I thought I would take some time for myself and so a doodle journal like I used to! May it make me (and others) laugh in the future.
Today I remembered why doing slow yoga sequences is so hard for me. Minutes before I laid out my mat, I passed one of the upstairs bedrooms while a show played. I had periodically watched episodes of the show and was impressed with some of the characters and ideas. (I won’t specify which show it was because I don’t think it’s necessary.) However, when I passed the room to change for yoga, a scene flashed before me that floored me emotionally. After that, my brain kept trying to sort through and process what I saw.
Doing an hour of slow breathing and posing almost killed me. The whole sequence, I felt like I was facing what I saw over and over again, trying to fix it and reassure myself of what I know is right.
Some people do softer yoga to relax and forget about things that upset them. I do intensive sequences because they help me burn through those problems. If I slow down, my thoughts become so heavy it’s self debilitating. My counselor almost five years ago called it Obsessive Compulsive Thinking. The only time I become like this is if I face situations, ideas, or people who directly oppose my spiritual or moral beliefs.
The best way to describe it is I get stuck in my thoughts trying to fix the unfixable. Though the problems I face in my head seem easy to let go from the outside, its not so simple. Those conflicts and the emotions they arouse feel very real. Sometimes they are absolutely terrifying. Renee Fabian explained this very well in her article “How to Stop Obsessive Thinking.”
Obsessive thoughts can impact both your mood and functioning. When they enter our mind, generally our first instinct is some level of discomfort, followed by attempts to banish the unwanted visions. This is human nature: When something is bad, we avoid it. The stove is hot, so we don’t touch it. Simple. But obsessive thinking is a different beast.
When we try to avoid a thought while in an obsessive state, the brain keeps reminding us about the unwanted thought so we don’t forget to stop thinking about it. It’s the same basic principle behind being told not to think about something — say a pink elephant — and our next thought becoming exactly what we are not supposed to think about.Renee Fabian, How to Stop Obsessive Thinking
Knowing this, it is easy to imagine how I felt yesterday trying to breathe deeply and move slowly while fighting these thoughts. Luckily, I established for myself a pattern to ease myself out of this pattern of thinking. First, I RECOGNIZE I am having harmful compulsive thoughts. Second, I REVIEW the thoughts. Third, I RELABEL them. Last, I face them and mentally walk away from them. Usually I have to repeat this process many times before my thoughts settle down.
For anyone else who grapples with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Thinking, having these kinds of thoughts is okay. What’s most important is knowing we are not our thoughts and it’s okay to struggle to calm ourselves. There is nothing wrong with us. Everyone to one degree or another faces these kinds of trials.
Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.
Since I didn’t do a physical practice today, I thought about what I could give to anyone who reads this post today. I settled on discussing for a short time how accepting and pondering our emotions is part of a healthy yoga practice. I know this seems like a strange thing to post on Valentine’s Day. But anything I could post about love wouldn’t be very sincere.
Today I will be honest. Practicing yoga sometimes makes me painfully aware of the sorrows I carry. But, other times I use it as a way to relish in my joys. I believe we carry certain emotions throughout our bodies. I’ve pondered this ever since I watched “The Guru” from Avatar: The Last Airbender (2004-2008) and studied chakras for my yoga teacher training. Much of our physical healing and inspiration comes from facing difficult emotions blocking our path towards fulfillment.
How could any of this relate to Valentine’s Day? Well, I know quite a few friends and family members who are struggling right now. Some have never married. Some are recently divorced and estranged from their children. Other’s have had spouses die. Valentine’s Day is one of the hardest holidays to go through for many people because of many unique circumstances. On the other hand, I have many many friends and family members who are newlywed, have newborn children to enjoy, or are happily able to meet those they love.
Whatever our life circumstances, it would be incredibly beneficial to breathe and accept whatever emotions we feel at this time. This is fundamental truth I’ve had to learn over many years. Until I was about twenty-five, I didn’t know how to positively face and feel my emotions. As a child, I would hold in powerful negative emotions until I broke down when t became too much to bear. Meditation, prayer, and positive friendships have definitely helped me to mature emotionally enough to confidently say it is worth it.
Above anything else, I assure anyone who reads this there can always someone who loves, cares about, and wishes you happiness. That person is you. Even if that isn’t a reality now, it can be. I think it all starts with a desire to let go and simply be who we are: and that is someone truly and sincerely wonderful.
Thank you for reading! See you tomorrow.
I’ve been in a funk the last couple of weeks physically, and mentally. I haven’t had a job for the last seven months, yet I couldn’t actively go out and search because I didn’t know when my family would move from New York. Plus, every time I thought about or applied to jobs in my area, it didn’t feel right.
