What is perfection? You may be surprised by the widely accepted, yet untrue, definition of this concept. Throughout the coaching process Emily (let’s call her that), shared with me her difficulty with positive visualizations. The challenge to look at herself in the mirror and see her true self, void of age spots or belly rolls, was just not happening. She could mentally picture an old faded photo of herself from her teens—the one showing an anorexic 18-year old. But Emily could not imagine her own eternal soul. The very real image of that same soul she had before birth and will continue to BE after death was eclipsed by dissatisfying focus points reflected in her mirror. Instead, she became disgusted with jowls beneath her cheeks, fat pads on the inside of her knees, wrinkles, gray hairs, swollen hips, and other parts deemed unworthy.
“But I’m doing everything else.” She protested. “I’m listening to my body for prompts of what to eat. I’m staying in balance. I’m exercising daily at a sustainable intensity. Why does it matter what I see in the mirror?” She paused and then declared, “I will like what I see after I have lost all the weight.”
To answer her question I explained the way we “see” ourselves maps a blueprint for our bodies to follow. Our bodies take the shape of what we ask of them. For instance, the bodies of different athletes reflect the demands of their particular sport—think long distance runners or swimmers. Swimmers ask their bodies to propel through water in a particular way and accordingly develop shoulder, back, thigh, and lateral muscles. Visualizing a performance is a key element in training programs for professional athletes, musicians, dancers, etc. In terms of living in peace with our bodies without weight issues, when we visualize and believe we are glorious, perfect, and ”enough”, and we team that with the ideal fuel balance and activity, our bodies take our ideal shape. The blueprint can also work against us. If we see ourselves as “on trial” and unacceptable, we perpetuate the brain chemistry and mentality of something other than ideal. This critical blueprint results in a battle with our own bodies.
I continued to dig a little deeper and asked,
“Emily, why do you suppose when you see yourself in the mirror you default to a critical perspective, instead of having fun with the joyful visualization of the real you?”
Her response was gut-wrenching.
“Because I look so bad.”
“OK,” I said. “If you were handicapped and scarred with horrible burns–in a wheelchair, would your soul be less than gorgeous? What does how you look today have to do with connecting with your soul? ”
“Because until I look perfect I cannot convince myself otherwise,” she replied.
There it was; the admission that she felt she was on trial for acceptance; proving herself. Perfection or bust. I asked her to examine perfection. What is it? Are we graded on a curve? Do we need to look better than our friends and family to rank high? Are we only closer to perfection if we are more beautiful than other moms, neighbors, co-workers? What about aging: Do we get a handicap or a bonus point for every decade we remain wrinkle-free and mobile? Do we need to be better-looking than movie stars in magazines…because, hey those pics have been photo-shopped? Where will it end? How the heck are we going to arrive at perfection? Do we need to exceed the features of a computer-enhanced image in a magazine in order to believe that we are perfect? So, again I asked: what is perfection?
It was at this point that her definition of perfection expanded. She had a moment of brilliance and realized perfection is something she (and you) already has. We are born with it. Our undeniably perfect souls, the ones that never get old or grow hairs in weird places, are real. These changing bodies that shift through our mortal lives are temporary and less real. In fact, our perfection is not affected at all by a broken leg or an ingrown toenail, or heaven forbid, fat thighs.
With this greater understanding of who she is Emily looked down and noticed for the first time that her legs were thinner. She saw in the mirror her collar bones were starting to protrude. She rejoiced in her loose pants and increased stamina. AND this loving self-view helped jump-starting her metabolism such that she dropped a pound over Thanksgiving. This all occurred while eating pie and not restricting.
Be honest about the bar you set for yourself. If you withhold acceptance until you match a preset level of “thin” you are feeding the brain chemistry that keeps you fat. Set a blueprint for ideal weight by saying hello to your beautiful soul. Live in the truth that you are absolutely gorgeous. De-bunk the lie that you need to look perfect before you suspend criticism and embrace your perfect soul.
Will you accept this challenge to see your soul? What does it look like? Acknowledge and accept your eternal perfection. Beware defining “perfect” as something temporal. The real you—the one that you take everywhere you go—is the one that God created long ago without the need for photo-shop. You are perfect.