The Illusion of Perfectionism

This week has definitely not been a smooth road in my journey of self-awareness. I have lists of things I want to and still will write about. These lists are all the a-ha and light-bulb moments in my journey. This week it felt like all the light-bulbs have fallen out of their sockets and smashed on the ground. I think to myself that I cannot possibly think of writing about these things if I haven’t even mastered them! That is a debate for another blog though. Today my a-ha moment came right at the end of the week, a couple of minutes ago in fact.

Let me start with my week. Most of my week I’ve been in the pits emotionally. I wasn’t that unhappy that I felt I could die or even depressed, but was definitely not in my happy place, or even a place where I could step out of the emotional whirlpool and experience or learn from my emotions. I’ve been battling to focus, I’m irritable, it felt like I’m not getting to anything or achieving much. Over and above that my eating plan has gone for a ball of manure, and I cannot say that I am at all proud of the quantities or types of food I have been shoving down my throat the past week. Yesterday I was very happy to experience a small breakthrough – we had our provincial championships, the time trial event, and I came second missing it by one second. I am still extremely happy, since my fellow competitor usually drops me by miles, and I took almost two minutes off my time from last year. I can truly say I gave it my all! Today was the road race, but it was pouring down with rain, so I decided not to ride. My fellow team mate, Odelle ate a bucket of cement and withstood the weather and won gold. I’m extremely happy for her, but at the same time I have been giving myself an emotional beating for not riding. Thoughts of weakness, self-betrayal, incompetence, disgust and more come to mind.

And then I read a chapter in the book I’m reading currently: The Heart of the Soul by Gary Zukav and Linda Francis. The chapter very aptly is about perfectionism. Finally the light-bulb came on!

I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, but I do strive for perfectionism, now that I think of it. According to Gary/Linda, there is no such thing as imperfection. Today, and most of the week, I have seen myself as imperfect. Not yet mentally tough enough to take on wind, rain or snow. Not yet disciplined enough to stick to my eating plan to support my training programme and fuel my body according to its needs and get the six-pack I’m chasing. But actually, based on the choices I have made, my situation is perfect. I made a choice not to ride. I chose to eat cake this week. All consequences are perfect based on the choices we make. Some consequences are destructive, some are nurturing, but both perfect based on our choices. We choose between two perfect worlds daily. So therefore, trying to fix imperfections has no point, because there aren’t any.

Why am I then still always unhappy when I have a bad eating day or week. Or when someone comes out tougher than I want to believe I am. Because for as long as I see that “consequence” as imperfect, I don’t actually stop to become aware of the emotions I feel, the pain I feel due to my choices, and what fear I’m harboring that prevents me from making different choices. Take today for example. After abandoning today’s race we went for a long chilled breakfast, but at some point I started getting bored and fidgety – I needed to get busy. When I found out Odelle had competed, immediately I started thinking my decision was wrong and what people would think of me and what I will do next time to fix it. Problem is that I have done this many times before, and I will keep on doing this. Unless…I stop, and FEEL. For as long as I chase the fixing, keep myself busy and occupied, fidget, I let the emotion go unnoticed. So for the first time ever, I stopped, and allowed myself to feel the emotion when I feel ‘imperfect’. And for the first time, I found peace in my choice. I’m not beating myself up because I feel weak or any of the emotions I mentioned before. I feel this way because I see people like Odelle as a threat and I am only focused on my own well-being (if you’re reading, I’m saying this out of honor and respect for your strength). When I realised this, I felt peace, because it made sense.

Has my view changed? I don’t think something like this changes overnight, but by stopping and understanding the painful emotions I can understand my current circumstances, and the make different choices to change my circumstances. For as long as I chase perfectionism, I prevent myself from becoming self-aware, and learning the lesson the Earth school is trying to teach me.

Next lesson I need to learn is around the emotions I feel when I eat “wrong”, I’m excited and interested to see what I’ll find!

To Odelle – congrats on gold today, well-deserved! We have two against nil medalwise on the boys’ team, go girl-team!