I am a reforming perfectionist, reforming being the keyword. Change in our relationships with ourselves is a vital part of being human. It requires vulnerability, acceptance, and compassion.
I’ve gone through phases of comparing myself to others and discounting my own good qualities. I’ve experienced the restlessness that comes with never feeling good enough. I have developed my own love/hate relationship with control and certainty.
It has not always been easy to look at this part of myself. Any of us may have that place within that we would rather not see. We wish to hide it for fear of rejection and disconnection, or we may wish to deny it to avoid the discomfort that comes with acknowledgment. Being human means embracing all parts of ourselves, even the challenging ones. It is hard to see ourselves clearly from this position. This is when the “good enoughs” and “shoulds” may be most persuasive.
Nature’s Lessons on Being Human
Long before I understood my relationship with myself, I was aware of the exceptions to these feelings. I enjoyed the brief moments of separation from my thoughts and judgments. In those moments, I could appreciate me.
Time with nature has always helped me find my center. An act as simple as sitting in the backyard could provide me with peace. Even while moving, I find that nature encourages stillness within, reminding me of the essence of being human.
The sky, stars, and trees have a great deal to teach us if we are ready to learn.
1. Resilience and Acceptance
You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.– PemaChodron
Any of us can become identified with problems, emotions, and thoughts. We can be attached to what was or what should be. I’ve certainly been there.
The sky and its changing faces teach us about resilience and acceptance. The sky can teach us that most things in life are temporary.
We are not shattered by life’s obstacles any more than the sky is shattered by thunder and lightning. We are not washed away by tears any more than the sky is washed away by rain. Our emotions are no more permanent than the wind.
Even after the brightest days, the sky must also see the dark of night. We, too, must learn that both the good and bad shall pass.
Isn’t it liberating to know that are like the sky?
We can remain, stable and expansive, accepting of both the ups and downs in life. We can find peace, even in times of disorder. We can accept the present moment knowing that change is on its way.
2. Gratitude and Self-Compassion
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sometimes, we overlook what is good. Positive events can be overshadowed by troubles. Close friendships may be invisible in times of conflict. Our own value seems to fade with comparison and competition.
The stars can be like this. Have you ever noticed what happens to the stars away from the bright city lights? They are luminous. They are everywhere. It seems that they have just appeared, but the stars had really been there all along. They were just covered up.
Now ask yourself, when was the last time you actively noticed the stars? It can be easy go about our evenings and never look up. The stars are always there waiting to be revealed, but we must also remember to look for them.
In this way, the stars teach us about gratitude and self-compassion. They teach us that many good things have been there all along, even if we can’t see them.
It is important for us to first remember that like the stars, our strengths, close relationships, and positive moments are there even when they seem invisible. We must then remember to look. Appreciation is not always automatic, and kindness toward ourselves may not be routine. We can, however, learn.
What are your stars, and what may conceal them? What can you change to see them more clearly?
3. Vulnerability and Relationships
I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.– Friedrich Nietzsche
For me, perfectionism has everything to do with vulnerability. We may fear that allowing for imperfection will result in failure. We may perceive embracing our imperfections as giving up. We can tell ourselves that allowing someone else to really see us could lead to rejection.
The forest can teach us about vulnerability and relationships. Within the forest reside creatures, many of whom are hidden in dark spaces. There are shadows in the forest. There are trails to unknown destinations.
There are also clearings, brooks, and flowers in the forest. In the forest, one might hear birdsong or happen upon a majestic view.
We could avoid the forest to stay safe and avoid getting lost, but at what cost?
Like the darkness of a forest, we may all fear that secret place within ourselves that we see as unsafe, unknowable, and unlovable. We avoid looking altogether. We may disguise, suppress, and bury.
We might similarly resist vulnerability in relationships. We hold ourselves back and close ourselves off. We do this because allowing others in leaves us vulnerable.
As with the forest, entering that uncertain territory holds risks but also abundant rewards. When we stop hiding, we can truly know ourselves. When we are vulnerable with others, we can also find true connection. Only then can we reveal the good within us and appreciate the good in others.
For me, nature has allowed me to find a center and teaches me about being human. What are your experiences with perfectionism, gratitude, compassion, and the like? Where do you find your center?