A balanced life is the goal of mine and so many others who come to see me in my private practice. But what is balance anyway and why is it so important?
Mind, body, and heart balance
According to the US Dept of Health and Human Services, our mental health (emotional, social, and psychological well-being) is as important as physical health as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. We place a huge focus on physical health yet how much do we focus on our mental health to our overall balanced lifestyle?
Balance is the antidote to perfectionism
If comparison is the thief of joy (and boy don’t we know this to be true?!), perfectionism is the thief of balance. Perfectionism causes us to feel anxious, fearful of failure and constantly on high alert of being found to be anything less than 100% perfect (this form of perfectionism is commonly known as imposter syndrome). We are often our own harshest critic – being hard and unforgiving with ourselves, judging ourselves far more harshly than anyone else would. To live a balanced life, letting go of perfectionism is crucial. Maybe your perfectionism creeps in through procrastination, fearful that if you can’t achieve your task to the highest degree, you avoid the task altogether? Maybe your perfectionism creeps in with your diet, where you deprive yourself of calories even though the resulting change in your mood is negatively affecting your wellbeing? I know that I have been hostage to both of these circumstances in the past and those experiences have taught me the importance of balance, of being content with good enough, and how essential that is to my emotional wellbeing. I no longer punish myself with these all or nothing thoughts, and by prioritising balance, I have slowly but surely stepped away from perfectionism, and my anxiety has ebbed away. Balance brings freedom, contentment, and peace.
How to achieve balance and let go of perfect
Ask for help when you need it. None of us know how to do this, how to live our lives as contentedly as possible, but I do know the more I ask, the more I open myself to curiosity and awareness, the more I realise the answer isn’t in the answer but in the search, the more I am open to and excited about learning. You are not on this workshop on your own. I am here with you and many others too.
Start where you are. I am so excited for anyone doing this workshop as there is a great humility and honesty in starting from the start. Go you!! A number of years ago I went skiing with a group of friends. This was my fifth skiing trip so certainly an accomplished skier, right? Wrong! My first ski trip was great, the second ski trip I lost my nerve and, on my 3rd, and 4th trip I didn’t even make it as far as the ski rental shop. Deciding to go on my 5th trip was a huge step for me, as I decided to start from the start. What I had learnt I had either forgotten or it was all a bit muddled, wrapped up in my fear of failure. On my fifth ski trip, I started from the bottom, I took each day as it came, I was far from perfect, but I kept asking, kept learning and I had a ball (and skied better than I have ever skied before). Letting go of perfect is allowing yourself to be happy with right now, letting go of the need to lose 10 pounds, complete that course, get that new car, and being proud of how you are right now and building on that feeling in your life.
It was all a heap of baloney anyway! Perfection does not exist – not in sleep, not in nutrition, not in exercise, not even in contentment!! – but a balanced life, a balanced mindset – that is within your grasp and that, my love, is as close to perfect as it gets!
Let self-acceptance be your new goal. When you have spent a lifetime being what you feel others want you to be, what others say you should be, trying to do things their way knowing it doesn’t work you for, maybe it might be good for you to try to live your life how you want, with your goals in mind, with your contentment as your primary intention. Surprising for many is that giving up the need to be perfect is the change that can bring you the peace you have been searching form in the exhausting pursuit of perfection.
Talk to yourself. Talking to yourself is often thought of as something only children or ‘crazy’ people do. However, positive self-talk, using your internal dialogue for deliberate, intentional positive reinforcement is scientifically proven to improve contentment as it effectively counteracts the negative self-talk we often find ourselves listening to. In realising how self-talk forces perfectionism and dismisses balance, try a self-talk to challenge this. For example when we hear our critical internal punishing voice we could say (aloud or internally) “Thank you – I know that you are only trying to help me by pushing me forward, that you want me to achieve all my goals. But my goals have changed, perfectionism hasn’t worked for me, it has caused me so much anxiety that I have decided to listen to myself more and focus on balance.”
Some further questions to reflect and journal upon:
Do you think you are a perfectionist?
How does perfectionism show up for you?
Do you recognise perfectionism as a family trait?
Do you feel the need for perfect stands in the way of your balance?
If you let go of perfection and embraced good enough, how would that be?
My work is towards a truer, more beautiful existence than the one I am living and a key ingredient in this is letting go of perfect and welcoming balance.
*This is an extract from my self-paced workshop ‘Wellness for Everyday’. To learn more about the key areas of wellness and help you to refocus on these to create a more healthy and balanced life and mindset, this is now available to purchase via my website www.christinedoyle.ie