Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.
Steven Pressfield (The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle)

I just finished reading Steven Pressfield’s The War Of Art that my husband had acquired for our Kindle. (The great thing about having a creative spouse is that I don’t have to get all the here’s-how-to-be-better -literature myself. 😉 ) The book deals with our inner Resistance and gives pointers about how to overcome it.

I didn’t read the book the first time I laid eyes on it because of the whole war analogy in the title. Fortunately, there’s not as much in terms of crushing and beating and violent self-mastery as I was expecting. It’s more along the lines of recognition and necessary precautions. In that sense, it reminds me of Havi’s concept of Monsters, although Havi does have a lot softer approach.

At this moment, the most useful part of the book for me was the insight into recognizing Resistance. Because lemme tell ya, it’s sneaky.

Thesis Resistance

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight.
(The War Of Art) 

Come on, you’re practically finished with your analysis. You deserve a break. How about, say, a week? Two weeks? Because you need to let your thoughts percolate before you start writing.

And besides, the categories you are using are pretty inane anyway. See, there are mostly appearances of this one single category. Why would this be interesting to anyone? You’re wasting your time trudging through the analysis, when you could be doing something much more productive and interesting.

You know, there’s really no guarantee that the analysis you’ve done so far is any good. You’re, what, labeling sentences with different categories? How can you be sure that you are using the right criteria for the labels? You really should go back and redo the whole thing, just to be sure. See, another label that you had to change when doing a whole different iteration? How much more proof do you need that you are really not doing this properly?

And even if you do get the labels even ballpark correctly, you still need to find the theory to back it up. Have you been able to do that? No, didn’t think so. It’ll take you hours upon hours of library time, and when will you ever find that, what with the babysitting duties and everything.

You will never. Ever. Ever. Get this done properly. Ever. So why even bother?

Shiva Nata teaching resistance

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
(The War Of Art)  

Sure, go ahead, teach Shiva Nata. See if I care. That is, if you can find a single person who wants to learn it. You know how hard it is, and you have trouble keeping up a practice yourself. What are the chances that there are enough people in Finland to warrant one single class of Shiva Nata, let alone a several?

And even if you could find enough people who want to learn it, and enough people who want to sustain the practice, why do you imagine anyone wanting to pay you money for it? There’s a perfectly good DVD they can buy and learn on their own. It’s cheaper, it’s more comprehensive, and it’s done by someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

Where do you come off telling people you know Shiva Nata? It’s not like you’re any good at it, since there’s no such thing as being good at Shiva Nata. You keep picking it up and forgetting all about it – how on earth could you encourage anyone else to sustain the practice?

Because if people do not pick it up after you teach it to them, you have failed. As a teacher, and consequently as a human being. It’s your responsibility to make everyone in this world realize what is in their best interest, and then lead them, step by step, holding their hand, into that magical land of Everything Is Perfect So Nothing Needs To Change.

Whereas if you fail, people have to take responsibility for their own life, their own learning, and their own happiness. And you have to live without that sense of control, and the sense of approval that comes from grateful students.

Resistance to being a Teacher

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.
(The War Of Art)  

Teaching in an of itself? No problem. Have been doing it for years. That is, if we’re talking about the act of planning a lesson from predetermined content, getting up in front of a group, and delivering that lesson.

Becoming an English teacher? No problem. Give me a grammar book and a copy of the National Core Curriculum and I’m golden. When I know where the pupils are in terms of their skills, I can craft a lesson that more or less hits the Vygotskian Zone of Proximal Development where sociocultural learning happens.

Becoming a drama teacher? Yikes.

First of all, I’d have to relinquish control of much of the content of the lesson. I’d have to get better at creating the scaffolds that enable the learning. I’d have to take a risk and plunge into the unknown every single working day, every single lesson. It’s either that or I’m playing it safe and denying the pupils their right to learning.

Becoming a Shiva Nata teacher? Geesh.

I’d have to craft a progression of things to teach, and maintain a more challenging personal practice instead of the dabbling I do now. I’d have to get over the preconception that only yoga teachers can teach Shiva Nata. I’d have to admit to myself and the world that yes, I am actually highly intelligent and that is one of the reasons Shiva Nata appeals to me – and one of the reasons that it might not appeal to everyone I meet.

In general, I’d have to accept that to be a Teacher (instead of just teaching something), I will be teaching something that is not already in a book or a manual. I’ll be looking to myself, my own skills and world view, to help my students view the world in a new way. I’ll have to trust that I am an open-minded individual who will not impose their own limitations to their pupils. I’ll have to work to become an even more open-minded individual.

