01 February 2012

Step 1: Embrace Your Imperfections

A full list of the Simple Living Challenge steps can be found here.

"It is more useful to be aware of a single weakness in oneself than to be aware of a thousand weaknesses in someone else." Dalai Lama

Simple living is as much about embracing yourself and your imperfections as it is about striving to become the better version of you.

The way I see it, simple living is a healthy mix of activities that will help us keep our sanity in the busy modern world. Even more importantly, if we stick to the principles of simple living we wouldn't have a hard time defining what is truly important in our lives regardless of temptations.

What is simple living?
  • Identifying what is most important for you and eliminating everything else.
  • Freeing up time for doing what inspires you and being with the people you love.
  • Decluttering your mind, your everyday life and your virtual life.
  • Single-tasking and learning to diminish stress.
  • Striving to live frugally by wanting less and buying only what is necessary.
  • Slowing down and being actively present in the moment.
  • Living a healthy life, including cleaning your home and your body, eating, exercising and thinking.
  • Striving to be green and sustainable as much as your surroundings allow.
  • Enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
  • Simplifying your goals, tasks and expectations.
Let me add that simple living is not about expectations or pointing out faults. It is not even about perfectionism. It is instead about the things you can do to elevate your perceptions, inner piece and self-respect. Yes, simple living is about getting closer to that better version of yourself.

What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism is the belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can and should be attained. In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable.

While normal perfectionists "derive a very real sense of pleasure from the labors of a painstaking effort" neurotic perfectionists are "unable to feel satisfaction because in their own eyes they never seem to do things well enough to warrant that feeling of satisfaction".

How to recognize perfectionism
Perfectionism is when:
  • You believe that everything in life must be done to your level of perfection, which is often higher than anyone else's.
  • You can't stop thinking of a mistake you made.
  • You are extremely self-conscious about making mistakes in front of other people.
  • You either do things "just right" or not at all.
  • You must always strive to reach the ideal in everything you do because it is in the achievement of the ideal that you give meaning to your life.
  • You believe that you have no value in life unless you are successful.
  • You demand perfection from other people.

A perfectionist's story
In my circle of friends I have been known as the perfect baker. Apart from utter joy, I take great pride in everything I bake, be it a simple bread, or cookies, or any cake. One day, not that long ago I totally ruined the pastry I was making. There were 8 people expecting to eat a delicious pastry and I got it so wet that even after 3 (!!!) hours in the oven it still wasn't good enough. The pastry was ruined, the ingredients wasted. I was devastated. But although everybody had been waiting for the tasty dessert for a whole day, nobody seemed to be very disappointed or at the end of their nerves as I was. I honestly thought I had let everybody down and that I didn't deserve their trust ever again. How could I have been so clumsy. 

One of my lady friends approached me and just told me:
Hey, it cannot always turn out perfect.
And that line, my friends simple as it was, opened a whole new page for me. Nobody expected perfection. Nobody had become disappointed in me. Nobody but me blamed me. For my friends I was still the best baker around. It was only the pressure I put on myself that was ruining me. It cannot always turn out perfect. If it could, we wouldn't be human. If it could, we wouldn't have the need to be living our lives, learning our lessons.

We have all grown up thinking that perfection will gain us trust and respect but immaculate perfection all the time does not exist. While perfect moments and temporary combinations do happen, we are imperfect and only embracing the fact that we are imperfect will help us become better!

If you think of it, even the most accomplished and most successful people make mistakes in their work or home life. And from a self development point of view, the making of mistakes is actually a chance for personal growth and  development. We learn from our mistakes and I hope the day I don't make any mistake will never come because what then will be the purpose of my life?

What to do to eliminate perfectionism and focus on self development instead

  • Get rid of the burden you're carrying - the world will keep on turning even if you ruin a cake.
  • Learn to ask for help when you need it. "If you want a job well done, do it yourself" is not always right in the modern world.
  • Congratulate yourself on each mistake you make. No, I'm not crazy. Try it out and you'll see that it will help you define the seriousness of a mistake while challenging you to find a way to better yourself next time.
  • Make a deliberate effort to indulge in what you do and concentrate on the momentary joy in your actions regardless of the outcome. That is how you will charge everything you create with positivity, which will come back to you and make you happier.
  • Next time the perfectionism wave hits you remember: Nobody's expecting you to be perfect.
  • Celebrate the little successes in your everyday life. 
  • Enjoy success without second guessing your ability to sustain the achievement.
  • Differentiate between the ideal and the best you can do.
  • Let go of rigid, moralistic judgments of your performance and develop  compassion for yourself.
  • Embrace yourself just as you are, with all your positive and negative sides. Love yourself. Yes, look in the mirror, straight in your eyes and tell yourself out loud that you love yourself just as you are. You have no idea what a little (self)love can do.

You can do this!
Did you see yourself somewhere along the lines? Make a list of the perfectionism signs that are true for you. What are their negative effects on your life? How can you overcome them and transform them into constructive actions?

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