Other aspects of my life also aren’t syncing either. I’m a yoga teacher who can’t teach, and I have no studio I can go to for further training. I’m single, a little bit lonely but unable to really meet anyone where I am. I can’t go out on regular walks because of the cold. All in all, I feel stuck.
So, here I am. Thirty years old and not sure at all where my life is supposed to go. But that’s how I’ve felt before every big event or change in my life.
That got me thinking. Usually I equate fulfilling goals or being busy as indicators I’ve done something meaningful. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve wondered lately if the greater achievements are made in preparing and studying. So I’ve decided to study and prepare myself mentally and physically through my writing and yoga practice.
I now actively write, clean up my past articles and conduct intensive research every day. I know I need to be working on this skill, and thankfully I’ve been able to write almost every day the last month. The downside to this, is I’m really tired. I’d forgotten how exhausting in-depth research can be. I also have a tendency to NOT STOP for hours on end. This is good practice overall (I feel my mind expanding like a balloon!) but other aspects of my health are suffering.
I miss my daily morning walks. I miss going to 3B Yoga in Provo, Utah. But winter and living circumstances prevent me from doing these things.
I want to be patient with myself and take time to rest as I should. but I also need to test myself physically so I can pull myself out of my winter blues. (I don’t think Vitamin D is enough to combat it.)
So this next month I’m commiting to a daily Ashtanga Yoga sequence every day. I haven’t done this for several years, but I feel this would be a good time to start.
I don’t like to undertake these kinds of journeys alone though. So, every day for the next thirty days I will write about my experiences; how I’m feeling physically, changes I notice every week, and spiritual inspirations I have.
Practicing yoga is very important to me and I hope by going through this challenge I can become a better teacher as well. Covid-19 restrictions won’t last forever. Once studios open up again I want to start seriously teaching again.
In my personal journey, I hope I can help someone who is also feeling down.
See you soon!
Being a perfectionist tends to have a negative connotation in our society nowadays. When we picture a stereotypical perfectionist we see perfectly cleaned rooms with perfectly organized shelves and perfectly ironed cloths. The Oxford dictionary says perfectionism is “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” Meaning a perfectionist is “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.”
In my mind, when I hear these definitions I think of Monk from the TV show and sort of shudder thinking of any being like that. At least I do when its meaning pushes this image of perfection. It is like Elder Cecil O. Samuelson said. “These good people suffer from exaggerating their minor mistakes, weaknesses, or shortcomings to the point that they may become dysfunctional.”
It is so ironic that we most often associate the word perfectionism with dysfunctional. That a perfectionist, who is trying to have such a high standard for themselves, is slightly broken.
This was how I pictured perfectionism until my church mission in Russia. I remember talking to the counselor in Moscow about certain problems with Obsessive Compulsive Thinking I seemed to have. She then asked me a very pointed question: “Aubrey, do you think you are a perfectionist?” I was taken aback. There was no way I could POSSIBLY be. I mean, I was no Monk. But then, after reading some articles she sent me, everything from my life started clicking together.
I looked at the signs of may be perfectionists and surprisingly saw myself (Refer to this article for more information.)
- All or Nothing Thinking, where anything less then perfect isn’t good enough. Yep. Throughout my schooling I always had very high expectations for myself in regards to grades, reading and how much I knew. If I did not meet my intended vision, what I did wasn’t good enough.
- Critical Eye, being very critical of themselves and others. I see every aspect of my weaknesses and I remember them. I have an uncanny memory for my mistakes and weaknesses. I also am very observant of others’ shortcomings.
- Push vs. Pull, to be pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them and see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure. I was not one to pull myself up to meet goals. I tended to be pushed by this ever present fear of failure.
- Unrealistic Standards, having unreasonable self standards. The best example I can think for this in my life is when I started learning Russian. I wanted to know the entire language in 8 weeks. A feat which usually takes 8 years. I set a bizarre standard on my self and consequently, I was miserable most of those 8 weeks.
- Focus on Results, seeing nothing but the goal and hardly any of the journey to get there. This manifested most profoundly in my writing. I had to either write the entire paper perfectly in one go, or it was no good. I barely ever used outlines or drafts.
- Depressed by Unmet Goals, being unable to bounce back or be positive about failure. Failure has always, always been hard for me. I remember each failure years later. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” is a phrase I have therefore struggled with for a long time.
- Fear of Failure, so much is stake in the results, the fear of failing is overwhelming. I have many times been frozen in place mentally because I am so afraid of failing. Example, I tried to do handstands in my B3 yoga class several years ago. As I watched everyone so much farther along than me physically, I faced the wall and immediately laid down. The thought of me be unable to succeed was almost unbearable.
