How to stop dreaming of perfection and learn to accept yourself

Is the endless process of trying to achieve perfection through seminars and self-help books really all it’s cracked up to be? Perhaps those of us who are so concerned with self-perfection are all experiencing the same problem — an inability to accept ourselves as we are.

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To help you ponder this question in greater detail, here is the story of one woman who, at long last, managed to simply say ’yes’ to herself.

’…A year ago, on a cold, dank October day, I was sat at my desk in the office, bored half to death and thinking about how empty and directionless my life had become. I felt that I didn’t know how to go on living and find happiness.

And at that moment, an email appeared in my inbox. It was an invitation to a training session on how to achieve personal growth. It promised that in just six sessions I could acquire the tools to “transform my life“. Since I felt at that moment that I had nothing to lose, I decided to go and give it a try. Maybe something would come of it.

I can’t say that the sessions managed to ”transform my life“, but at least at the start they had some kind of positive effect. I was seized by the desire to work out what was really going on in my head, to make sense of why I lived in a cycle of destructive processes, and work out the sources of my sense of failure. I felt a genuine desire to change my life and make it more meaningful, to be happier.

I began to habitually go to psychology workshops and training classes, to seminars about discovering yourself, and so on. I was reminded of the wanderer in the desert who is dying of thirst and the moment when he finally finds an oasis. I kept telling myself that if I just keep going along this path, I’ll reach the end of the world and understand who I really am and what I need.

It’s often argued there’s no limit to the process of self-perfection, but it turns out there was for me. At one seminar I suddenly realised that despite my best efforts and constant activity I had learned nothing really new about myself. I understood that everything I needed to know about myself I already knew, and no “expert” could reveal anything more to me. But the problem was that I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust the internal voice inside my head or my intuition.

It was at that moment that I understood that my obsession with self-help psychology, with spiritual and esoteric practices, was for me just an expression of my unwillingness to accept myself for who I truly am. All this frenetic activity was an indication that I didn’t want to face the truth — that I could be cowardly, that I could be weak, that I was confused and scared by life, and sometimes I could say, do and think very bad things. I was far from perfect, and I never could become perfect.

It was then that I decided to just stop.

I stopped reading self-help books and huge tomes about spirituality and ”discovering the real you”. I stopped going to seminars and self-help workshops. I stopped trying to study, analyse and dig into my own mind every day.

Instead, I introduced a new practice into my life: Every morning and every evening I spend one hour on my own. I just sit in silence with my eyes closed, and observe myself — my body, my breathing, my emotions and thoughts. I observe, feel and accept with love all of my fears, my shame, my anger and malice; my guilt, my mistakes, my failures. But I don’t analyse any of this or try to come to any conclusions. I just observe it all.

And every time, something amazing happens: The continuous stream of judgements, worries and anxieties flowing through my head gradually subsides; the tension leaves my body, my emotions fall in intensity, and it’s all replaced by knowledge, answers, calm, acceptance and love. And it’s in this moment that I feel the value of who I am, the importance of my path through life, my choices, my views and my mistakes. Thanks to this practice of observing myself, I’ve finally started to understand what it means to accept myself.

For me, unconditionally accepting who you are means the following:

-Saying ’yes’ to yourself for who you really are, with all your peculiarities, inadequacies, eccentricities and imperfections, as well as all of your past experiences. Saying yes, this is who I am — the capricious child, the jealous bitch, the angry commuter. And saying this without any feeling of condemnation or declaration that you’ll soon change for the better, but instead with a sense of love and respect for this part of who you are.

-Accepting every part of your personality which you don’t like, or even hate, and not feeling any disappointment that you don’t meet someone else’s demands or expectations of perfection.

-Trusting yourself — your desires, goals, feelings, intuition, and the internal voice in your head.
Accept your physical appearance, your body and its needs, and also coming to terms with your physical limits and the pace of life which is natural for you.

Comprehending the fact that we all enter this world and pass through this life with our own goals and our own experiences. We’re all born to different families, we all have different reserves of strength and willpower; we all have different talents and abilities, and therefore the things we achieve always vary. And finally, the recognition that despite all these differences between us, each and every one of our lives is of equal value.

Finally, I want to say that I am not arguing that psychology, esoteric and spiritual texts, and other self-help ideas are useless in finding what’s best for you in life. I’m grateful to all those people who try to help others overcome the challenges they face and the struggles they go through with themselves. But I hope that what I have written here might still help others who find what’s on offer inadequate. I adopted my method not out of a desire to become perfect, but because it makes me feel happier — today, right now.’

Source: Irina Nikishina
Picture credit: MARIANA KALACHEVA

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