According to Wikipedia, Type A individuals are described as “outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving 'workaholics'."
And, Perfectionism "is a broad personality style characterized by a person's concern with striving for flawlessness and perfection and is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations.”
These are qualities of myself that have served me well in times of need and at 46, I realized how they also came to be a coping mechanism for myself and an unhealthy habit.
I first recognized this trait early in college when I got my first non-family member roommate. Did you know there isn't One Way to load the dishwasher? Or that other people feel awake and inspired late at night and NOT as the sunrises? Well, I didn't either, but I do now. And once you know something, it is hard to not know it.
I had a LONG, arduous and unpleasant road ahead though, of recognizing and reckoning with these qualities of myself. In fact, it wasn't until I was 43 that I REALLY decided to have a good conversation with the part of myself that felt like everything had to be “high-achieving” and perfect ALL THE TIME.
The first 10 years of practicing Yoga, I practiced a style that only validated and fueled the flame of my Type A Perfectionism. Most days on the mat, I just smiled at how Perfect I looked and how Perfect I felt in my body and how much more Perfect I was going to be when I mastered the next great Pose. I am sure I even felt a decent amount of Perfection over others because of this “mastery.” I had the pleasure of checking off the levels and working my way up the Yoga Ladder of Perfectionism. I mean, that's what all this Self Improvement is about, right? Improving the parts of myself that weren't right, aka, not Perfect?
It took me 10 years to realize that that was Not True and not what Yoga was about. I had only been tricking myself. I was, in my teacher's words, "feeding my own dysfunction." But it felt satisfying and comfortable because Like attracts Like. Unfortunately, too much “Like” and imbalance can occur. Imbalance had occurred, I just was unable to recognize it yet.
It took almost 15 years more for me to make the conscious decision to do something about my Type A Perfectionism. I was super grateful for this part of myself. It had helped me through many times when life was crazy and chaotic and out of my control. When I felt unsafe, my Type A Perfectionism stepped in to assist. But I failed to notice how it had also trickled into every aspect of my life. Even my good intentioned spiritual, self-help pursuits. When my husband told me that he no longer felt comfortable coming home because he felt like he had to walk on eggshells in case he did something “wrong” and not up to my standards, well, I cried and chose to look deep into my heart.
If yoga is about relationships and, clearly, this quality was not having a positive effect on a very important relationship, then I saw only 1 option in front of me. It was time, and possibly long overdue, for me to start having a healthier relationship with, in Brene Brown’s words, “The Gifts of Imperfection.”
I first had to change my own language and thoughts around Yoga as self-improvement, as transformation, and as change. Thinking that way only added fuel to an already imbalanced belief that Yoga was going to “fix” all my imperfections. Once I “mastered” Yoga, I would be Perfect, Enlightened and never suffer again. I started to replace many of those words and thoughts with Relationship.
My relationship with my own body. My relationship with my own breath. My relationship with my thoughts, feelings, actions, the past, the present and the future. My relationship with the people around me. My relationship with the food I eat and don’t eat. My relationship with difficult experiences. My relationship with my work and money. With saying No, Conflict, Sexuality, Substances, Boundaries and Aging. My relationship with EVERYTHING.
I began to practice being comfortable with Myself and where I was each day. I started to explore other styles of Yoga. I slowly began to put one “Flawsome” foot in front of the other. This is still a part of my ongoing practice. I am still a Type A Perfectionist and there are times that this serves me in very positive ways. But I am learning to not let this part of myself be in control without my being aware of it. To live with that level of intense personal pressure had become a habit that felt as natural as breathing.
I believe my Yoga practice helped me hear what my husband was saying without feeling defensive. I believe my Yoga practice gave me the courage to look within and be more honest with how I was treating Yoga as a stepping stone towards Perfectionism. I believe my Yoga practice continues to help me experience every day as if I am in a Relationship with Life. With Living. Relationships take work and they can be challenging at times, but they also bring equal joy and fulfillment. Today, I think of Yoga more as a Relationship that allows me to “Be Here Now”, in the words of the great Ram Das. Rather than waiting to Become Perfect on my Path of Self Improvement.
I would love to share with you how to Have a Relationship with Life and Embody Yoga Everyday, Throughout Your Whole Life. 💜