And that, my friends, is almost too scary for words. No wonder I’m going through a wild Resistance rampage as I’m working on my thesis, since it largely revolves around my drama teacher identity.

I can see you now, Resistance. There you are. Holding my biggest fears on a leash, urging them on to tear me apart.

Letting go of Resistance

Funnily enough, two days before I read The War Of Art, I reread a part of The Sedona Method book that deals with letting go of resistance (with a small initial, since it was not personified there). Apparently it’s a theme that I need to be dealing with.

The process that most struck me was that of letting go of resistance to both X and not X. Since if you’re resisting X, you’re probably also resisting not X, or there would be no resistance, just movement to a certain direction.

Case in point: my bedtime.

I didn’t really manage to make any progress in terms of getting to bed earlier, until I found the chapter on letting go of resistance. Here’s what happened.

I was reading the book at 10.30 p.m., so I was acutely in the middle of some resistance.

My resistance to going to bed sounded something like this: “But the book is really really interesting, and besides, when are you ever going to find time to read it if you go to bed now? You know you want to keep reading, and you deserve this time for yourself! You work so hard during the day, with the baby and with your thesis, so come on, relax a bit!”

My resistance to not going to bed, however, sounded like this: “You’re really tired. You should put the book down and stop procrastinating on your bedtime. The longer you stretch the decision to go to bed, the worse you’ll feel tomorrow and the more you’ll beat yourself up. Besides, if you don’t sleep, you won’t have the energy to hang out with the baby tomorrow, and you’ll just feel like a bad mother.”

You can imagine the two aspects of resistance having this discussion until midnight – as has often been the case.

However, when I first welcomed and let go of the resistance to going to bed, and then welcomed and let go of the resistance to not going to bed, I could make the decision based on my actual feelings. And since after the letting go process I almost fell asleep on the couch, the decision was a no-brainer.

So maybe the next step, after clearing out the resistance on my thesis, is to dive into the whole Being A Teacher Conundrum and clear out my resistance to being one and to not being one. Again and again.

Thank you so much for coming over and reading again! I hope this is helpful, in case you are feeling a degree of Resistance towards something. 🙂 And as always, keep catching your own insightings!



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He listens well who takes notes.
Dante Alighieri

Last weekend, I started a Book of Me. I had read Havi’s post about the concept before, and as I was reading her archives as a substitute for message boards that I gave up for Lent (and yes, there’s a whole other post on the topic of “how’s that working out for ya”), I rediscovered the idea.

And loved it, loved it, loved it. And then spent a few days agonizing over the format – after all, it’s a Book of Me, so it needs to be wonderful.

The Book

Then, last weekend, I was decluttering a stash box i.e. a storage container that becomes a graveyard for homeless knickknacks, and discovered a book.

I had bought it to be the guest book for my high school graduation party back in 2002. I bought it from a friend’s mom’s stationery shop that specialized in Nepalese hand made paper products. There were a few pages of guestbook entries from a few events, and then empty pages. Beautiful, empty pages.

I sat with the guilt of not using the book to the purpose it was bought for. I read through the entries. The well-wishes from people in a life ten years ago. The congratulations on the choices that were the only possible ones at that time, and ones that brought me to where I am today. The jokes from friends that are still friends, and from friends that are now distant acquaintances.

And then I took out the pages with writing on them.

I did stash them away, because I am not yet ready to let go of those memories. They’re no longer standing between me and my process of finding out who I am.

On the first blank page, I wrote “The Book of Me”  with colored pencils.

The only problem was that I didn’t really have anything to put in the book. A few thoughts, yes, but not too much substance.

A work in progress

On the list of things to accept and welcome:

– I am a work in progress. Therefore, The Book of Me will forever be a work in progress.

It will not have seventy insightful ideas from the get-go, and that’s all right. It’s a document of learning, much like my MA thesis. Coincidentally, I’m also often frustrated by my thesis data not revealing its results to me with 15% of the work done.

I might have a tendency of wanting to see results without putting in the work. Maybe.

Also, if I give in to my craving to have a book full of wonderful insights, they will not be insights. Instead, they’ll end up being a prescriptive list of things I think I should be doing. That has not been working so far, so it’s time to try something different.

