If you’re a perfectionist, you’re in for a life long battle. No matter how hard you try, it’s never good enough. But Dominique found out she doesn’t have to prove herself anymore.
Dying my hair in the right color. Calling my mom. Being there in time. Paying the bills. Finally scheduling that appointment with friends. Answering every e-mail. Eating vegetables. Exercising. And there are so many other things I have to do, and I have to do well. Does reading this make you feel tired? The list is endless, and it only seems to get longer every year. The body asks for more and more maintenance and time is scarce.
Women’s magazines suggest that it’s possible: being a person – or becoming a person- with a sparkling personality, the perfect body, a loving relationship or a casually-eclectic decorated home. In my gym, in the early morning, I meet women with perfectly styled hair and make up wearing trendy sports outfits working on their ‘trembling upper arms’, according to the instructor, because after all: ‘We all want to be in shape for our bikinis next summer, don’t we?’
We’re nuts. That much is clear to me. I reached my lowest point when one day, I took part in a detox week in France for work. Women paid a lot of money not to eat for a week. Every day, we listened to stories about the poison in our food and all the things we were doing wrong. After two days I quit, hired a bike, explored the surroundings and had a glass of wine in a bay. The next day, the others wondered what I had been doing. I looked so much better, did I have an extra lavage? Um, no. I had simply had a day of uninhibited fun. The organizer protested: it didn’t work like that, I couldn’t just do as I pleased. ‘I’m not mad, just disappointed.’ And there it was: the feeling of guilt.
Perfectionism is the feeling that something’s broken, I read in an interview. The feeling that you’re broken. You try to repair the brokenness: you work hard, eat responsibly, get your diplomas. Oh, and you don’t forget to be mindful and relax. All the attempts to enforce our self worth are doomed, because in fact they confirm your inferiority. You keep spinning around like a hamster in a wheel, without getting one step further.
When, some time ago, I was overworked and exhausted, I joined in a yoga weekend. Well, not a weekend. I had time for a couple of hours. And in these hours, I had to do all of it: a series of postures, breathing exercises, standing on my head. In the break, the teachers came to see me. They looked worried. ‘You’re not doing great, are you?’ I didn’t understand what they meant. I was working on the exercises, wasn’t I? What was wrong this time?
One of the teachers looked at me with affectionate eyes. ‘Stop doing what it is you’re doing. You don’t have to prove yourself anymore. It’s enough.’ It hit me, right in the heart. Suddenly, I saw myself as the child that lacked self confidence, and now, as the grown woman who keeps fighting and doesn’t realise she’s her own biggest enemy. Who keeps longing for things that others can’t give her.
I don’t have to let someone else, or my achievements, define me. I can determine my own self worth. Don’t repair anything that’s not broken. Just enjoy life.
Text: Dominique Haijtema
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