This wasn’t your average crowd.
The auditorium was filled with some of the most impressive people from every field. Looking around, I could see their faces. Thich Nhat Hanh. Barack Obama. Warren Buffett. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Seth Godin. Tim Ferriss…The list went on.
As the lights dimmed, Thich Nhat Hanh took the stage and approached the podium.
Adjusting the microphone, he addressed the crowd with a peaceful tone.
“Thank you for being here on this beautiful evening.
As you all know, we’re gathered here today to celebrate a very momentous occasion…
The Issuing of the Perfect Person Award.
It’s a grand achievement to live life in a way that is devoid of any missteps whatsoever…But he’s done it!!!
Without further ado, we are awarding the first ever Perfect Person Award to…
The Fantasy of “Perfect”
I burst out laughing when my coach told a story like this during one of our conversations.
It really is a comical idea: The Perfect Person!
Conceptually, I know there are no perfect people. And if given the chance, I wouldn’t want to be!
Yet at the same time most of us (myself included) get caught wanting to get everything right.
It’s a fairly engrained thought pattern for me. I grew up as a driven, Type-A, overachiever. I wanted to do everything, and I wanted to be great at all of it!
The fantasy of perfect leads to a nagging sense that…
- What I’m doing isn’t good enough
- I have to be doing more!
- I need to change
And if you don’t do these things? Well, surely the consequences will be tremendous!
Not so fast. 🙂
Fortunately, that line of thinking is delusional. There are no perfect people, and there never will be!
Isn’t that a relief?
Instead of continually failing to live up to the idea of “perfect”, we can scrap it altogether. The idea itself is insane, has no grounding in reality!
Now, just because nobody is perfect doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue growth and development. It doesn’t mean you can’t want to improve yourself and your life.
But it does require that you love yourself first.
Practicing Self Compassion to Move Forward With Wholeness
You have to love yourself, exactly where and how you are in this moment, before you can ever move forward in a powerful way.
The perfectionist goes through life thinking some form of “I’m not good enough, and I need something external (achievement) to fill this void inside me.”
With this state of mind, it’s nearly impossible to show up at your best. Too closed off, stressed, and fearful.
The alternative approach starts by extending compassion to yourself. It means not being harder on yourself than you would be on others.
Life is a journey of moments and days. Each of them matter.
To live an extraordinary life, all you have to do is focus on making the most of each day. 🙂
But without a whole sense of self, without realizing that your imperfections are what make you whole, without loving yourself unconditionally…you’re missing out on a whole new way of being.
Put it Into Practice: Connecting With Your Best Qualities
It’s easy to get so focused on growth, or the pursuit of “perfection” that you lose sight of what you have to offer, right here and now.
One reliable exercise to shift your attention from what you don’t have to what you do have is called the “Sell-Yourself-to-Yourself Commercial”.
I first learned about this exercise in the old-school self-help book, The Magic of Thinking Big.
This exercise starts from the understanding that we’re naturally wired to be hard on ourselves. To switch that, you can take time to specifically promote your best qualities by writing a “self-commercial”.
Doing this over time helps shift your personal identity. In turn this has the potential to shift everything in your life, because others see in you what you see in yourself.
Here’s how it works:
- Make a list of your best qualities. What are you good at? What would your friends, family, and coworkers say about you? How do you show up in the world when you’re at your best? (e.g. I’m an empathic connector…When the going get’s tough, I don’t back down…I’m clear on my priorities and express myself authentically…)
- Bonus: Sometimes it’s difficult to have this perspective about yourself, so you can ask people in your life what they think your best qualities are!
- Put those qualities on paper. Make a big ol’ bullet-pointed list. Put it on a notecard, or an 8.5”x11” sheet of paper. Fill it up! Write as many of your awesome qualities as you can think up. (Everyone has tons of them.)
- Write a headline above your best qualities. Something like “We’re here today to talk about how amazing/badass/awesome/incredible [your name] is, right here, right now, in this very moment. They are…”
- Perform this self-commercial once each day. Seriously, try it. Read it out loud. It will feel funny at first, but saying it aloud creates a different mental shift.
- Read it silently at other times in the day. In addition to reading out loud, you can reinforce this self-image by reading it silently. Perhaps before you walk into a meeting, before you start your work day, or before arriving home to spend time with your family.
This exercise is a practice of connecting with the truth of what is.
When our natural tendencies push us to focusing attention on what’s wrong, we benefit from deliberately connecting with the other side of things: our inherent goodness.
It might feel a little goofy, but I’ve found this exercise to create a noticeable positive shift in my state of mind when practiced.
It might feel goofy, but I’ve found this exercise to create a noticeable positive shift in my state of mind when practiced.
I hope it’s valuable to you as well!