– I am allowed to write and draw and doodle on the blank, beautiful pages even if I’m not 100% sure that something is true. Or that it will be true for me forever more.

See previous (the “work in progress” part). Also, writing in pencil makes the updating process just a teensy bit easier.

– Even though Havi and others address themselves as loves, sweeties and honeys in their Books of Them, I don’t have to.

I thought about the whole addressing thing. For some reason, it is difficult for me to call myself darling, love, sweetie or other caring pet names. Fortunately, because it’s The Book of Me, I get to decide how I want myself addressed.

And maybe put in a bit of self-inquiry about why that is difficult for me and how I could make it a drop easier.

The Book of Me – a work of art or science?

When it comes to the blog, one of the things I’m looking forward to is getting to use the whole experiential reflection-and-analysis cycle on myself and my own glitches. It’s one thing to journal about something, but using a structured and conscious process might yield something different entirely.

And the results of that – dare I say it – nearly scientific research are just the thing to collect in my Book of Me.

Furthermore, science progresses and findings are replaced by new, more accurate findings. This is generally not seen as a bad thing, but rather a sign of, well, progress. I might want to take a leaf of their book to mine. 🙂

One part of the process that I’m still looking for is revision. How do I remember to go through my findings and actually do what I’m told?

I’ve tried the whole writing-things-down-as-routines -thing, several times, and for some reason I don’t do what it says on the page. I might do it for two days in a row, and then on the third day things start to slide.

Some combination of routine and study mode is probably what I need. After all, if I’m reading scientific findings, it’s sort of like reading for an exam, right? Even if I don’t know when that exam comes and what it will deal with?

So if, for instance, the third page of my Book says something along the lines of “if someone offers you a job, tell them you’ll give your answer tomorrow, and then spend the evening thinking about whether or not you can actually handle the extra work,” the exam might be a call from a prospective employer. It might come two weeks from now, three months from now, or much later.

But in order for me to pass the exam, I need to remember the finding. Failing the exam, in that case, would be saying “yes” straight off the bat and then realizing I’m much too busy to actually perform the task.

And yes, failure contains the makings of learning something new. In my case, a failure did indeed contain the seed of that particular insighting.

As someone said, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, they’re a waste of time. Writing things down reduces the risk of more time wasted on something you actually knew but didn’t remember.

Do you have a Book of You? Is your approach scientific or something else entirely? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

For more scientific self-help shenaningas, subscribe to the feed and join me again in chasing down some juicy insightings!



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It’s always further than it looks.
It’s always taller than it looks.
And it’s always harder than it looks.
The 3 rules of mountaineering.

As the final step of my MA degree, I’m finally working on my Master’s Thesis (or pro gradu thesis, as it is called in Finland). The thesis seminar started in January, and so far I’ve written a few pages on secondary material and my research plan. In the paper, I’ll investigate teacher discourse in a drama-influenced foreign language class. (I’ll most likely end up posting something or other about my thoughts on teacher discourse later on during the summer.)

The target length of the thesis is between 50 and 100 pages, so it’s the most extensive piece of academic writing I’ve ever attempted to conquer. Since most university students graduate with Master’s degrees in Finland, the gradu is a big deal and there’s a lot of hype about how working on your gradu is about as exhausting as climbing Mount Everest. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to be at this stage of my studies – working on my gradu literally means I’m pretty close to finishing my Master’s. On the other hand, I can’t help buying into the “oh, it’s just so grueling” frame of mind.

Ironically, the Mount Everest metaphor actually helps me with working on my gradu. It’s a big undertaking, sure. But there are similarities I can leverage to my advantage. Not that I’ve ever climbed a mountain in my life, either. 🙂

Practice, practice, practice

Quite like conquering Mount Everest, you wouldn’t start writing your gradu without some preparation or practice. I don’t think there are many people for whom Mount Everest is the first peak they’ve climbed.

My first shot at academic writing was my tutorial essay on my freshman year. It dealt with learning motivation. If I read it today, I’d probably cringe so much I’d dislocate my jaw, so I won’t. 🙂 After that, I’ve written several papers for different courses, not to mention exam answers and other smaller works. Each of them sucked just a little bit less than the previous ones.

When reading other seminar participants’ contributions, I’ve been able to spot points to improve on and questions to consider. That, if nothing else, has showed me that I have indeed developed an understanding of what a piece of academic text should be like. Even if I can’t write fabulous academic text the first time around, I’ll at least be able to see where the biggest gaping holes are.

