Struggling with perfectionism

I’m in the process of becoming trained as a yoga teacher, and the nine-month-long training includes writing a number of papers. I’ll post them here because, well, that’s what I do. The third writing assignment was a reflection on chakras. This assignment was challenging for me because the concepts are so different from what I’m accustomed to. But I also enjoy learning about things outside of my norm, so I’m continuing to study this.

I often wrestle with my perfectionist tendencies. That shows up in the words I use to describe myself and my key traits. Am I Type A, anal retentive, obsessive? Or am I detail oriented, organized and methodical?

I’ve been faced with those labels (yet again) as I go through yoga teacher training. This week I’ve been trying to read “Eastern Body, Western Mind,” a 450-page book that explores the chakras, or energy centers, and psychology. I’m supposed to be concentrating on a chakra for a week, addressing it in some way three times daily.

This has been an especially busy season of life, and so I tried to take what seemed like the easy way out on this one. I have a ton of lavender-scented items around my house, so I would figure out which chakra lavender interacted with and start working on that. A friend shared a chart representing the correlation of different oils to different chakras, making my work much easier. Lavender correlates with the crown and third eye chakras? Great. I’ll pay attention to one of those.

So I did—or I tried to, at least. I slathered myself with lavender-citrus body lotion that first morning. I donned a purple shirt. (I’ll confess, I still wasn’t sure which chakra I was addressing, but I figured purple was a safe bet. I haven’t yet figured out the difference between indigo and violet, but those are the colors of these two chakras.) I smeared purple eye shadow in the creases of my eyelids, and I was off.

I know this sounds like a poorly executed plan. It was. I’ve felt pulled in many directions lately, and I’m struggling to keep up. A couple of busy weeks have meant that I’ve put off my reading and even let my yoga practice slip. After-work commitments and impending deadlines have gotten the best of me, and I’ve allowed them to do so.

On the first night, I came home from work early and changed into a pair of yoga pants. I had articles left to edit and plans yet to make, but I could at least be comfortable doing so. (I opted to keep on my purple shirt for whatever chakra-related energy it might provide.) I slipped back into the busy-ness.

Hours later, I realized I was hungry and past my usual dinner time. But I needed something more than dinner; I needed grounding. As an omelet slowly cooked on my stovetop, I returned to my mat. My practice wasn’t complicated or especially challenging. I used a Yoga Journal-suggested sequence I had programmed into my phone on the ride back from the beach earlier this week (even four-and-a-half hour car trips can be productive, right?). It was 13 minutes without adequate warm up, and I could feel throughout my body the tightness that comes from a sedentary, stressful life. But I was moving, and it felt good.

That movement also prompted a realization: I realized that the cerebral, ethereal energy centers of the crown and third-eye chakras aren’t where my focus needs to be concentrated—at least not in a way that would encourage further development. If anything, I could be overdeveloped in these areas. It’s not like me to shift course mid-journey. I like to make a plan and stick with it. But in this case, I needed to make a change.

Instead, I shifted my attention to my root chakra. Part of my craving for control is surely tied to a desire for security and order in all things. I’ve got that in some areas of my life, but in others I’m experiencing a lot of ambiguity. I’m seeking balance and a healthy relationship with that uncertainty as I continue to face my Type-A personality in all its glory and shame.

After all, that’s why I began practicing yoga.

But even though I know that focusing on being grounded is the right choice for me right now, those struggles have continued to show up. I’ve gone through the motions, donning essential oils, drinking ginger tea and focusing on mountain pose. The entire concept of chakras is so other, though, that I’m having trouble wrapping my head around how all of these pieces tie together. I’ve grown frustrated with myself because I just don’t get it.

Even so, I’ll continue to wrestle with these concepts. Just as yoga is about the journey, not the destination, I suspect that grasping related concepts is an ongoing process.


Filed under Autobiography, Yoga

4 Responses to Struggling with perfectionism

  1. Thank you so much for writing that!! I am Type A and a Perfectionist as well so I can without a doubt relate. Ironically I love Yoga as well can sympathize completely with what you are describing. Once again, thank you for sharing that. I take comfort in knowing that others struggle with the same areas of life that I do.

    • Thanks for sharing! I think there is so much power in sharing out struggles, both because there’s comfort in finding we aren’t alone and because there is some sort of freedom in naming your challenges and not allowing them to hold you hostage.

  2. Brittany W.

    Thanks for sharing. I came across one of your articles on Linkedin and then found myself reading them all:) I have experienced the struggle of balancing my Type B personality with someone who is Type A. Reading your struggle to balance helps me understand ya’ll’s natural need to be in control. Thanks for your transparency!

    • It’s an interesting challenge! I’m pretty good at being in control, but it isn’t always in others’ best interests. That’s something I’ve had to learn (and have become better at with time, although I’ll note there’s still room for improvement).

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