When we can meet the world with an open and vulnerable heart, embracing its heartache as much as its beauty; this is the path of an untethered soul. When we can let go of the struggle to become someone different, to let go of what we think true happiness looks like and simply surrender onto the path of pure unconditional joy, this is the essence of an awakened heart ~ Jess Leggatt
Perfection use to be a dirty word in my vocabulary. It use to cause a great deal of angst and heartache in my life, flipping my sympathetic nervous system into overdrive and triggering off a never ending cycle of stress, anxiety and turmoil in my body. Now, it has become the threshold to unveiling the True Beauty of my life. A stepping stone to a greater understanding of why we are all here.
For the first 31 years of my life, perfection had become my Holy Grail. To strive for idealism, to make everything right, to push for the fairytale dream in all aspects of my life. It had become my quest, my evidence of a successful life.
I went through a fair amount of suffering before I awakened to the realisation that perfection is in fact just an elusive Holy Grail; it’s unattainable. And the more I clung tightly to this ideal version of an ideal life, the more I was doomed for constant disappointment, anxiety and heartache; because what I was searching for, didn’t even exist. I was like a dog chasing its own tail. No matter how hard I tried, I was never going to get to the prize.
Chasing the elusive Holy Grail
For the first three decades of my life, my small mind ruled the show and I was driven by external means. Because of this, I never felt like I was enough. No matter how hard I tried to make things perfect in my mind, I couldn’t get it right. And oh my, I tried so damn hard at times to get things ‘right’ that I would turn myself inside out and upside down, until I twisted myself into a pretzel…the end result wasn’t pretty. It was exhausting, tiring, stressful, and a sure-fire recipe for constant burnout.
No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t tick all the boxes. No matter how much I twisted myself inside out and upside down, I couldn’t please everyone, I couldn’t make everyone happy. I couldn’t always make the grades I dearly wanted, achieve the perfect result for an assignment, an exam or a project I was working on, or nail the perfect job.
In those early years, if I didn’t achieve my so called dreams and goals that I chased after – I felt like I was failing at life. I constantly felt like ‘I wasn’t enough’. I felt like I could never quite achieve the high standards I put on myself.
I was always striving for more and my best was never good enough.
And because of my highly driven ‘constantly pushing’ life patterns, I could never quite find that perfect inner contentment and peace I was so desperately longing for either. It all felt like an elusive fairytale, a fantasy to me.
And it wasn’t as if I had parents who expected grand things of me or who pushed me to be a high achiever. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I had a lot of freedom to study whatever I wanted to study, to do the things I wanted to do, and there was never any expectation to achieve the impossible. They would often say to me ‘just do your best, that’s all that matters”. But somehow I was born with this innate drive to push myself to my limits in whatever I chose to do.
Unfortunately for me and my high wired nervous system, I also wanted to solve all the problems I saw around me – constantly worrying about all the ways things that could or would go wrong, and how to fix them. This was a sure-fire recipe for becoming super frustrated and anxious about everything in life because I never could quite fix the problems I saw around me, and the problems never stopped coming.
I couldn’t fix my parents divorce, I couldn’t change the way people behaved, I couldn’t take away other people’s pain, I couldn’t save the breakdown of relationships I saw around me, I couldn’t take away the sickness and suffering and heartache I saw in the world, and many times over, I felt like I couldn’t even sort my own shit out. I was a fighting a losing battle that I was never ever meant to win. All my gripping and grasping to how I thought life should look, eventually wore me out. By the time I reached what I affectionately call my ‘Tipping Point’ in life (where it felt like a hundred curve balls were being hurled at me all at once), I was exhausted, burnt out and ready to give up on the chase. I had reached my threshold. Something had to change. Something had to give.
When we realise perfection is not real, that it’s just a figment of our mind’s imagination, a fable, an ego driven non-existent outcome, we realise it has no truth, no value, and it loses its pull.
No matter how much we try to grip, grasp, or cling onto how we think things should look, how we think life should go, or how we think we should be, life unfolds in exactly the way it was meant to, far beyond the mind’s limited ideas and often way beyond anything we ever envisioned.
Life was never meant to be perfect. It was never meant to fit into some ideal version of how we think things should look.
It took 31 years and a life-limiting health crisis for me to truly get this. When I did finally wake up, I started to realise how beautiful, how divine, how sublimely imperfect life truly is. When we learn to let go, when we learn to let LIFE live through us and surrender into its perfect imperfectness, this is the flow of sweet surrender.
To embrace the light and the shade, the agony and the ecstasy, the storms and the rainbows, the ebb and the flow as if it has all been purposefully sketched out on this beautiful expansive Universal grand map is the key to being free and happy. To embrace each sparkling moment and each painful nuance as if it is perfectly unfolding in just the right way for the greater good of all things. When we start to trust this, life is never experienced in the same way again.
Zen founder Seng-Tsan teaches that we truly awaken when we are “without anxiety about non-perfection”. Imagine a world like that! – without anxiety about non-perfection.
Throughout our life we are taught and shown images and ideals about perfection through our culture, our society, our upbringing, our role models, the media, and the stories we read and see on television. Most of these are not real and are often very destructive. Spending our life trying to ‘look good’ and do what we think is acceptable instead of easing into the perfection and beauty of our True Life. It eventually becomes our undoing.
True Perfection is not some inflated unrealistic existence, free from struggles and messy challenges. True Perfection is when we can let go of the ideal, the flawless (and super unrealistic!) fairy tale and open to the riches of all that life has to offer.
