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  • Ravi Rothenberg

The Antidote for Perfectionism

You know those moments when you feel like you have a lot to say? But you want to get it just right. Well, “just right” is code for perfection. And when we do this often it’s called perfectionism. It’s a crippling disease. Not the kind of physical disease you might be thinking of, but the state of dis-ease that comes from a busy, judging mind, or an agitated nervous system that is running circles trying to resolve the unresolved. This blog post has been a long time coming. Perfectionism and a hefty dose of procrastination have prevented it from seeing the light of day. If I was into tattoos I might consider inking, “Done is better than perfect” on the inside of my wrist. I know it to be true and yet I still need a frequent reminder.

(Photo cred: Brett Jordan on Unsplash)


I haven’t shared this publicly, but I’ve been working with a coach lately. She’s wonderful. Wise, full of heart, courageous, authentic, consistent, mentally and spiritually uplifting. She embodies many of the qualities I want to strengthen in myself. A large part of our work together is around identifying and healing samskaras. Samskaras are the conditioned, mental impressions that often show up as unhealthy patterns that hinder our evolution and unconsciously guide the actions we take. I like the metaphor that samskaras are the grooves in a road that keep us on a fixed path.

Over time, the grooves get progressively deeper to the point where it’s very difficult to drive anywhere except within those ruts in the road. They are mostly subconscious, ingrained habits that are challenging to change.

And so, we must bring our awareness to them. Awareness is the first step to shift our behaviors or negative thought patterns. As I like to say, “You’ve gotta name them to claim them!” When I turned inwards and got specific around my top, most crippling samskaras, I was left with a list of six self-identified samskaras. Some of these we are born with and others we learn, often as adaptations to our environment to keep us safe or to minimize harm. If it wasn’t safe to be self expressed as a child then an adaptation might be to self repress. Years of repression lead to the samskara of people pleasing or always wanting to fit in or say the right thing. As you read this you might be thinking of a few samskaras that are present for you. Get curious and explore those that are alive for you if you’re feeling courageous.


I’ll share more about my list of samskaras in a future post, but for now I want to focus on one: procrastination. It was the first that came to mind when I did this exercise myself. It has been with me for as long as I can remember and it continues to be a source of personal frustration to this day. Is it on your list too? I know, deep down, that when I find the stillness and space to begin a project (or blog post) that I am capable of creating something of value. On the other side of creating something, however, is the potential for failure or judgment. If I delay starting then I delay finishing and if I delay finishing then I am safe from failing, from judgment, or from criticism. So procrastination shows up as a behavior, driven by my subconscious desire to not fail or be judged, to keep me safe. Except safe is stuck. Stuck is small. Stuck and small are no longer adjectives that describe the game I’m here to play.

I am committed to showing up fully. I am committed to being vulnerable and authentic, creative and inspiring, expansive and uplifting. I can’t embody those ways of being when I’m procrastinating from doing my biggest, most impactful work.

If you feel the same or similar, you’re not alone. The antidote, then, is to consciously reprogram the unhealthy samskara that lives in the subconscious with an alternative. An alternative medicine, if you will. The alternative medicine that I’ve prescribed to myself to combat procrastination is to take inspired action. Taking inspired action means that I act immediately when possible or if a project or idea needs more time then I schedule a plan of action for timely and thorough follow through. It sounds simple, but in practice it still requires a lot of rewiring and reprogramming. I’m used to getting excited and inspired but not starting at all or moving on to the next thing before my brilliance gets to see the light of day. When I give myself permission to show up fully for big, expansive, sometimes scary, creative output, and then follow up with inspired action, I overcome the patterns that kept me safe (read: stuck).


Ultimately, when we bring our subconscious motivations to the surface we get to witness them more objectively. Instead of running the inner workings of our thoughts, and therefore our lives, we can see them for what they are. They are wounds that need healing. They are patterns that no longer serve us. They may have kept us safe in the past, but to create the future that we deserve we need to honor, understand, and transmute these patterns. There is wisdom in each samskara. And there is a medicine unique to each of us that through awareness and compassion we can articulate and grow from with practice.


The idea of writing this post was scary at first, I wanted my first blog post here to be nothing short of perfection. But like exploring my samskaras with curiosity and openness, I feel a lot lighter having reached the other side. My hope is that this post and others like it will inspire you to take inspired action towards that very aspect of you that is ready to rise to the surface and see the light of day with all of the brilliance that you already are.


On the journey to healing, which is rooted in realizing our wholeness, a crucial step is to love and honor all parts of ourselves so fully that we can ascend to new heights and evolve as we’re meant to. If you’re having trouble acknowledging and moving through all of your parts, know that I am here to help. If you’d like to receive support on your journey, let’s talk. Follow this link to book a free, Pathway to Purpose call with me and let’s see what’s possible.


In health and healing, growth and success,


Ravi


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