- Procrastination, “fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all.” Such a mindset has often possessed me. Like from my aforementioned example, it manifests most in yoga. I oftentimes freeze while trying to do hard poses because I know in my heart I can’t do them perfectly yet and I don’t want anyone to witness my shortcomings.
- Defensiveness, taking constructive criticism is hard. When I am at my lowest, I do everything in my power to never have to receive criticism of any kind because I do become defensive and unable to think clearly beyond the weaknesses they have pointed out.
- Low Self-Esteem, because they have such high standards, it manifests as low self-esteem. I see this most in myself in my physical health. I have had to fight hard to gain a love for myself and how I look.
Looking at this list is very daunting. I see all these signs in myself and wonder how I have been able to achieve anything.
I have to wonder if have these tendencies are necessarily a bad thing. Though I sometimes find myself falling into a pit of fear or even self-criticism, I have come along way from the small third grade self who lamented not getting hundreds on her multiplication tests.
So I re-looked at the list and found my strengths resting nestled among my weaknesses. I have also found ways to overcome the greater challenges I mentioned in the list before.
- All or Nothing Thinking. Because I have high expectations for myself, it has helped me avoid unnecessary debt, addictions, and self destructive behavior. The all doesn’t have to come now. I’ve learned to slowly, over time, take small steps towards self improvement.
- . Critical Eye. To be critical is not necessarily a negative thing. The definition of critical can also mean, ” expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.” Because I am very observant of faults and failures it means I am ALSO very observant of masterful or beautiful things. I created for me a love of reading, watching and observing the wonders of this world and really analyzing them. All to bring to my life a greater understanding of the world.
- Push vs. Pull. I’ve found as time has gone forward I have switched more to a push and pull mindset. I know my goal, feel the internal push toward it and then methodically take smaller steps to reach it. I’ve learned to use such a vice as a spring board towards higher achievements.
- Unrealistic Standards. Tricky as this one is I’ve learned that unrealistic standards can also be interpreted as “high aspirations”. I’ve also learned to shift my focus from myself to others. For example: “I have to learn Russian in 8 weeks” vs. “I want to learn Russian as fast as I can so I can really speak to the Russian people.” Truly this mindset would have really helped me on my mission. But I needed to grow into it.
- Focus on Results. Again, this is not really a bad thing unless the end goal completely overwhelms me. I keep in the forefront mind what I expect from myself and work hard to achieve it.
- Depressed by Unmet Goals. This has been one of the hardest for me. The best I can say is, I try my hardest to look past the failure and the opportunities still before me. I keep in my mind Walt Disney’s phrase, “Keep Moving Forward.”
- Fear of Failure. This trick is to push through the fear and see it for what it is. Once I see it for what it is I take a step back, breathe and envision puling myself up if I do fail. I think, I will be alright. There is always one more try than the one before to get it right.
- Procrastination. Catch it. Then move on. This is no longer a vice which plagues me.
- Defensiveness. I have to tell myself if ever I receive criticism that it has nothing to do with my worth as a person. I have also learned to embrace the phrase, “I don’t know.” There is such relief in not having to know everything. If I can do these two things, I find I become less and less defensive when being corrected.
- Low Self-Esteem. I have learned to turn my low self esteem into humility. But also I’ve tried over the years to take care of and love my body the best that I can. It is hard to hate one’s self if one tries their best to take care of themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.
There you have it. Even though there are times where I wonder about my imperfections and feel frozen by fear, I’ve felt such relief over the years as these aspects of my character no longer seem like a burden.
I can’t take complete credit for myself for these breakthroughs in my life. Honestly, the greatest joy I’ve found is in creating a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. These relationships have helped me the most.
I’ve had so many experiences on and since my mission where I have simply sat, meditated, and felt God’s love for me. The best changes in my life have come not through my merit of character but when I stopped to feel and know how much God loves me. It has meant so much to know him and want to change. At the root of my change isn’t an overshadowing feeling of guilt but a firm desire to become like Christ.
It is hard to feel love such as Heavenly Father’s and not want to change for the better.
I believe most perfectionists fail to know they are not alone on life’s journey. That is why they are stuck. True relief comes in knowing and living with god day to day.
“The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief – that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good.
Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Being a perfectionist is not a bad thing unless we let our imperfections and fear take over us. We must strive towards better goals and seek the divine.
Thank you for reading!
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” – The Bhagavad Gita
Many of my friends and family know I am a yoga practitioner and am striving to become a teacher. I started doing yoga perhaps eight years ago because my roommate didn’t want to do a yoga weight loss video alone. Notes about myself: I am slow to try new things especially if I can’t do them perfectly….. Which is all the time. Humiliation is an ever present omen in my life.
