In my book, Wellness Warrior, Fighting for Live in Fabulous Shoes, I talk about a friend of mine named Bella. I didn’t know at the time how much her struggle with being a perfectionist and people pleaser was part of my own journey as well.
Are you a perfectionist and is people pleasing part of your journey too?
When Bella and I first met, she was the typical Type A mom that seemed like she always had everything together. She set impossible standards for herself that no one else could live up to. When we created shared projects for our children’s classroom, her part was always better baked, glued, stapled, stenciled, and/or scrapbooked. Even Bella’s six-pack abs were intimidating, and her hair always ponytail free.
Looking back, I was incredibly jealous of her because I could barely manage a shower, and definitely not every day. I constantly judged myself as inferior to her which strained our relationship.
Then the financial crisis hit and her husband lost his business. Her perfect life came crashing down as they faced bankruptcy and had to move in with his parents while they got back on their feet.
Bella pulled her kids out of school and the family disappeared for awhile. I often wondered how they were doing, but never had the courage to reach out to her.
Months later I saw her at a coffeehouse. I almost didn’t recognize her. She wore a long skirt and a t-shirt with a pair of flip-flops. I’d never seen Bella in flip-flops before. Her usually perfectly coiffed hair was pulled back in a casual ponytail, and she wore very little makeup. Her energy had changed to something softer and more peaceful. It was not the crazy, high-stress stuff I’d come to expect. She appeared relaxed, Botox free, and truly beautiful.
I couldn’t hide my astonishment at the change in her. “Bella? You look amazing! What’s your secret?” I asked.
She thought about it for a moment then replied, “I guess it all started with a story I heard in a yoga class I took at the YWCA.”
She continued, “It was a beautiful story about a caterpillar that believed she had come into being only to eat and sleep and do what the rest of the caterpillars did. However, she was unhappy, somehow sensing that there was another dimension she had not yet experienced.
One day, driven by a strange longing she didn’t understand, the caterpillar decided to become still and silent. Hanging from the branch of a tree, she wove a cocoon around her body.
Although constrained and uncomfortable, she waited inside the cocoon, sensing and aware. Her patience bore fruit, for when the cocoon burst open, she was no longer a lowly worm but a beautiful, winged butterfly that dazzled the sky. She soared, no longer limited to a worm-like existence but free and limitless. The caterpillar had been transformed into a thing of air and lightness, magic and beauty.
Once the transformation had taken place, it was impossible for the butterfly to return to being a worm. In the cocoon, the caterpillar had become one with her inner being and through this union, she had reached her ultimate nature.”
Bella realized that her unhappiness wasn’t due to the circumstances in her life, it was because she didn’t know or like the person she had become. She could no longer see her life past her perfectionist ideas and people-pleasing tendencies and felt overwhelmed because she cared too much about what others think. She became the front she put up for others and her inner self was lost.
Do you struggle with perfectionism, or feeling overwhelmed by caring too much about what others think?Click To Tweet
She was stuck in her own cocoon; staying hidden for fear that others would see her as damaged. Once she broke free of her own expectations of herself and others, she was able to relax in her imperfections and become a more authentic version of herself.
Bella found peace and released her inner perfectionist by no longer looking to the outside world for validation. This gave her the inner strength she needed to walk through a time of uncertainty in her life.
You have the same strength and the same freedom, you will find it once you stop looking outside yourself for approval.
I believe that things happen for us and not to us.Click To Tweet
There will always be dips in your life where it feels like nothing is going right. If you approach these times looking outward first, then adjusting how you feel from there, everything ‘out there’ has power over you. By shifting your focus inward first, you will stay grounded in who you are so when life throws you a curve ball, you can catch it with ease.
It’s ok to ask for help and lean on others during your dark night of the soul. We all need a little guidance at some point to navigate through pain just like Bella did when she went to that yoga class. Just remember, the trails of life are there to teach you not to harm you. When you shift your perspective to one of learning, you are no longer a victim of your circumstances.
You may not always have control of your external life, but you do have complete control of your internal world and how you handle anything is a choice.
I’d love to know:
- What’s one specific thing in your life that seems overwhelming right now?
- How can you look at it as a learning opportunity?
I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section. Who knows, you may be helping someone feel less alone by sharing your vulnerability.
No matter how great your life is, you’re always going to encounter pain and struggle. The question is, how are you going to respond?
P.S. If you have friends, clients or colleagues who care way too much about what people think, forward this post. They’ll thank you for a fresh perspective.