If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.~Tom Stoppard
When I was little I’d lay in bed at night and dream about what it would be like to start over. I would move somewhere and no one would know who I was. I’d be living alone and in peace.
In this fantasy I was always the new girl at school. I was quiet and most people just left me alone. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I wasn’t a complete loner either. To me, this sounded like paradise.
In my late twenties I got to realize my fantasy, moving across the continent alone where I knew no one and could be exactly who I wanted to be, without all the drama that came from years of living in one place.
There are always two choices. Two paths to take.
One is easy. And its reward is that it’s easy.~Unknown
When I was younger, struggling to form bonds with my peers and muscle my way through the turmoil that is adolescence, I always pictured my life ten, twenty, thirty years down the road like an enjoyable trip down a lazy river — one that flowed effortlessly, guided by the wisdom I had gathered throughout the years.
I looked forward to the day when I could reach a plateau and things would come easily, because I had strength, knowledge and an abundance of resources at my disposal. I would be married with kids, surrounded by love that would never evade me.
To me, with age came certainty, stability, ease and grace. I thought that all of the awkwardness that comes with growth and change would be a thing of my past.
So, as I entered my twenties, I spent a great deal of time searching for “perfection” in my personal and professional life, believing that the only way to curb the constant upheaval from growth and change would be to find the relationship and career that would make everything else fall into place.
When there are no enemies within,
the enemies outside cannot hurt you.~African proverb
Treating myself kindly is not something that comes naturally to me.
From a young age, I believed I needed to be perfect to be any good. It was probably a combination of my natural type A tendencies and my family environment. My younger brother had a lot of problems when he was a kid, struggled in school, and often acted out. He was always in trouble.
My parents were probably happy to have one child who made things easy for them. I always did well in school, always behaved, and always followed the rules.
Everything seemed great up through high school. I got straight A’s without studying too hard, excelled on my school’s water polo team, and was a respected leader in my class. I was accepted to go to college at Harvard, and thought I was pretty special.
Being a perfectionist caught up with me, though. When I got to Harvard, I was immediately knocked off my high horse by people much smarter and more talented than I was.
When we can no longer change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.~Viktor Frankl
When you try to hinder the growth process, life has a way of making things very uncomfortable for you.
I learned this because I was extremely uncomfortable in my skin, in my mind, in my physical world for a while before the temporary realities of my life came crashing down around me – in a huge way.
Before I was forced to make a series of big changes, I had resigned myself to this idea that I would just have to muscle through the hardships, that I would need to exert all of my energy into holding on or things wouldn’t turn out the way they were supposed to.
I was exhausted, but I believed that this was just a period of my life where I would need to swim upstream.
Peace cannot be kept by force.
It can only be achieved by understanding.~Albert Einstein
Conflict has always been something that my physical body reacts to viscerally, gnawing at my stomach, growing up into my heart and eventually taking up residence in my brain, sitting heavy until the issue can be resolved and room can be made for other thoughts and lighter feelings.
I am a dweller, someone who will spend hours hashing out an issue, taking everything out from underneath the rug in order to inspect it, discuss it and let it dissipate — unless I feel that I am unshakably right and the other party is wrong.
When it comes to conflict, I am hopelessly preoccupied. It can be exhausting — especially when paired with the “right fighter” instinct.
It is the stillness that will save and transform the world.~Eckhart Tolle
Several years ago I lived with a good friend who spoke English as her third language. While she spoke fluently after years of experience, there was one phrase I used that she had trouble grasping at first: Just be.
As in, “After we finish grocery shopping, let’s go to the beach and just be.” She’d always want to finish the sentence. “Just be … relaxing. Just be … writing.”
When I explained what I meant, that I would really just like to sit, observe and exist, without any expectations, she was delighted.
This, she declared, was a very un-American, very un-Western thing to do, which would make sense that why after fifteen years of learning English she’d never heard the phrase.
When we’re in the grip of inspiration,
an idea has taken hold of us from the invisible reality of Spirit.
Something that seems to come from afar,
where we allow ourselves to be moved by a force
that’s more powerful than our ego and all of it’s illusions,
is inspiration.~Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Goal setting can be a great tool for achieving and improving different areas of your life. It can also be a source of frustration, disappointment and anxiety.
We’ve all heard of the traditional S.MA.R.T. guidelines for setting goals (making your goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). It seems to be widely touted by personal development gurus and business professionals, however it may not be for every goal seeker.
A few years ago, I worked with a business coach to help me grow my business. I learned a lot, but I also experienced many negative feelings like the ones mentioned above.
When I didn’t meet my goals, I would get very down on myself. I felt like something was wrong with me. My self-esteem went completely down the tubes.
We are not meant to be perfect;
we are meant to be whole.~Jane Fonda
It’s the crisis of the modern era: stressed-out, disconnected, working so hard and not knowing what, exactly, we’re working for. Entire lives are planned around promotions and pay raises, or around simply surviving the day-to-day, and then we look around and ask ourselves: Is all this work actually getting me where I want to go?
I’ve found myself in this position–the position of the person who has figured out how to work hard and achieve things, but has realized with a sudden and startling clarity that she doesn’t actually know that they are things she wanted.
What do you do when you’ve pursued the things you’ve been conditioned to want, and find that once you’ve got them–they weren’t what you really wanted?
Perhaps what you’ve sought was some outward measure of perfection, and now the journey is towards wholeness.
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Things turn out the best for people
who make the best of the way things turn out.~John Wooden
Right around the time I reached middle school, when the presence and opinion of my friends trumped that of anyone else in my life at the time, birthdays started to represent something more than just a day I might get all the things my parents refused to buy me the rest of the year.
Birthdays suddenly became the one day that I expected to have an outpouring of love and adoration, the one day that my presence in the world could actually be validated.
Yes, friends and family could shower me with love on any of the other 364 days of the year, but if they didn’t do it on that one day, that simply meant they didn’t care.
Striving for excellence motivates you;
striving for perfection is demoralizing.~Harriet Braiker
My neighbor came to my door while I was baking my first loaf of gluten-free bread. She said she admired our diets and told me how she was doing more to eat less sugar.
“I’d heard from a lot of people that it makes a lot of sense for them,” I said, “but I just didn’t think I could cut another thing out. I mean, after getting rid of dairy, wheat, caffeine and sugar, what would be left?”
She laughed a little and said, “Well it’s all about just cutting yourself some slack. You don’t have to be perfect or anything.”
Here’s my confession: I have this compulsion to be perfect. Everything I do has to be just so, or I don’t want to do it at all. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.