In our newest series of audio practices for dealing with perfectionism, yoga instructor and entrepreneur Niki Saccareccia reminds us that "Practice makes possible". It's a saying you don't hear often, but it sure feels more accessible than perfect.
Striving for perfect may be something you learned as a child. Perhaps you even connected your self-worth to whether or not you could achieve your version of perfection, or that of someone else. Perfectionism is complex and Niki explains that it's something deeply connected to our identity. However, it's also something many of us, more than we usually realize, grapple with on some level.
Throughout creating this series she said she herself worked through her own feelings of perfectionism and self-doubt. So let's unpack what we've learned. Feel free to take these tips with you and work with them alongside the new audio series, available now for subscribers on the Yoga Wake Up app. And remember, it's practice that makes possible - let's lose the perfect!
5 Simple Ways to Quiet Your Inner Critic for Good
1. Practice meditation
Having a meditation practice and the skill of being mindful and self-aware
makes it possible for one to identify when their perfectionism is acting out and to recognize that that's what it is. In meditation, we practice getting into a non-reactive state, which comes in handy when moving through feelings of self-doubt and learning to react differently to the voice of the inner critic.
The trick is in not feeding it. Niki uses an incredible metaphor of a rapidly moving train going the wrong direction, and she knows she's off course but still shoveling coal in the engine to keep it moving the wrong way.
"Mindfulness," she said, "has helped me recognize, oh, I have a shovel in my hand! And then eventually with practice, I don't even have to step on this train that I can see is going the wrong way."
And that, she said, was the turning point for her in not feeling victimized by her inner critic. Although finding your self-worth in outside constructs is an option it's a choice one can decide not to take.
2. Name it.
Studies show that naming what you are feeling decreases activity in the parts of the brain in charge of emotion. Labeling your experience helps you steady your mind, resulting in feeling calm and more in charge.
For Niki, she said naming the feeling has allowed her to accept herself more fully.
"Naming it for what it is, which is the inner critic, not an external critic and not an external judge, but instead something that is part of me," she says, "helps me accept not only the parts of me that I think are worthy of attention and love, but the whole spectrum of who I am, including the qualities that aren't so becoming."
That said, she advised not to necessarily give the feeling more power with an actual name or caricature.
"It may work for some to personify the feeling, but I am not going to give it extra attention and quality, personally, not to say that won't help someone else to make a caricature of their inner critic and and then put it into perspective," she contends.
3. Move to change the mood
Movement is a tried-and-true method of self-distraction grounded in human biology as it pertains to the concept of fight or flight and the stress response of our brain and nervous system.
On a somatic level, you can imagine a thought that may pose a threat, such as feelings of jealousy in comparing oneself to others, or feelings of self-doubt. The physical body will respond to this threat, regardless. In a complete stress cycle, the stressful event will come to a peak, until we metaphorically "get away from" or "conquer" it. Then we will rest, integrating it, and become better prepared for the next one, coming into what Niki calls a feeling of repose.
Using mindfulness to recognize self-doubt, and then making the conscious choice to move your body into an alert state of physicality, such as focusing onto a yoga pose or series of poses, paired with the intention and breathing that is often associated with yoga, we are able to regulate the nervous system, completing the somatic cycle of stress, and creating an overall change in state, one Niki asserts is felt immediately.
4. Avoid procrastination
Self-doubt creeps up in the sneakiest of ways, one of which is often procrastination. Starting a project or achieving a big goal can feel overwhelming and intimidating to our most perfectionist-minded. For example, Niki shares that her creative process for this series was deeply therapeutic, forcing her to confront her own inner critic and not turn away when the sensations felt uncomfortable.
"Recognizing when I was procrastinating and naming 'procrastination' as a result of self-doubt made all the difference in my ability to get on with it," she says, "and to give myself the freedom to shift gears and operate from a different more mindful space."
5. Talk about it.
Enlist your accountability partners, or your friends that experience this as well or that you usually vent to or lean on. Identifying and sharing these feelings with one another can de-stigmatize them and heal any shame around them. Imposter Syndrome is far more common than we realize, and that in itself puts it into perspective, Niki says.
"The way imposter syndrome wins is by keeping it in the closet."
Try this new series, available for subscribers, or with our free 7-day trial. Download Yoga Wake Up
Want to put these suggestions into practice now? Try Niki's new series. It's perfect for our self-professed perfectionists, over-thinkers, over-analyzers, and over-achievers -- and anyone that ever feels doubt or anxiety.
Niki adds, "There is a bit of a pre-requisite to these practices. You need to be able to recognize when you're feeling unmotivated and to reach for these practices and use these practices as the lifeline to start taking your power back. And to use them regularly, with your accountability partners."
If you tried these, let us know how they made you feel. Thanks!