Be Light and Healthy

Becoming Your Imperfect Self

Posted on: June 5, 2011

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”  Anna Quindlen

Many people go through life aspiring to be perfect.  Intellectually, we know that constantly striving for perfection is an unreasonable expectation.  In our quests to please others or avoid being criticized or judged, we don a variety of masks when we deal with different people.  Eventually, our innate nature becomes clouded and we no longer remember the true essence of who we are.  Few people may truly know the real you.  In actuality, you may barely recognize the person you’ve become as you’ve strived for perfection and along the way began presenting different personas to the world.   Acting and speaking differently around different people causes underlying stress in your life.  It is natural to act somewhat differently in many situations, but when we are consistently trying to keep numerous aspects of ourselves hidden from others, we lose track of the masks we are wearing and gradually lose our connections to our intrinsic natures.

Often, well-meaning parents encourage their children to forego what they perceive to be outlandish dreams in favor of the safe path towards conformity and financial security.  Parents typically want their idea of a better life for their kids.  Unfortunately, sometimes they overlook the natural essence of their children and unintentionally pass their life fears onto them.  Even as adults many people are unaware of their subconscious desire to please their parents and unknowingly fail to even consider following their own hearts.  To pursue our own dreams we have to be willing to let go of other people’s dreams and any guilt that goes along with it. 

Hiding from the life that we were meant to live eventually catches up with us.  Some people will remain unaware or deny the flicker of their true essence that lives in their heart waiting to be sparked while they slowly wither away.  Physically and mentally, they may appear healthy but their spirit is languishing, and they are not living the life that could potentially result in their happiness and wellness.  Going through the motions of “living” each day without joy or happiness is more like slowly dying than living. 

When you’ve spent years denying your true essence and burying it under mounds of expectations from others and yourself, it takes time to unearth.  It can be confusing, and you may feel pulled in different directions unsure of what you truly desire.  Be gentle with yourself and allow your path to unfold before you as you learn to trust your intuition.  When you are on the path that is most right for you, opportunities will present themselves.  The key is to remain open to the possibilities and follow your heart.  Think back to your childhood – what did you love to do when you were a kid?  Did you abandon certain activities because someone told you that you weren’t good at them?  Or maybe your parents were not equipped to help you nurture an interest.  It’s never too late to try something new or re-visit an activity that you previously enjoyed.  Years ago I got an unmistakable sign that I should write.  I never considered writing in any form as I planned my life and never even attempted it because I didn’t think I could write well enough.  When I paused and thought back to my childhood, I realized that I always loved writing book reports and even loved writing thank you notes!  Though I never planned to write a blog, it makes sense that I enjoy writing one.  When my niece was growing up, I always encouraged her to try a bunch of different things with the hopes that she would find something that she loved to do.  I still encourage her to keep trying things and am amazed at some of the experiences she has had.  Trying new things prevents stagnation in our lives and keeps us moving forward on the path to re-discovering our true selves. 

Some people bury their true essence beneath their excess weight.  Though at the time I wasn’t consciously aware of it, I attempted to hide behind the extra 100 pounds I carried around.  Instead of cultivating the dreams in my heart, I denied them and kept them buried by stuffing myself with food.  I finally succeeded at losing weight and changing my life by trying something new and letting go of my desire for perfection.  Slowly making small improvements in the foods I ate and slowly incorporating movement into my life improved my health and helped me to begin unearthing the real me.  Embarking upon a plan to improve your health by striving for perfection will set you up for failure based on my unsuccessful experiences.  There is no perfect eating or exercise plan.  Everyone is different and what works for some people does not work for others.  Furthermore, requiring that you stick to a set of unreasonable rules or extreme behaviors will lead to discouragement when you are unable to sustain them.  Long-term weight loss is achieved and sustained by integrating new thinking and behaviors into your life.  I started treating myself with kindness by changing my thinking.  I abandoned the word should in favor of the world could.  Should implies rules; could implies choices.  In addition, I was able to slowly improve my choices by giving myself a range of options to consider by categorizing them as “good, better, or best.”  I was allowing myself to behave imperfectly, which dramatically increased my chances of success.  At the time I was living on junk food and requiring myself to survive on salads may have worked in the short-term, but the feelings of denial would have eventually sent me back to my old habits like it always did in the past.  Instead, I gave myself options.  For example, instead of eating a large hot fudge sundae for dinner, I could choose a salad (best), a bagel and cream cheese (better), or a small hot fudge sundae (good).  All of the selections were an improvement.  I was encouraging myself to make better choices.  This same technique helped me begin exercising.  Instead of minimizing all activity in my life, I could walk for fifteen minutes (best), walk for 10 minutes (better), or walk down to get the mail (good) instead of avoiding exercise at all costs.  Giving yourself permission to be imperfect allows you to slowly integrate new behaviors into your life and fuels your desire to continue making improvements.  The quality of your selections will naturally improve as you progress down the path towards good health.  I still effectively employ these techniques in my ongoing quest to become my imperfect self.   

Becoming disconnected from your true self was a gradual process.  Small changes in our thoughts and behaviors add up over a lifetime until we no longer recognize ourselves.  They may be the results of hurts we’ve encountered along the way and techniques we’ve employed to protect ourselves.  As you begin the process of re-discovering yourself, it may feel awkward.  Letting go of ideas, people, and behaviors that no longer serve your best interests may feel uncomfortable.  By being  gentle and patient with yourself as you make small changes, the awkwardness will subside.  Gradually, you will begin to feel more like the real you.  There is no one moment in time when you become the real you.  Once you re-connect, the process of growth and evolution continues throughout your life.  The energy invoked by continuing to move forward and explore different interests and activities will enhance your life and bring you joy.  In addition, your self-confidence will grow and you will begin to share the real you and your unique gifts with the world. 

I invite you to continue trying new things.  Explore activities that you loved or were drawn to as child.  Let go of your desires to be perfect and focus on making small changes that can be integrated into your life.  Accepting and cultivating imperfect behavior will help you become your imperfectly wonderful self.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

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