Perfectionism- a path to paralysis

Genevieve profile“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”  – Anna Quinlen


I spent  most of my life focused on Beauty, Health and “Success”, I fell into the trap that “at some moment in the future, everything would be better,” even, “Perfect.”

My love and appreciation of beauty is a gift. I see it as a God-given gift – something I was born with. It was encouraged and nurtured by my family. I’ ve always been drawn to and inspired by Beauty in Art, Dance, Music, and the Human body. 

Beauty & Perfection.  Are they the same?

Most of my struggles come from my unconscious pairing of Beauty and Perfection. Here’s the problem, in search of Perfection, my ideal is never reached. Let’s face it, almost nobody’s can. The moment, I sneak up to the goal, desire or dream, I raise the bar. That, imaginary bar that is unreachable, setting myself up for failure, every single time.

Here’s an example: Dance is one of my passions. I danced as a child, teenager, and throughout my adult years because I loved it. I still do! I didn’t dream of becoming a Professional Dancer. Dance was a place to experience beauty,  joy, creative expression, and freedom.

But even there, standing and moving in front of the big mirrors, I  found myself focused on the Perfectionist ideal, the perfect Dancer’s body, the long lean legs, the “perfectly” arched feet, the choreography executed with precision – the truly unattainable. I compared my body to others in the rooms and those I had seen on stage, and I never quite made the mark.  Today I practice more compassion with myself, but this compassion didn’t come quickly.


Twenty “some” years ago, I was in the best shape of my life, as most of us are in our twenties. My “fighting weight” to quote my sister.  My ability to recover from injury was the speed of light compared to the recovery time in my fifties. Yet even then from my perspective, my body didn’t measure up. I was never enough.

But for whom?  My teachers?  The Dance world?  The American standard for how women are supposed to look?  The idea of what is attractive and enough kept changing either from outside influences or simply from me raising the bar on myself and simultaneously lowering it on my self-esteem.

What about me? What about my opinion? I relied, even survived on what other people said was right and Beautiful and acceptable, I didn’t stop to consider my own feelings and most fundamental needs. A lifetime of dance, exercise, working out, loads of crazy diets and 27 years of Pilates later, my thoughts have changed. So has my practice of acceptance.

Change is a process, not an event.

Cultivating acceptance has taken a very long time, and it’s a process – a daily process.  If I make it a goal on my “to do” list, it sends me reeling back into my Perfectionist vortex and straight down the rabbit hole.

Today, I’m drawing my own conclusions about beauty, my body, and what’s true, inspiring and perfect. I’m redefining perfection. Which, by the way, is fantastically imperfect! I do things I love because I’m inspired to feel good about myself doing it. I pay attention more to myself and listen to the needs of my body. I now consciously choose activities, experiences, and practices that make me feel good and are good for me.

For the past  3 decades, I’ve had the honor of teaching movement. Not a day of teaching goes by where I don’t observe someone talking negatively and even destructively about their body. It’s usually women, but not always. It saddens me to watch these amazing, gifted and wonderful people spend so much energy berating themselves while doing something they enjoy. This negative self-talk and internal dialogue of self-criticism are so harmful to our health and happiness.

Today, I’m making a conscious choice to celebrate the joy of movement, the gifts of movement and the creativity of movement: whether that is, a morning walk in the desert, a Dance class, Pilates, Yoga, or a gentle evening stretch. I marvel at the mystery my body is and the human body in general; this delicate, complicated, powerful,  ever-changing miracle.

3 Practices to stop negative self-talk & boost self-esteem.

1. Meditate or Pray

Meditation allows for space and opportunity to step away from our thoughts and emotions.

This practice of stepping away strengthens the observer and helps us become a witness of our mind activity/thoughts. A Meditation practice allows us to see our thoughts, to observe our thoughts, but to realize we are not our thoughts. In this witnessing state, you can more easily step away from your reactions as well as negativity.

2.  Move your Body

  • Practice the six directions of the spine from Pilates & Yoga.
  • Get on the Foam Roller for 10-15 minutes.
  • Go through 2-4 rounds of Standing Sun Salutations.
  • Walk outside.
  • Above all, move your body in a way you enjoy!

3. Practice Gratitude

 Gratitude Journaling

Cultivate a daily or weekly journaling practice.  Being in a place of gratitude opens us up to acceptance and ultimately, love. We simply cannot be in anger, frustration, irritation, perfectionism, or disappointment and simultaneously be in gratitude.

Journaling is a wonderful way to change your emotional state and move into joy, appreciation, and love.   I spend 30 minutes daily in gratitude journaling.  My writing includes giving thanks for my parents, husband, sister, cousins, friends, my meditation practice, my body, my health, and even my ongoing health challenges which give me opportunities for growth I may not have had… you get the idea!

I encourage you to be kind to yourself as you commit to new practices or becoming more consistent with your current practices.  Mindfulness lifestyle practices combined with consistent exercise and mindful movement will help you expand your awareness, gain greater clarity, and practice self-compassion.




If you struggle with Perfectionism or Negative self-talk and would like to receive support and strategies for feeling better, contact me:

(520) 299-6541 or