Perfect is as Perfect Does

What does it even mean to be perfect? Does it mean that everyone else thinks you are perfect? Or does it mean that you actually are perfect? Is that even possible? Because someone had to decide – someone, somewhere – what perfect actually is. Who was this person? And why did we agree that what they think is perfect is in fact, perfect. It’s kind of exhausting when you think about it.

What is even more exhausting is attempting perfection. I should know. I am a perfection junkie…or at least I was. I think I eventually became tired of the battle for that shiny Type A Perfectionist Champion Heavyweight Belt. It would have messed up my outfit anyway and been way too hot to wear in the hot room.

In the first of year of my teaching I became aware that “perfect” is not what my students need. “Real” would be a much better fit. Trying to be perfect had probably been a target reason for lost friendships, as well as, lost roles and opportunities in my previous acting career. I always thought everyone wouldn’t want to see my flaws and that if I gave then the illusion that they didn’t exist I’d be someone that everyone loved. Instead of being vulnerable and open, I would build this armored exterior that proved that I couldn’t be hurt and could handle everything on my own.

I must admit, it was lonely most of the time.  Through my yoga practice everything began to change.  I was weirdly attracted to the hot room day after day where  I would have to stare at everything I was and everything I wasn’t in the reflection of mirror throughout the class.  Each drop of sweat chipped away at the armor I had built until it was simply me, flaws and all, that I showed to the world.

When I began teaching I became acutely aware of my students watching me during my practice. Some students get nervous when they see you set up their mat next to theirs, while others are curious to see if I will do all of the things I ask them to do when I am leading the class. I’ve actually had some students admit it’s too distracting for them and apologize that they are going to move to another spot. Most of the time I’m too absorbed in my own practice to pay attention to whatever is going on around me. Teacher, or not, I will always be a student of the yoga and I simply do the best that I can.

Years ago I had one of my favorite students practice next to me. We shared energy, dripped with sweat, and made it through the 90-minute class side by side. Afterwards in the dressing room she met my eyes and bluntly said to me, “You’re not perfect.”

Now, why she thought I would have a perfect practice is a mystery to me, but I blushed at the words. Had I let her down? I fell out of Standing Bow Pulling Pose, I hadn’t even figured out how to get my head to my knee in Standing Head to Knee Pose yet, and after teaching the class before I was more than a little worn out by the time we got to Full Locust Pose and had to take a break. No, it was not a perfect practice.

“Why did you think I would have a perfect practice?” I asked.

“You’re a teacher,” she responded.

“There is no such thing as a perfect practice. There is always more to do and further to go. Would you really want me to be perfect?” I said laughing through the words. “What can you learn from perfect? Perfect doesn’t know how to teach. Perfect already knows everything. Imperfect has to struggle and learn and then can pass on that knowledge. You don’t want a perfect teacher. Plus, wouldn’t that be annoying?”

She shrugged and smiled, but if I disappointed her there was nothing much I could do about it. I was, and still am, perfectly me, which is a perfect mess most of the time. And as in my yoga practice, I fall down, need to learn more, and sometimes have to take a break.

What we don’t realize is that we are the perfect expression of who we were meant to be. Trying to be perfect means you are trying to be someone that you are not. You are no longer expressing your true Self. The world needs each one of us to be authentically us. Our thoughts, looks, and personality are needed to make up the whole of this beautiful world. If we were all meant to be the same, then we would be. Embrace what you think are imperfections. They make you your best Self and teach you more about being vulnerable and courageous than you can ever imagine. Remember, you were meant to be real, not perfect.


If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy reading:

Practice Yoga Because You Love Your Body, Not Hate It

To Compete or Not to Compete? That is the Yogi’s Question

A Beautiful Thing is Never Perfect

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5 thoughts on “Perfect is as Perfect Does

  1. I find it really encouraging when I practice with teachers and they are also working hard to do better. In fact, I have commented to my studio how depressing it is that all the photos they use are of perfect bodies in perfect outfits doing perfect postures. That just makes me want to stay home.

    • Don’t be discouraged by the pictures at your studio. Remember that you have no idea what that person’s journey has been with the yoga. Maybe they’ve lost weight or overcome some kind of illness, injury, or imbalance due to the yoga. Everyone has a story. Try and change it around and instead be inspired by what is possible. Thanks for reading – always great to hear from you!

  2. What timing! I just did a blog about The Perfect Child!

    But talking about perfection in yoga, or more specifically Bikram Yoga, the fact that my yoga teachers are not perfect helps me be a bit more forgiving of myself. Some are as good as perfect and can teach you so much but others who are not, makes you realise that it is still ok and everything will still go on.

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