Whether consciously or unconsciously, we all carry an image of perfect health in our minds.
We imagine what it would be like if our backs didn’t hurt, if we didn’t have digestive trouble, if our headaches would finally disappear once and for all.
We think that if we did more weight lifting, went on a better diet, and could just figure out how to stress less, then all of our troubles would eventually melt away.
But letting go of perfectionism is essential if you want to experience truly vibrant health.
It’s true that most of us could be healthier.
There are some things that we’d be better off avoiding, because they trigger uncomfortable reactions in our bodies.
And there are other things we can do more to increase the likelihood of a more comfortable and vibrant state of existence, and help stack the odds in our favor when it comes to avoiding illness.
Eating mostly vegetables and moving around throughout the day are two small and extremely viable tactics that most people benefit from, for example.
But as a culture we have a tendency to collect “should’s” and “could’s” when it comes to our health, and then we feel bad because we can never live up to imaginary ideal.
You might tell yourself, “I should really go to the gym more than three times a week and then my back pain would go away,” or maybe you think “If only I could eliminate processed food from my diet, then I’d never have digestive troubles ever again.”
While it’s great to have goals and adjust your daily choices to make yourself feel more healthy and vibrant, most of us take this notion too far and end up feeling like we’re always falling short of perfect image we hold in our heads.
The truth is, in life things are always changing, and despite our best efforts to ward off illness, everybody gets sick at some point, health is always a balancing act amongst shifting influences, and ultimately, in life there is no such thing as perfect health.
But most of us like to live in a shroud of denial, imagining that if only we could do more, (which ultimately translates to if only we could be more,) then we could finally achieve a state of optimal health.
The path to true healing means letting go of this illusory ideal.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’ve probably heard the teacher tell you that it doesn’t matter what the pose looks like, and that it’s more important to honor your body where it is, now, and find your own expression of the pose.
Easier said than done, I know, but it’s a vital lesson to learn if we are to avoid causing undo harm to our bodies.
Even still, when we are able to hush our egos for the day, and adjust the pose to our bodies rather than attempting to push our bodies our imagined ideal of the pose, most of us continue to hope that one day we will be able to achieve the pose’s fullest expression.
And with practice, some of us do eventually get there.
But what most of us fail to hear in this gentle reminder is that even with lots of practice, we may never look like the full expression of the pose as we see in the pictures.
And that’s okay.
Just as the practice of yoga is a journey rather than a destination, so too should we view our path of health, (whether or not you practice yoga.)
As harsh as it might sound, it’s important to realize that you will never achieve an enduring state of perfect health.
For example, you might heal your back pain after a few months of diligent treatment and therapy, but then you develop a tooth abscess. And once you’ve taken care of the abscess your back pain returns, but this time you have sciatica too. And once that’s on it’s way to bothering you a bit less, perhaps you develop a digestive disturbance.
The cycle continues, and the path of healing proves to be endless.
But within every ache and pain, both physical and emotional, and within every perceived imperfection, lies the potential for great healing with lessons of acceptance, strength, patience, compassion, and grace.
Accept that aches, pains, imbalances and ill health are inevitable parts of life.
Cultivate the strength and patience to not just endure the discomfort but dive into it head on and see how you can grow from the experience.
Allow yourself to feel compassion for your perceived shortcomings, recognizing that they are an inextricable part of the human condition.
And welcome grace as you embrace these hurdles, even just momentarily, as being the impulses for growth, transformation, and renewal.
If you are able to do this you will be much closer to truly vibrant health than the superficial ideal you hold in your head.
This doesn’t mean you should give up hope on ever being healthy, and you certainly shouldn’t throw in the towel and neglect your health goals.
Keep moving your body and eating your vegetables.
Keep exploring what makes you feel good and do more of it.
And find more reasons to relax, laugh and enjoy life as it comes.
The path of healing is not always easy, and can sometimes be painful (they’re called “growing pains” for a reason.) But it can also be wonderful and rewarding if you do the work and allow it to transform you.
So the next time you notice yourself feeling bad for having less than ideal health, investigate if you can find unexpected opportunities on your path of healing instead of looking for quick fixes to propel you toward an imaginary finish line.
You might as well take advantage of the journey, because in truth you’ll never achieve that ideal image, and that’s not always a bad thing.