When describing my tendencies, I tend to jump to words like ‘Type A’ or ‘Perfectionist’ or even ‘Anal Retentive’. And while my personality type is often glorified in American culture, its becoming more and more apparent that my lifestyle needs to shift.
For me, the habits started young. In high school I aggressively filled my schedule with anything that remotely interested me, and more importantly, would stand out on a resume. National Honor Society, Student Council, Honor Role, Key Club, TV Productions, Year Book, French Club, soccer team, and the starring role in the school play. (You wouldn’t believe the number of times I was in the school yearbook.)
Being busy made me feel important. I quickly and easily attached my self worth to my mental resume. ‘I am worthy and successful and I have multiple certificates to verify those facts‘. But my standards were high and I was running in circles to prove my own worth. Nothing was ever good enough – I was never good enough.
Filling my schedule with commitments left little time for me to think about my problems at home, my ever increasing anxiety, and the emotions I was successfully suppressing. Despite my insane efforts, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to get into a good enough college (which would inevitably result in my never having a profitable career and dying alone). My panic attacks became more and more frequent – I joined another club.
I continued these habits through college. Since graduating, I have consistently taken on anywhere between 3-5 jobs to support myself – sometimes because I just couldn’t say no. Most of my life, I have considered my (neurotic) work ethic to be one of my greatest strengths. Until more recently, I haven’t thought much about it.
After years of pushing and striving and forcing, I’ve worn myself down.
At 25, I am healing from adrenal fatigue, chronic anxiety, and various other imbalances. I’ve spent the last 4 years perfecting my diet and my sleep patterns. I’ve found every way imaginable to track my goals and quantify my performance. I own more self help books than novels and my knowledge on holistic health is weirdly robust. All with little to no results. Finally, I was given a reality check: if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I wouldn’t ever get any better.
“What are you talking about?? I’m a yoga instructor – I’m the healthiest person I know… Have you seen what I eat??“
That is what I’ve been choosing to believe. That I’m doing everything right. But lately I’ve noticed that my ‘normal’ is clenching my belly and taking in short, shallow breaths. My ‘normal’ is racing thoughts, chronic worry, and a total absence of joy. My ‘normal’ is searching for natural anxiety supplements online.
No, I am not in perfect balance….but that’s okay.
In my yoga classes, I constantly go back to this phrase. Maybe today you can’t touch your toes; that’s okay. Maybe today your right hip feels tight; that’s okay. Self criticism is normal in our culture; and if you’re anything like me, the description of your personal faults can become the sole soundtrack of your mind. By simply allowing myself to be however I am today, I remove resistance. Suddenly, I can find a little more air and a little more space.
While my body is rebuilding, I have noticed thoughts come up like ‘you’re not supposed to feel like this’ or ‘you should be doing more’. Rather than clenching, controlling, and pushing, I am allowing. Yes, I need more sleep. Yes, I need more downtime. Yes, I am on a restrictive diet. Yes, I still don’t feel great everyday. And that’s okay.
I won’t say that this has been an easy process, but that makes it all the more important to remove resistance. I am relearning how to approach my day to day life and rewiring my destructive thought patterns. Relaxing no longer comes naturally to me, so I am setting aside time (morning, noon, and night) to unwind. Through yoga, meditation, breath work, and play, I am slowly rebuilding my life.