“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” ~Brene Brown, author, The Gifts of Imperfection
Perfectionism. It’s a term we hear about so much these days. As a society we are all trying to do better, be better, climb the professional ladder, be the most successful, prettiest, skinniest, fittest, [insert common cultural desire here]. We steamroll through our days, work our tails off, eat at our desks and in our cars, and down coffee when we are tired. Though I have not been in the public school system in some time, I hear that the grades and test scores needed to get into the best colleges have only gotten higher, the environment more competitive. And the age that girls start to worry about their weight and how they look keeps getting younger and younger. We, my friends, have been bitten by the perfectionist bug and we’ve got it bad.
And we wonder why we are having a health crisis in our nation… When people are busy, sleep, eating healthy, exercising and cultivating relationships with others fall to the wayside. All of these things are so important to our physical and emotional health. They help to counteract the stress of daily life and create a feeling of connection, love and fulfillment. As humans, we need to connect with others, love others. We are hard wired this way and it’s how we’ve survived as a species for so long. When we ignore these needs for the sake of living a “perfect” life, we invite in the possibility of a host of various issues ranging from the physical (sickness, chronic illness) to the emotional (depression, anxiety, sadness). And when these issues arise, we find a pill that will make it go away and go back to our lives without ever really finding out the reason behind why we are feeling this way.
I believe that the image of the ideal American life has become distorted and unhealthy. We grow up imagining the perfect marriage, cookie cutter house, a job that pays the bills and then some. We are told to do our best and equate hard work and success with happiness. We pour millions into the health, beauty and fitness industries to try to look and feel our best. We become competitive with those around us, focus on people, couples or colleagues who “seem to have it all” and start to desire what they have. But in reality there is no perfect house, perfect marriage or perfect job. It’s like the Wizard of Oz who hides behind the curtain trying to show others how high and mighty he is when, in reality, he is just like us.
I know perfection. We have had a relationship for many, many years. A tumultuous relationship and now one I am trying to get rid of. Over the years I have been victim of every thought, action and emotion I described above. I still struggle with it every day. I was raised to work hard and do my best. Now I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but somewhere along the way my mind linked working hard with success and happiness. I truly thought that I to enter corporate America and work my little bum off in order to reach this dream I had in my head of the ideal life. And work hard I did. Many times I put the job in front of my own happiness because I thought that it was what I needed to do. I ran mile upon mile and counted every calorie, thinking that if I looked a certain way my prince charming would come and sweep me off of my feet. As a result, I developed an unhealthy relationship with food and an unhealthy body image. I just kept going and going, not really taking the time to really think about what I was doing and where I was going with my life.
Then one day my body said “enough already” and I got sick. You don’t develop thyroid disease, adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalances overnight. They develop from years of stressing the body, working it beyond its means without properly taking care of it. And I considered myself a pretty healthy person at the time. But I am thankful for this wake-up call and since then have really re-evaluated my life. Yes I am still in corporate America, but I am also pursuing my passion for health and wellness by starting my own health coaching business, maintaining a daily yoga and meditation practice, writing this blog and working hard to eat as healthy as I can. And someday I will take what I’ve experienced as an accountant and become a full time health coach and yoga instructor, helping others to find their way to happy and healthy.
I am sure all of you have heard stories of individuals who got very sick and, as a result, turned around their lives and found true happiness. Those are wonderful stories, but I don’t think we should have to wait until that wake-up call to turn around our lives. We deserve more than that. So I encourage you to take some time and look inside, really think about what makes you tick, what brings you the purest form of joy imaginable. What topics fire you up and inspire you? What would you absolutely love to wake up and do every morning? If it is your current job and circumstances then bravo, that is awesome. But for a lot of us this is not the case. Maybe you do love working at a desk for 60+ hours a week, maybe you love to travel and write, maybe you love to help others. Everyone is different. The key is to move past the “should” thoughts and focus more on the “what do I want” thoughts. Change isn’t going to happen overnight and can be downright scary, but if you aren’t happy where you currently are, don’t wait until you body says “enough already.” What do you really, truly have to lose? I know this is a morbid thought, but at the end of your life when you are thinking back on your days, how do you want to feel? Do you want to feel regret for what you should have done or do you want to feel happy and content, like you really, truly lived?
So let’s all work to stop being so perfect, stop judging your neighbor and coveting what they have, stop worrying so much about what others think of you and instead pursue what your heart really desires. When you find this place of happiness, contentment and fulfillment, it will shine through. When it gets hard, know that you are not alone and that when you reach your destination, it will totally be worth it. If you need some help along the way, that’s what I am here for. I specialize in helping individuals during this journey, during the scary life changes. I’m here to be your guide, your friend, your steadfast cheerleader to help you navigate the twists and turns and come out on the other side your happiest, healthiest, most vibrant self. It is possible and you deserve nothing less.
Interested in learning more about what I do and maybe working with me? Please check out my newly launched website – www.annalyoung.com.
Peace, love and happiness,
The Yogi~ Foodie