“If I wait until I am perfect before I love myself, then I will waste my whole life. I am already perfect right here and right now.”
That affirmation, which comes from a deck of Louise Hay “Wisdom Cards” that I keep on my desk, can serve as an important reminder to so many of us.
That’s because perfectionism is pandemic in our culture. Many people continue to put off loving and approving of themselves until they lose the next 10 pounds or jump the next hurdle (earning another degree, getting out of debt, making a certain salary, becoming a parent, etc.).
Maybe they had the experience growing up that receiving love was conditional on certain criteria: looking a certain way or making the right grades. They could have been pushed too hard by their parents to be perfect and heavily criticized for not attaining that mastery.
Those imprints from childhood can have a lasting effect. Later in life, perfectionist streaks can sometimes stop people in their tracks before they even leave the starting gate in certain areas of their lives (the fear of “What if I’m not good enough?”).
Some people don’t feel comfortable attempting any activity unless they have a fair certainty that they’ll excel. Maybe they want to write a book or start a business (but unrealistically feel like they have to get it right the first time with no revisions or shifts in strategy).
I once had a very wise, talented Reiki student who wanted to leave the computer field to start a healing practice incorporating his extensive knowledge of meditation, hypnosis and other energywork disciplines (T’ai Chi and Chi Gong). But he labored over developing the perfect system in his mind so much that he never got around to really working with anybody.
I advised him: “Start with one or two services, and you’ll figure out how to bring it all together along the way. You don’t have to know exactly how everything will look, feel and work in advance.”
But the man was a perfectionist, and that blocked him from pursuing his dream.
We need to remember that it’s perfectly okay to make mistakes while learning. A lot of what we learn is through trial and error. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to be even close to perfect at something right away. Instead of focusing on producing perfect results, thinking about “getting better all the time” and eventually “doing great” might be more helpful.
True perfection may not even exist. But in God’s eyes, we are already perfect in our own unique way. And we are evolving every day. And worth loving every step of the way.
Everyone Deserves Love
I believe that we are all lovable simply because we exist, no matter what mistakes we might have made in the past (no matter how much we have achieved to date).
The question is: Do you believe it? Can you come around to loving and approving of who you are in this very moment? Try looking in a mirror and saying, “I love and accept you right now!,” despite any imperfections you might imagine about yourself.
Lately I’ve heard a lot of people repeat this popular catchphrase: “If you can’t love yourself, then how in the Hell are you gonna love somebody else?!”
But personally, I think that’s an oversimplification. Opening our hearts to giving and receiving love is a lifelong process, just as healing is. There is always room in our hearts for more love (it’s not an all or nothing proposition as that quotation indicates).
I wouldn’t repeat that quote to someone because it might create too much of an expectation that they’ve got to snap to it immediately and start loving themselves completely (be perfect at it). That expression could also trigger people’s perfectionist response by making them wonder if they really know how to love someone else (a panicky reaction of “What if I’m not giving enough?!”).
For years, I gave out more love than I’d accept in return. Fortunately, I now feel worthy of love and good in my life, but some days it’s easier to express it to myself than on others (to really feel it). I know that I still have work to do on myself (goals I’d like to achieve), but I recognize that it’s a process. I’ve got to love myself along the way and give myself credit for all the many advances I’ve made. I can’t put off my self-acceptance.
Moment by Moment
Love may be the fabric of the Universe, as some believe, but it’s unrealistic for us to expect to experience it every moment of the day – for ourselves or others.
For example, you may live your life under an umbrella of love for your spouse. But if you’re deeply engrossed in a project at work and not thinking about that person, are you really loving him? No, not in that moment. Then, later, you might glance at his photo on your desk and experience that emotion again.
We can’t expect to love ourselves every second either (we might simply be thinking about other things). But choice points will arise when we can decide how we regard ourselves. At those times, try to choose encouraging, approving words.
Our thoughts are communicated in words and how we say them to ourselves. Words and how we express lead them to feelings. So flatly saying inside your head, “I love myself,” isn’t going to create as positive a feeling as enthusiastically thinking, “I love myself!!”
Thoughts always proceed feelings. So if you find yourself feeling negatively about yourself at various times, maybe it’s time to start talking to yourself differently.
Be Your Biggest Cheerleader
We all tend to be our own worst critics. But mentally beating ourselves up doesn’t accomplish a lot. We have to be willing to forgive ourselves for making mistakes. After all, nobody’s perfect.
