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Perfectionism & Ahimsa (Non-Harming)

I never thought I would adopt a slogan from Nike, but it seems appropriate at the moment…”just do it”…just do it Jen, write the blog and don’t look back! It is appropriate because I have been talking about writing a blog for over a year now. Aside from the fact that I am consistently overwhelmed with all that I juggle: single-motherhood, a small business, and a Master’s program, I could have made time to express and share my ideas about my practice quite a long time ago and the reason why I did not is because I struggle with perfectionism.

So instead of writing a blog over the past year, I’ve thought about writing one and all the subjects I might choose to write about and all the ideas and experiences I could share, but I did not because I could not come up with the perfect idea or because writing makes me crazy, because I am my own worst critic. So my way around my avoidance behavior this time was to force myself into having to write because I added it as an assignment to a syllabus I created for a Yoga Therapy course for my Master’s work.

Through a consistent yoga practice and work with advanced teachers, my self-awareness has developed and I’ve come to recognize how perfectionistic thinking can be harmful toward myself and to others. It keeps me from actually creating because I fear that what I manifest won’t be perfect or exactly right. I’m so attached to things being perfect that I might procrastinate and only put half of my effort into something or not do a project at all out of fear of failure. Or I might spend 10 hours writing something that should only take 5. Furthermore, instead of focusing on all that I have accomplished in life and allowing a sense of peace or gratitude to endure, these feelings are quickly replaced with the sense that I must do more, I must be everything, I must be perfect. My sense is that perfectionism gets ingrained in us and manifests as a way of trying to cover up the pervasive feelings of ‘not enough’ that so many of us run up against on a regular basis. My understanding is that I’m not alone on this issue and that perfectionism is rather commonplace in our culture. Yoga practice can help if we approach it in a non-violent way and with a non-harming attitude toward ourselves: body, mind, and spirit.

The yogic principle or moral restraint (Yama) of non-harming, Ahimsa, has been coming up for me quite often in my yoga practice both on and off the mat. This concept of non-violence is typically applied to our treatment of others with a focus on how our actions should not harm other humans, the environment, or living creatures. It is a beautiful concept to also apply to our treatment, attitude, and communication toward and about ourselves. In our intense, complex, and changing world it is way too easy to fall prey to perfectionistic thinking and harsh attitudes toward ourselves. This harmful attitude toward ourselves or that we project onto others can very easily slip right into our yoga practice. It is important to remember that yoga is about balance and finding the truth of our being. Yoga practice should be a place to honor ourselves, to nurture, and develop love, compassion, and acceptance for all parts of our beings: body, mind, and spirit. I encourage us all to accept whatever instincts, thoughts or actions brought us to this journey of yoga and most likely it was a desire for self-improvement in one capacity or another. Please remember to allow a sense of compassion, acceptance, and love for your body, mind, and spirit to grow through your practice. Ahimsa starts with our relationship with ourselves and as we develop the bright light within, we automatically spread it to others. As we develop deep acceptance and love for ourselves we effortlessly transform into being in a way that reflects the light within in such a way that non-harming too becomes effortless.

Suggested practice: Cultivate a sense of mindfulness and contemplation both on and off your mat, notice without judgement when harmful, negative thinking or actions toward yourself or others shows up for you. Try to gently be aware and shift the idea from harsh to soft from condemning to accepting, nurturing, and loving. Connect with your witness consciousness or higher self that will always offer love.