Support network

Reinhold Messner climbed Mount Everest alone in 1980 – and without any extra oxygen. The thing is, though, that he’d climbed a fair number of mountains before that, and even conquered Mount Everest once before with a companion. In other words, he’d had enough practice to attempt going solo.

For the rest of us, attempting to conquer a huge goal without support from other people would spell disaster. That’s why pro gradu theses are most often written during seminar courses, where the teacher and other participants offer their feedback and suggestions. You have to be able to think of them as helping you instead of judging you, though, for the support to work.

I wrote my research plan on the day of the deadline. I knew the deadline and had most of the material long before that, but for some reason (i.e. pregnancy brain and then fatigue caused by taking care of a newborn) I didn’t get it done. Furthermore, I didn’t even get it started until the week of the Friday deadline.

The reason? My perfectionist mind insisted that I have to create a beautiful, finished piece of text for the group to admire. It took the looming deadline for me to realize that any piece of mediocre text commented by ten people is infinitely more valuable than a fine-tuned text handed in late so no-one has time to read or comment.

Showing up

Nine months pregnant, with hormones fogging up my brain, I gave myself permission to not fret about the thesis too much. After giving birth to a beautiful little girl, I gave myself permission to spend the rest of the spring taking care of me and her, and not fret about the thesis too much. “Come June, I’ll really get serious with the gradu,” I told everyone. And myself.

Two days ago, I noticed it’s June. I managed to stick to my decision and spent 15 minutes working on my thesis. Yesterday, I spent 15 minutes, and today I managed to squeeze in a whole 45 minutes in 15 minute increments. My husband has promised me he’ll take care of the baby during the times I’m working on my thesis, so I won’t have to interrupt the 15 minute focus.

You don’t climb a mountain by hanging out at base camp and talking about it. It takes muscle work. Sure, you need to plan what to do, but in the end, you have to put in the effort. On the other hand, there are days when you just have to rest so as to not injure yourself or burn out. And even then you’re showing up if you’re not packing your bags and heading on home. 🙂

As for the quote at the beginning of this post, I’m sure it applies to my Master’s Thesis as well. Every single time I open the file and spend 15 minutes working on it, my todo-list expands as well. For every paragraph I finish, I find a few points to elaborate on somewhere in the text. But the summit is there, somewhere in the distance.

And once I get to the summit and finish my Master’s Thesis, I’m done with my Master’s degree, and the next step is graduating and getting a Real Job. But I try not to think about that too much. I might get vertigo. 😉

Thank you so much for reading again, and keep catching your own insightings!



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“The greatest weakness of all is the great fear of appearing weak”
Jacques Benigne Bossuel

For several months now, my life has been different from what it used to be. My husband and I are expecting our first child in early April. Of course I knew pregnancy throws curve balls at you and changes your life. I just never realized all the changes that were coming.

Oh, the weakness

Despite the fact the pregnancy  has gone well, I’ve been surprised that my physical stamina has decreased so much. On the one hand, the physical changes are the easiest ones to understand. After all, there’s a whole new person in there to carry around and feed and nurture. Weight distribution as well as hormonal changes in ligaments and muscles play a part, of course.

It’s still amusing, though. Anything I drop on the floor I have to struggle to get up, because there’s a baby bump in the way. My walking speed has decreased to a third of what it used to be. I can’t really lift anything or climb anywhere.  Not that I was an olympic gymnast or a triathlete before – still, the distinction is obvious.

The funny thing is, though, that physical weakness is not the only effect I’ve noticed.

Not getting things done

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been efficient at everything. Studying full-time while working part-time and having several hobbies and activities has been the norm. Sure, there have been times when I’ve felt exhausted in the process, but I’ve always enjoyed having a stack of plates spinning in the air.

I tried that this past fall and winter, too. Result? I was about five minutes away from burning out completely, when I finally realized I had to cut back on the stress and activities. I was constantly exhausted, procrastinating and missing deadlines, simply because I did not have the energy to do everything. Missing deadlines led to guilt, which kept eating at what little resources I had left. Even though I kept to eight hours of sleep each night and tried my best to unwind during weekends, I was beat.

I finally realized I had to slow down. If not for my own sake then for the sake of my baby. Giving up interesting projects and rescheduling my studies was incredibly difficult – mentally, that is. People were very understanding when I told them I had to take it easy because of the pregnancy. In my head, though, I struggled for quite a while before I dared to pull out the pregnancy card. Everyone says pregnancy is not an illness or a disease. I didn’t want to be the “ooh, I’m pregnant, I can’t do that” girl. The thing was, though, that I couldn’t do all of it.