A number of years ago, I helped a Reiki client who’d gotten the mistaken notion that her life could never be right because 15 years prior, she hadn’t followed spiritual guidance she felt to move to another city. It was like she’d been left behind to suffer perpetually in a parallel universe of what might have been.
I had to help her see that her point of power is the present moment (wherever you go there, there you are). The past was over and done with, and she had to choose to let go of it and pursue happiness in the here and now. She had to start choosing thoughts that would lead to more positive emotions – feelings which would motivate her to take the actions that would shape a more positive reality for herself.
She already had a lot going for her, but I think she had some unrealistic expectations of herself. For example, at age 45, she was very self-critical that her speed at running half-marathons was slower than it had been 10 previously. That told me that she had a strong perfectionist drive.
So I tried to help her reframe her experience: That it was incredibly impressive that she was still running 13 miles at a pop, and that she had to change her expectations of her body’s physical limits as she aged.
Our Best Keeps Changing
To help that client, I paraphrased spiritual author Don Miguel Ruiz, who always encourages us to do our best – but who notes that our best is changing all the time.
Specifically, he wrote: “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
In other words, doing your best at any given time doesn’t mean you have to do things perfectly.
When I asked I asked my client who was struggling with perfectionism if she’d be open to hypnosis, she was initially resistant to the idea that anything about her thought process needed improvement, “I don’t think I have a problem with negative thinking,” she said. “I’m a yoga teacher, and I know the Alexander Technique [for releasing stress].”
Not wanting to push someone who didn’t seem ready, “I just said, ‘Oh, okay.’”
And you know what? Not even two minutes later, she said, “Everything I touch turns to shit.”
Thinking “Whoa!,” I had to stop her and point out, “What did you just say about yourself?”
That proved to be a breakthrough moment for her to see how her negative self talk was impacting her energy and ability to improve her life. With that expanded awareness, she then opened herself to pursuing some new avenues of thinking that could lead to greater self love.
Choosing New Thoughts
“Everything I touch turns to shit” isn’t a very motivating thought, is it?
When we catch ourselves thinking along those lines – stuck in our limitations – we need to stop and shift our thought process (to treat ourselves more lovingly).
For example, my client could have mentally corrected herself, thinking: “Plenty of things that I’ve touched have been a success! As both a yoga teacher and school teacher, I’ve had a positive impact on a lot of people’s lives. I possess a lot of abilities that serve me well. I know that I can continue to make great progress!”
My Reiki Master Teacher told me she regarded her thought process as placing an order with the Universe. When she caught herself thinking about things she didn’t want to become true for her, she would quickly say inside her head, “Cancel, cancel, cancel! Clear, clear, clear!” And she’d picked a new thought. I’ve found that strategy to be helpful as well.
Our subconscious minds are very vulnerable to the words we say to ourselves, so we need to choose them carefully.
Reprogramming Your Mind
Throughout the course of our lives, our subconscious minds can absorb a lot of untrue, unbeneficial believes about ourselves, the world, and our place in it. That’s because the subconscious is like a two-year-old in that it has difficulty differentiating between good and bad, fact and fiction, or past, present and future.
Therefore, you can think of your subconscious mind (the reservoir for your memories, habits/reactions, and emotions/feelings) as your inner child. Through negative self-talk, you can end up strengthening that child’s insecurities.
So you have to remind yourself, “If I wouldn’t say this to a two-year-old, I don’t deserve to say it to myself.”
Stop abusing that inner child. Stop demanding him to be perfect. Instead, start communicating to yourself with loving, patient, productive words.
Your inner child may not have gotten all the love and approval she needed while growing up, but through your thought process, you can begin teaching her that she has always been more than good enough. And that she has the power to improve as well.
If you need help, you could consider hypnosis. Or you could read and reflect on helpful resources such as Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life or Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Both authors produce decks of positive thought cards that are wonderful to keep within easy reach, too (or load onto your smart phone as apps).
For example, from Hay’s deck, I just drew this affirmation card: “I am free to think wonderful thoughts. I move beyond past limitations into freedom. I am now becoming all that I am created to be.”
Striving for greatness can be a fulfilling journey. But don’t think of perfection as the destination. If that’s your goal, you may never feel satisfied.
Copyright, 2013, Wellspring Reiki & Hypnotherapy