Personal Growth

How I Shifted My Perception Of Self-Love As A Recovering Perfectionist

By: Laura Hanson

So many of us are chasing something that doesn’t even exist.

Something that’s fabricated and propagated from almost every screen, silently berating us for not living up to its impossible – not to mention fictional – standard.

And when we give this devious imposter a seemingly harmless name, it becomes that much easier for it to infiltrate every aspect of our lives – from self-image, to relationships, to career, material gain, performance, and more.

Enter, perfection.

I don’t recall exactly when I started chasing it – or when I even noticed it parading around our world with its alluring charade.

All I know is that at some point – not until my college years – I realized that if I kept it up, the chase would completely drain me of everything that made me who I was.

At that point, I was using professional and academic achievement as a means of validation – and I was constantly trying to reach a point where everything was “perfect” – physically, mentally, and everything in between. I truly thought I was loving myself by continuously trying to improve and striving to become the best version of myself.

But there was no self-acceptance.

It wasn’t until after college, and after I started my journey as a therapeutic yoga teacher, that I recognized I was still living within my old story – that reaching a certain point in my health, relationship, career, and even my wellness endeavors, is what would ultimately bring me happiness and allow me to accept myself fully.

But that’s conditional self-love.

And it was just another form of tying my self-worth to a set of conditions I had no chance of ever meeting in this world of constant change.

The problem is, when we start to place conditions on when, or how, or why we love ourselves, we’re not practicing self-love at all – what we’re creating is a transactional agreement that robs us of our joy. Because each time we inevitably break that agreement, we slowly chip away at our self-worth, until we lose our ability to appreciate what makes us unique – and accept ourselves as we are.

Once I realized I was essentially letting go of my personal power every time I attached my value to a milestone or accomplishment, I simply paused – and noticed what was happening. I tuned into my awareness and consciously identified my habitual thought patterns – and slowly started to unravel the stories I had been carrying about my worth through yoga, breathwork, meditation, and reflection.

Journaling became a particularly powerful tool for me, as I was able to detach from the outcome, and simply create time and space to express myself creatively without judgment. I learned to meet myself where I am – whether it’s on the yoga mat, writing in my journal, working against stressful work deadlines, or processing an unexpected health situation.

And more importantly, I learned to accept myself as I am – no matter where I find myself in the ebbs and flows of life.

I realized self-love isn’t a feeling or a disposition – it’s a continuous choice, for better and for worse. It’s a practice of letting go and staying open, softening and releasing. It’s getting out of the headspace, and focusing instead on the energy of the heart space. It’s a path of exploration and self-discovery, nurturing the roots of who you are and taking care of your whole self — including the parts you’re still learning to accept.

By becoming more conscious of the language within my inner dialogue – and deepening my self-awareness through nurturing mind-body practices – I’ve been able to tear up that contractual agreement that used to govern my life, and my relationship with myself.

Because the outcome no longer matters when it comes to my self-worth.

It’s like rekindling a deep friendship with an old friend – and carrying that supportive, heartfelt, unconditional love with you every step of the way.

It’s recognizing that you’re constantly learning, and evolving, and becoming more of who you are meant to be. It’s making mistakes, and loving yourself anyway. It’s reaching those long-awaited milestones, and loving yourself anyway. It’s realizing that perfection never really existed, and loving yourself anyway.

It’s coming home to yourself – and loving yourself along the way.

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