Here’s a good definition of what I’m talking about, from Reneau Z. Peurifoy’s Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic.
“As with all human traits, perfectionism has both positive and negative sides. In its healthy form, perfectionism is characterized by setting demanding, but attainable goals for oneself. Healthy perfectionists also tend to enjoy working on tasks that require great attention to detail. This type of perfectionism leads to excellence in a chosen field and can help a person tremendously.
“In its negative form, perfectionism has three primary characteristics. The first is the tendency to set unrealistically high standards and goals for oneself, and often for others as well. The second is the tendency to use all-or-nothing thinking when evaluating one’s actions or achievements and to consider failure anything that does not meet the unrealistically high standards. The third characteristic is a selective point of view that focuses on small flaws and errors rather than on one’s overall progress or achievement.”
I find this super helpful. It’s important to know what we’re looking for when we’re trying to identify and root out irrational thinking.
For me, they all tie in together. I have a tendency toward thinking I have to be the best, and if I'm not then whatever it was, it wasn’t worth doing in the first place. I zoom in on what went wrong and let that overshadow what went well. Unrealistically high standards? Check. All or nothing thinking? Check. Focusing on flaws rather than progress? Check.
The mat is a great place to let go of perfectionism. We can pay close attention and work hard on our yoga without having unrealistic expectations, without thinking we aren’t doing it “right” because we don’t look a certain way in a pose.
To be good at yoga has nothing to do with how you look in a pose, and everything to do with paying attention, noticing when your mind wanders, and coming back – again and again. Coming back to your body and to your breath. Coming back to that still, quiet center and reconnecting with your True Self.
More thoughts on being “perfect” at elephant journal: Learning to Work With What We Have.