Pregnancy brain

Being inefficient and tired is, of course, pretty unpleasant. The one thing that has really annoyed me about the pregnancy symptoms, though, is pregnancy brain. I don’t know if it’s caused by the tiredness and stress or if there’s some other reason for it, but I notice I’ve lost some of my mental mojo during the past few months.

The thing is, I’m used to being the sharp one. I know I’m intelligent, and with the added bonus of Shiva Nata, there have been times when I’ve probably been exceptionally smart. This pregnancy, though, has not been one of those times.

True, my Shiva Nata practice has been on the back burner, partly due to the fatigue. Still, it’s incredibly annoying to forget things, to not think of something perfectly logical, or to have to ask others to explain things to me. It’s somewhat scary, too – does this mean my wit and smarts are gone for good? Am I regressing to the level where I’m fit to communicate with an infant and nobody else? Geesh.

Um, embrace it?

For the past month, I’ve been trying to wrap my pregnancy brain around all this. It seems I have two choices: either I accept what’s going on and admit I’m this mentally, physically and intellectually weak person, or I don’t. If I choose not to accept it, I’ll have to draw up a plan of action to energise and invigorate myself.

Either way, I still have to start with the realisation that yes, this is where I am now. At the moment, my body-mind is going crazy with hormonal and other changes, and the only thing that will stop that from happening is having the baby. And since I’m hoping not to do that in the next month, I’ll have to live with the weaknesses.

For what it’s worth, for the next two months I still have the pregnancy card I can whip out whenever anyone asks. 🙂

Because of my pregnancy brain, I can’t think of a good way to end the post except saying thank you again for stopping by and reading these thoughts. And, as always, keep catching your own insightings!



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Plateaus happen. When you’re ready for the practice it will call to you.
Havi Brooks, Dance of Shiva Special Report #1

After a long silence in Insightings-ville, I received a comment on the I Heart Shiva Nata post. Kat wanted to hear my thoughts on Shiva Nata after doing it for more than nine months now. In fact, this was something I’d been meaning to post about, but there were some obstacles in the way. I’ll dedicate this post to answering Kat’s question, and then address the obstacles in a future post – there are some interesting threads to untangle there, too. 🙂

A year’s worth of Shiva Nata

I first tried Shiva Nata in June, 2008. From the first moment, I was hooked. I managed to establish a morning routine of Shiva Nata, yoga and meditation, and I felt awesome. Once or twice I taught the basics to a few people, and they were psyched as well. I was doing level 3 with movements in space, slowly moving on to level 4.

The morning routine carried as far as last spring. Then, for reasons I’ll get back to, I fell of the proverbial Shiva Nata wagon, and did maybe one or two practices a month for a good while. I’d do a few starting positions of level 4 arms to get my brain going in the middle of a work day, or a few level 4 arms-and-legs if I managed to get up early enough in the morning. Nothing as habitual as the routine I used to have, though.

What surprised me about that was how okay I was with that. 🙂 In the Starter Kit (that I devoured right in the beginning as I was waiting for the DVD to hit my mailbox), Havi makes several fabulous points about the practice, but one of them was especially important to a recovering perfectionist like myself.

Plateaus happen.

Maybe this was one thing Shiva Nata had managed to drill into my unconscious. Not doing the practice is no reason to feel guilty. Not doing the practice is just something that works for you right now. When doing the practice starts working for you again, it will feel more natural and less guilt-inducing.

And it will start calling to you. 🙂 Within two days, I received an email from Havi telling me the access information to the Starter Kit (which I’d incidentally lost as my hard drive crashed in the spring) and Kat’s comment asking me about Shiva Nata. If that’s not the universe nudging me, I don’t know what is. 😉

So currently, I’m feeling a growing warmth towards Shiva Nata again. There’s no need for me to rush things with the practice – there will still be a lot of brain-pudding-inducing hardness in the future levels, and I don’t need to catch up with the time I’ve “lost” not doing the practice. I’m still working on level 4 with legs, and hope to move to level 4 with movements in space sometime. And after that? I’ll figure it out when I get there.

I’m still convinced by the fabulousness that is Shiva Nata, and consider myself a Shivanaut. Maybe one on an orbit?

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my thoughts on this, and feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments! And as always – keep catching your own insightings!



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