Loosening the Tether of Perfectionism :: A Note to My Younger Self

August 20, 2014

Dear 22-year old Mara,

I can see that you’re struggling with all the the unknowns that lie before you. I can feel the palpable nervousness throbbing through the years of memory between us. I know that you believe that it is always going to be complicated and that you’ll never be able to feel deliciously at home in your life – though you yearn for it daily.

Take a seat, I have a few thoughts that I would like to share with you.

Pause.

You do not need to react to everything immediately. You do not need to fulfill every whim or honor every distraction.

I remember the feeling in my skin, the quick jump to response. The anxious yelp of wanting to make sure that everything was just so. The belief that it was possible to to control every outcome, to prevent every ounce of pain.

Give yourself the permission to take a deep breath and then another. Permit yourself the pardon of actively choosing how you want to proceed.

Relax your white knuckles.

Every single upset or potential decision is not an emergency. It may feel like an emergency. It may feel like your nerves are spiking and your heart is racing, but responding to every occasion out of a state of panic will do little more than lead you to live a life of nervousness that will never leave you.

When you feel like things are an emergency, ask yourself: in the whole scheme of things, is this really a big deal?

If the answer is no, please stop making it a big deal. You will be better for it.

Throw your rules out the window.

selfI know that you have that feeling that your entire life is written for you and that you are simply following the path laid out before you: college, grad school, job, a relationship that sticks, house, children. I know that you are telling yourself that is the life that you want, but I want you to take a second to re-evaluate your plans.

What would you do if no one told you what to do?

How do you want to feel in your life?

Then walk backwards. Perhaps you want to feel happy and you told yourself that “happiness” was a path that included many steps to follow. Perhaps you created a framework for yourself that was unmanageable, based on what you had seen or experienced in your youth.

Remember this: You feel moments of happiness everyday. The value of your life is not contingent on the many steps that you’ve set before you, checking them off dutifully like tasks on a to do list.

Instead, follow the desire for how you want to feel. Use it as a barometer, asking yourself: Does this decision make me feel more ______ or less _________? And, don’t be so precious about the particulars.

Everything – and anything – is possible.

You do not know where your wild life is going to take you. You do not know what you are meant for – yet. You will find it by joyfully experimenting with your life, through trying things out and examining how they feel. Remove your blinders lovely. Look up and out, look at the world around you.

Reframe failure as an opportunity to learn from yourself and to make better, more aligned decisions the next time around.

You do not have to do everything perfectly all the time. It is safe to make mistakes. It is safe to take risks.

Build your trust in yourself by answering the heed of your own call – and hold the hope that chasing what feels good is going to lead you somewhere beyond your wildest expectations.

Celebrate.

It is ok to celebrate loudly. It is ok to celebrate small wins. It is ok to reward yourself for rolling out of bed and making it to the laundromat or remembering to pay your bills on time. Tell people about your celebrations and invite them to celebrate with you.

Allow your relationships to blossom naturally with the permission that is inherent in standing in your own light and allowing yourself to be seen. Allow the ripple effect to resonate out of your vulnerability and positively impact the people around you.

Celebrations do not have to be expensive or wild. They can be the quiet rituals and smiles at yourself in the mirror, but they are necessary. Carve out the space to celebrate your wins before moving on to the next thing – the next class, the next assignment, the next job.

And, above all else: take sweet care of yourself. You only get one body. One life. Don’t forget that it’s OK to plan in a little extra sleep, another glass of water, or a quiet moment of supreme self-care.

You’ve got this.

xxMara

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