But a funny thing happened. Though I did feel humiliated at my inexperience I felt this strong passion to become better blossom inside me. True story, I continued doing yoga throughout all these years and faced my physical shortcomings.
The challenge of doing the postures and being physically capable of bettering my self became my driving force. Before long, I could move my way through more and more complicated sequences and postures.
This was a very important discovery for me. I realized how much I love pushing and bettering myself. I also started to glimpse a different way of bettering my mind. But as it is I only scratched the surface until this last October when I found my studio here in Provo. At my studio, I realized yoga was not about being perfect. That there was no Paragon I needed to measure up to. I could be happy being myself, moving forward.
You may be wondering why this beginning in yoga is important in regards to discovering my self worth. Well, it was the start of my desire to know myself. I started to look within and see that despite my weaknesses I could become stronger. I could learn more and be mindful of more within.
When practicing yoga it isn’t about the positions or your strength or flexibility. It is about having the courage to see yourself and accept yourself. Granted, it is very hard at times, when even after hard work it seems you can’t progress. But sometimes I feel such peace because I experience myself and I feel I am enough.
(Art by Redbubble)
Yoga is a moving meditation. I also believe it is an invitation to learn more about one’s self. I am grateful because doing yoga has taught me more and more how enjoyable being myself is.
Being on the journey I am now, I am grateful I decided years ago to start doing this. It means I can build a more stable foundation of self love. It also means I have all the tools necessary now to be happy.
(Me right after doing yoga!)
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Thinking on this I have concluded several things.
First, there is a specific paragon, or model, of excellence or perfection which we all visualize. I do not know how it is for everyone, but for me it has always been difficult to see myself as something miraculous when my accomplishments always fell short of someone else. I had above average but never superior grades, I displayed sufficient physical ability but was never good enough for varsity, I was incredibly well read but always fell short in reading comprehension tests, etc. . ..
Honestly, I believed I was average and unspectacular because I never measured up to these ideals of excellence. But really, what was I comparing myself to? Others my age who felt just as insecure and unsure about their abilities as I did.
Second, we treat meeting these standards like a race or competition. It is like the story “You are special” by Max Lucado. In it there are a people called the Wemmicks who daily give each other golden stickers for beauty and ability or gray dots for being uglier or less accomplished. For their society, whether one was completely covered in stars or dots, determined an individuals worth. Consequently, the marks made from these stickers caused many to doubt their worth or be consumed by pleasing others.
I believe it is a natural reaction to try and better ourselves, and even more so do measure by comparing our strengths and weaknesses to others. We compete and compete believing if we are the best at chess, can do a specific move, sing immaculately or dress the best we will be accepted. But thinking on it, is it really worth it? In the end, there will always be someone better than us at something.
Third, too often our worth stems from our strengths and if we have weaknesses we assume we have less worth. Elder Uchdorf said in his talk “Forget me Not”,
…we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does.
My mother often quoted Albert Einstein who is attributed to saying, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I know for myself I often felt like that fish. As though I would never measure up because I couldn’t fit into my own expectations.
Fourth, most importantly the good we see in others they can also see in us. One day I sat and wondered, “Am I someones ideal? Do other people wish they were me?” In the moment it seemed ridiculous, but now I am not so sure.
One of my favorite stories is Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya. Tohru, wondering how to help two boys who seem lost in their hatred and envy for each other, creates an analogy which I have kept with me for a long time.
If you think of someone’s good qualities as the umeboshi in an onigiri, it’s as if their qualities are stuck to their back! People around the world are like onigiri. Everyone has an umeboshi with a different shape and color and flavor. But because it’s stuck on their back, they might not be able to see their umeboshi. (They think) “There’s nothing special about me. I’m just white rice.” (And I think) That’s not true. There is an umeboshi — on your back. Maybe the reason people get jealous of each other, is because they can see so clearly the umeboshi on other people’s backs.
I often thought of this analogy in Russia, where the unspoken pressure to learn Russian and be “the perfect missionary” was an unfortunate driving force among us. Thinking back on my fears, despairs and silly expectations I wish I could tell myself everything would work out, that I would learn Russian and be able to help a lot of people because of who I was, not because of who I wasn’t. I wish I could say, “Aubrey, focus on your strengths and God will make your weaknesses become strong.”
Lastly, everyone is on the same journey and is experiencing the same things as we are. But despite this, everyone is different.Also from Fruits Basket, Takaya’s character Tohru surmised, “Mom taught me that people’s differences are something to celebrate.” Our path will be different than others, because we are different. Our weaknesses do not demean our worth and our strengths don’t determine who we really.
Thank you for reading my random thoughts. These posts and my goals to see myself better have really helped me and I hope I can help others who are struggling with these same insecurities.