9 Tips to Boost Confidence from a Recovering Perfectionist
Photo taken by McCall Besten of @birds.n.bees . Originally published on Elephant Journal.
Perfectionism is something I have struggled with from my first breath of earth's sweet gases.
As a young woman in America, eating light and exercising was not enough. So in the name of a perfect body, I meticulously counted calories and sweated in surplus like an anorexic Olympian.
As a student, studying was not enough. So in the name of good grades, I abused Adderall and coffee.
As an adult woman in the working world, clocking in from nine to five was not enough. So in the name of more is better, I worked overtime and embodied the spirit of go-go gadget.
Slow down, was not in my vocabulary. Move, I have shit to do was.
My achievements were never enough. I lusted for more. Because there was an emotionally abusive nagging stepmother voice (think Danielle from Ever After) clip-clopping her heals in my head that made me believe: I was not good enough.
I began to see how convoluted this belief system was in 2016. The universe recognized my stubbornness and that I had no intention of healing my addiction to overdoing everything. So the universe gifted me with a grocery list of bizarre illnesses and chronic insomnia.
Then, I was forced to slow down. My illnesses stemmed from being horrifically harsh on myself.
In my 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2017, the leaders helped me shed light on this. I had to uncover my lie--that crackling cassette tape that’s jammed in the silky folds of my mind.
Something good happens: "You're not worthy." "You're not enough."
Something bad happens: "I told you, you were a fuck up!"
I knew my lie instantly. It was that I was not good enough.
Finally, I was ready to step out of this fog and into my power. Busyness was making me sicker, by beating myself up and running away from my wounds. I committed to working with my coach and coaching myself. Through facing my dysfunctional cassette tapes and manic behavior, I began to experience radical transformation.
Here are my nine favorite tips for boosting confidence, alleviating perfectionism, and cultivating contentment:
1. Breath Meditation
This is the simplest, most effective tool I know to calm the mind. Ground yourself in presence. There is no room for a nagging voice. The ego dissolves.
"'Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year, and it will be more powerfully transformative than attending all of these courses [you can take]. And it's free." - Eckhart Tolle from A New Earth
Another simple, free, and effective tool to clear the mind. Journaling helps to release thoughts and feelings that tornado white noise gossip talk in our minds. Write it out. Get it out. Give these thoughts and feelings permission to be released. Don't like to 'journal,' make a list!
Marisa Peer, celebrity therapist and acclaimed hypnotherapist, has helped thousands overcome addiction, self-sabotage, low self-confidence, etc. How? By working with the affirmation, "I am enough." This affirmation slowly records over the negative tapes that sound like Tourette’s. I know, it sounds too good to be true...but the biggest questions always have the simplest answers.
4. You are not your thoughts or feelings
You have thoughts and feelings. And changing your thoughts gives you the power to change everything.
"Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; they become your destiny." - Lao Tzu
The next time you catch yourself drowning in negative self-talk or scrutinizing your life with a magnifying glass, take a holy pause. Breathe. Then, turn those thoughts into positive or constructive ones. Say, "I am enough!"
Exercise not only boosts energy, motivation, muscle tone, and self-esteem, but also alleviates depression and anxiety. The science is irrefutable now. Google it. Exercise is a form of therapy.
This is something I invite all my clients to do, not just the ones who want to lose weight. Who doesn't want more joy in their life? Move dat body!
As a coach who gets coached, I see the power of having someone trustworthy who you divulge darkness to. Sharing secrets may make you cringe, but they will suffocate you if you do not give them voice. There is so much healing in simply speaking to these wounds.
Coaching helps boost confidence by bringing awareness to these harsh thoughts, challenging, and replacing them with constructive ones. A coach also helps you set realistic goals (keeps you accountable), celebrates your success, and reminds you to practice gratitude.
7. Deep Sleep
Sleep is not only imperative for overall wellness, it's free! When I sleep deeply, I am confident, focused, happy, and that nagging voice is like a faraway whisper.
As a recovering insomniac, I know sleep deprivation can cause depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Make time to sleep eight hours a night. If you tend to have nighttime anxiety or simply want deeper sleep, cut off electronics an hour before bed, journal and/or read, drink some sleepy time tea, make your room cave dark, and hit the pillow.
If you have chronic insomnia, seek help now! Do not wait, it only gets worse.
8. Flow States
You can find flow in almost anything. The activity must have a challenge, immediate feedback, and a goal. My favorite flow activities are yoga, writing, hiking, singing, coloring, and road trips. Add a flow activity to your weekly routine (three times per week for one hour) and see your joy skyrocket.
A flow state is a heightened state of consciousness where people are so absorbed in their present activity that nothing else matters momentarily. Flow silences our inner critic (what recovering perfectionist doesn't crave that?!), accelerates learning, and cultivates immense joy.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined this term in the late 1960s amid the largest happiness study to date. He found that the people with the most flow in their life were also the happiest.
9. Ask for Support from Friends and Family
Be vulnerable and tell your loved ones you are working on your perfectionism or negative self-talk. Give permission to your loved ones to call you out when you are being ugly to yourself. Being strong is being vulnerable. We are stronger together.
Remember there is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is boring. Plain like a bagel without cream cheese. Embrace your flaws. They add flavor.
Turn your perfectionism into inspiration. Be confident in your mistakes. They are trying to teach you something.
And relish each moment, it is all there is.
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination. For a long time, it seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one. - Alfred D. Souza