You could hear the exhales punctuated with some ragged breaths, some sobs, and many, many sniffles.
What were we forgiving ourselves for? Not being BETTER. Not being PERFECT.
Here’s the thing. You already are.
You Are Enough.
YOU are the gift. In all your messy, imperfect glory.