Change Spirals Outward, LLC
I went through much of my life as an ardent perfectionist and over-achiever. I was forever pushing myself so that even when I was doing something I loved, I felt an overwhelming pressure to perform. There was little if any time to simply be present and enjoy the moment. My to-do lists were endless, and though I made some healthy changes, I always put reshaping fundamental patterns (like perfectionism) on the far side of the next big project, only to find there was invariably another distracting responsibility waiting on the other side to get between me and deeper healing.
My wake-up call came when debilitating health problems forced me to take several months entirely off from working. I got somewhat better, but without addressing the deeper patterns it wasn’t long before I was as busy and stressed as ever, only now my health was barely at 50%. More months passed before I began to realize that that I no longer liked my life: I was still in a lot of pain, and I was continually crushed under a multitude of responsibilities with little time for joy, creativity or connection. I was finally ready to heed the wake-up call, and I decided to reach out to an old mentor, begin work with a counselor, and renew my spiritual practice. My mentor told me that it was “time to work on my perfectionism,” and recommended a book called Daring Greatly by an author who was new to me, Brené Brown, PhD.
[expand title=”Read More…” swaptitle=””]
Six weeks later I was in regular counseling and had flown through all three of Brené’s books. I found that they resonated powerfully with my experience – through her research I was finally able to name the root of my unhealthy patterns: shame was running my life. I set impossible expectations of myself and then beat myself up for not meeting them – my inner critic was overpowering the more positive voices within me. I was so physically depleted and so afraid of vulnerability that my genuine self was hidden from all but my partner and a few close friends.
Just as positive shifts within were beginning, I learned that my marriage of more than a decade was no longer sound. In my own emotional and physical distress, I had not been able to see how much my partner, the person I had loved most, was also struggling. How much my actions and priorities were profoundly out of alignment with my core values came into stark focus. I had placed my responsibilities as teacher and doctor above everything else in my life, including my relationships with myself, my body, my partner, family, friends, community, creativity, play, nature and Spirit. While those two responsibilities are deeply important to me, I had fallen out of balance by not also honoring all else that I hold dear.
Even as I began a painful struggle to try to rebuild from the damage to my marriage, I committed to live in greater integrity with my values. Soon a breakthrough came for my physical health and my outlook when I experienced a soul retrieval, a powerful shamanic healing ceremony. This proved to be a turning point for my physical symptoms and also helped me to renew my gratitude and joy. This healing combined with daily meditations and prayers established a strong spiritual foundation in my life.
Meanwhile I began to reach out and form vulnerable friendships and connect to new communities. I learned to say “no” at work and to ask for help rather than trying to do it all myself. I reconnected with my creativity and with the joy and wonder of the natural world. I finally began to build trust in my authentic self and to genuinely love myself. With time it became clear that the paths of my husband and I were diverging. I am very grateful that I had built foundations of support in my inner and outer relationships that allowed me to stay present with my grief and to end the relationship with compassion for both of us.
Through this journey I discovered that at the core of my experience is my relationship with myself. As I have healed this central relationship, all of the other aspects of my life have been positively impacted. It has become clear that no matter how much we may be loved by others, it can never take the place of loving ourselves. I have cultivated a life where there is so much more joy, connection, love, gentleness and spaciousness than I had ever known in the past, and as I have grown in my ability to hear my body’s needs, I have become physically healthier than I have been in years. The me that existed before these shifts saw many of my life-draining patterns as simply a part of who I was, and I would not have believed that this fundamental reshaping of my life was possible. I am very grateful to have learned first hand that we are capable of deep changes and also that personal growth is not something that we simply check off an internal list – we are continually learning and growing and changing, and perfection is not the goal.[/expand]
Bastyr University, Seattle
Change Spirals Outward, LLC