I am admittedly not an athletic person by nature. Just ask my entire middle school basketball team that watched, puzzled, as I raced down the court to layup the ball into the other team’s basket (fun fact, the basket you’re aiming for switches at half time). I do, however, enjoy having a yoga practice; in part for the physical benefits, but mainly as a way to clear my thoughts, practice patience, and reflect.

I came to the mat this morning somewhat distracted by events from late last week that had resulted in tough (but needed) conversations and self-doubt. As much as I had tried over the weekend to have fun and let go, the shame I had experienced was still hanging over me like a dark cloud. I entered the studio and took a deep breath – the sun was shining, the day was young, and I looked to this class as an opportunity to get clearer with myself and put my shame gremlins back where they belong… far, far away from me.

Yoga is wonderful for the little wisdom nuggets you don’t expect to walk away with at the end. I got one today that hit me right when I needed to hear it most – the moment when I was literally melting from the heat of the window I was next to, pushing myself through a new and difficult pose, and letting my struggle affirm the self-doubt I had walked in the door with.

The instructor said, “Follow through. Do your best. And remember, your best looks different every day.” 

If you battle perfectionism as I often do, you’ll know it’s funny in how it’s not universal. For instance, because I haven’t historically experienced athletic success (see example above re: basketball), I don’t expect perfection when I hit the mat. I’m fully prepared to look pretty awkward, fall over at least 3 times, and curse under my breath every time the instructor says Chaturanga (Google it if you don’t know it… it’s the worst). I have lots of grace for myself and make modifications when needed. I thank myself just for taking the time to show up. In contrast, because I received good grades in school and care about my work with credit unions deeply, I often default into expecting perfection within that area of my life. I forgive myself when I fall over in tree pose in class, but I beat myself up mercilessly when I make a misstep at work.

This instructor’s words brought home that being your best doesn’t have to mean being THE best. Whether we like it or not, we all have inherent gifts and limitations; perfectionist demands aside, we have to work with what we’ve been given and cultivate that. And even when we’re in our element and being the best we can be, operating at 100% doesn’t happen every day. Expecting that is unrealistic because life happens: fires pop up, we get sick, our sleep schedules get off, we become distracted with our own worries and fears… it comes with the territory of being a human and not a robot.

Whether or not you’re a yogi, remember this the next time you find yourself in a perfectionist spiral. We’re all just here to do our best; some days we stumble, some days we look and feel flawless, and EVERY day we should be kinder to ourselves and say thanks just for showing up.

Wishing you inspHERation,