Learning to Enjoy 'Imperfection'
By Annie Lawler
LEARNING TO ENJOY ‘IMPERFECTION’
At a time when we have more wealth and opportunity than any generation before us, why are so many of us discontent with life and our surroundings and why do so many of us fall prey to depression and anxiety?
Of course, there are different types of depression – some of which are caused by medical or genetic situations and make-up. However it’s worth exploring why so many of us are discontent with our lot and what is influencing these feelings. Becoming aware of these influences can help us recognise where our unhappiness springs from and we can then choose whether we wish to change some of our habits and adopt a more positive attitude to life.
Perfectionism – an attitude doomed to failure
I’m not suggesting here that we don’t strive to be the best we can be or that we don’t set ourselves and those around us high standards. However ‘perfect’ is as much a concept of the mind as it is anything. Perfect to me, maybe far from it to my partner, neighbour or colleague. And you might have noticed, we don’t live in a Utopia – this is not a perfect world and we are not perfect, so why do we come to expect perfection and then become so depressed when we fail to achieve our own ideals?
Think of the influences around us from the day we’re born.
- A lot of us experienced teachings where we strive to be perfect in all we say, think and do. We are often taught that our religious or political expression is ‘right’ and everyone else is ‘wrong’. Some even go as far as to kill others who do not share their belief system, making the world feel unsafe and threatening.
- Our schools and educational establishments may have ‘streamed’ us and maybe we didn’t go to the ‘top’ school in the country or get straight ‘A’s in our exams. The current trend is to strive to get to University to succeed, when maybe our real talents lie in a skilled job or a vocation rather than academia.
- On TV, in magazines, in newspapers, at the movies and on billboards all around us are images of ‘perfect’ people – glamorous, slim, successful, rich. If we don’t, in our own perception, meet the same levels of visual beauty, we may choose to go on a constant round of stringent diets, demanding exercise programmes and even go so far as to undergo painful surgical procedures in the search for physical ‘perfection’.
- Our ‘success’ is measured in the material things that we have, the designer labels that we wear and the area and size of property that we live in. Our personal achievements that nobody notices on the surface, don’t really come into it!
- Our gameshows and entertainments are largely about gaining money and more money. Is money the only thing, then, that makes us happy and whole?
- We’re taught to achieve, but then in many cases, if we haven’t ‘achieved’ a certain status – financially, materially and career-wise - by our mid-thirties, we’re virtually right-offs!
Our newspapers, TV programmes, films, video games and reading matter are largely packed with negative imagery – wars, disasters, corruption, murder and violence.
I’m not denying that these things happen. It’s just that the whole thing makes us feel that we live in very negative environment and that everything is disappearing rapidly down the pan! We rarely have so many articles and news items about positive events and we are even surprised when someone does something nice for us or treats us kindly – and yet there are still many more well-intending, ‘good’ people out there, than there are bad.
Marketers ask daily to consider whether someone is trying to ‘steal’ our identity, who we can claim compensation from when things don’t go our way, who we can blame for all manner of things from job loss to marital breakdown and even death.
Many of our foods are artificially produced, pre-prepared and have additives which seriously affect out behaviour and our health. A large proportion of the population work in offices and in sedentary jobs, when we were designed to work in natural environments, tending the land and getting our exercise that way. We live in busy, noisy, dirty environments. We are constantly exposed to chemicals, pollutants and so forth – many of which have a lot of benefits to us.
I could go on and on, but I hope by now you have the message.
No wonder we feel depressed! No wonder we feel we have no control!
But let me tell you a little secret! Neither we or our environment is perfect, nor were we ever intended to be. There are those who have much to gain from keeping us all in a state of fear, worry and anxiety and there are those who are well-intentioned, but don’t understand the effects of what they are doing.
However, we are magnificent in our imperfection – it’s often the ‘imperfections’ and ‘mistakes’ we make that make us what and who we are. These are the valuable lessons that make us the unique individual each and every one of us is.
What Can We Do?
Next time you feel down and get into thinking about what you haven’t got compared to someone else and all the things you haven’t achieved or the places you haven’t been and all the ways in which your life is not perfect. Next time you feel you’re not good enough. Next time you feel down and that life isn’t treating you fairly, take a deep breath, take a few minutes out, stand back and try thinking about :
1. What has influenced this feeling? What are you expecting of yourself and what conditioning has helped you form your belief of what you ‘should’ be and do.
2. Who gains out of you feeling this way and what are their motives?
3. What positive actions can you take to regain responsibility and control of your thoughts and actions?
4. What can you choose to do differently for a better outcome for you?
5. What is good and positive about you and your situation at this moment? Even in your darkest moments, there’ll be something - even if it is that you’re still breathing and you’re free to do what you want with your day. Not everyone had that privilege this morning! Make a list of the ways in which you are lucky and remind yourself daily.
6. Try to spend some time in a natural environment and eat natural foods on a regular basis. Go to the park at lunchtime and look at the trees, flowers and grass. They grow and achieve what they are meant to out of life just by being. Have a walk in the countryside or take a week-end by the sea and appreciate what a fantastic and beautiful planet we live in and on.
7. Look for the positives and appreciate the good things around you.
8. Pay attention to your inner voice and to your external language. When you hear the words ‘I/you/he/she should…’, ‘not good enough’ and negative thoughts and phrases, just pause and take a breath. Who says you ‘should’ do or be anything? Go with what works for you and make an effort to adopt more positive thought processes and language.
9. Appreciate yourself. Look regularly at what you have achieved in sometimes very difficult circumstances. Concentrate on your good points and talents and give yourself and those around you regular praise and thanks.
10. Pay attention to what you read and hear on the news & entertainment programmes, on video games and from those around you etc. Could they be contributing to how you are feeling and if so, are they positive contributions?
Take back control for yourself. We may not be able to change anyone else or some situations around us, but we can take responsibility for making personal changes by becoming aware of what affects our belief systems and behaviour. Then take appropriate action and watch how this makes you feel and what effects this has on you and those around you. You might want to start with one small thing and work from there.
Most of all, keep positive, well and happy!
Breathing Space Therapies helps clients get back in the driving seat & to make the right choices to lead happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives, through positive and proven stress management techniques. We offer 1-2-1 coaching & counselling, 'Quick Fix' half-hour sessions, deep relaxation CDs to address phobias, anxiety & health issues, seminars, & holistic therapies.
Annie Lawler, Breathing Space Therapies, 0772 581 8884 firstname.lastname@example.org www.breathingspacetherapies.com
This article was posted by Annie Lawler