When I started to live my life in this way I started to find the freedom to be fearlessly me, without worrying so much about what everyone else thought, or what everyone else was doing (I still worry, and I still find this challenging, but I am learning more and more of how to start letting go as soon as the worry begins…definitely an ongoing work in progress!!).
It was during this time of sweet surrender that I started learning how to let go of the people-pleasing perfectionism traits, and ease into the truest version of myself. I had come to a point in my life where I just wanted to be me. The messy, the vulnerable, the fierce, the wild, the passionate, the fragile, the loving, the mystical, the flawed, the imperfect and the tender. The freedom to truly be myself. It was during this time of new found freedom that I also learnt to live and bathe in the flow of life and allow whatever comes my way, to be seen as utterly perfect.
Pushing for perfection or surrendering into the unknown: you get to choose
So many of us (particularly the high achieving perfectionists!) push ourselves to get it right, to make perfect, to please others, to make everything acceptable and okay. But to who’s standards? And who’s really measuring anyway?
I think we imprison ourselves with our own limiting beliefs and ideas about how life should look, about what others think, about how we see ourselves and about how the world sees us. But it’s all an illusion. We create these prison bars around ourselves based on the very small and limited mind of our conditioned past. We virtually cage ourselves in based on these illusionary ideals. And at what cost?
Let me tell you a little story about how I got to a point in my journey where I had to choose between constantly pushing to ‘get it right’ and make perfect, to eventually letting go of the limiting beliefs of my small mind and surrendering into the unknown; surrendering into life’s true perfection.
For so long, I didn’t even realise I had a choice. Pushing for the ideal and aligning myself with unrealistic expectations seemed the only way I knew how to be. Pushing for acceptance, pushing for constant self-betterment was my default. Little did I realise that this was all just an illusionary story I had made up based on my own constructed past and conditioned ways of being. Life eventually showed me that I did have a choice and there was a better way to live.
When we push and grasp, we lose the magic.
Just like a butterfly landing in our hand, if we cling and grasp at its shimmering colourful wings, they lose their magic, they lose their shine and the butterfly is unable to take flight. It’s the same about life.
I remember in the early days of my journey to creating a better life for myself, I had newfound sense of vitality, was doing more of the things I loved and life was cruising along pretty nicely. After two long years dedicated to my own recovery I was thoroughly basking in the relief and joy of my newfound wellness. I was singing along to the dance of my own sweet tune. Life was rosy. I had found my bliss.
I had become well enough to start taking on more days at the hospital where I was working part-time as a clinical occupational therapist. I was enjoying feeling better, earning money and working with the colleagues and patients I had dearly missed. But after some time, I started to feel restless again. Working within the confines of a hospital setting, and practising under the limited constructs of a mainstream medical model made me feel shackled. I was un-fulfilled. My soul was dying a slow death. I was desperate to open my own private practise and start doing wellness in a way that felt wholesome and balanced. I was desperate to break free from conventional ways of doing things and be the therapist I had always wanted to be.
So after a long drawn out dance with self doubt and fear I eventually opened up my own integrative wellbeing service; within the expansive space of a beautiful holistic wellbeing yoga studio in the eclectic suburb of West End, Brisbane. Within this space I was able to provide an integrative multidimensional service to my clients using my whole-life, whole-person approach. It felt good.
I became deeply impassioned, almost obsessed by my new healthcare approach. After some time I ended up launching my own health and wellness website, started formulating my own whole-life wellbeing programs and developed a unique integrative wellness model (The Whole Life Wellness Wheel) that was to be the foundation of my practice.
I went on to co-found an online Integrative Health Leadership Networking hub (a project that never actually made it into the online world) and started building an online Whole-life Wellbeing e-course and online retreat centre, all the while dreaming of the possibility of changing the world by changing the way health care is done.
I was laying the foundation of what I thought was going to be my whole new direction in life; my ticket to fulfilling my vision in leading others into a whole new way of health and wellbeing, and satisfying my thirst for making a difference in the world. I was living my dream, living on purpose and reaching for the stars, but something just didn’t feel right. Something seemed to be missing. I wasn’t truly satisfied and I couldn’t figure out why.
Even after all this incredible progress in such a short space in time including my recovery from a life-zapping illness, my project creations, my new discoveries, my writings and my ongoing service development, I couldn’t help but notice this deep aching feeling welling up inside of me, that something was not quite right. There was something missing.
Even though I felt like I was on a meaningful and purposeful path of action and I was the healthiest I’d felt in my whole life, there was something still nagging at my subconscious and gnawing at my soul that something was ‘ajar’ . And I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
What was it? Why did my life still feel somewhat ‘not whole’, after everything I had achieved and worked so hard to restore, heal and create. Why was I still not totally fulfilled?
I had my health back, I had a meaningful job, I was living on purpose, I had a loving husband, two beautiful children, a house, a dog, chickens, beautiful friends, my vitality was restored, and I was finally living my dream. What the heck was wrong with me!?! Was I just destined to never be fully satisfied with where I was in life? What was this gnawing feeling, this sacred longing within me that started tap, tap, tapping on my shoulder every time I would stop, reflect, sit down to meditate or connect with nature? What was the Universe trying to tell me?
I decided to ignore it. I wanted it to go away so that I could get on with pursuing my wellness quest and living out my so called destined life purpose. I pushed it aside, suppressed it, hoping it would disappear. But, as time rolled on the questions continued to stream in. I started questioning everything about me and my life,
How could I be so ungrateful for all the beautiful blessings in my life?
Is complete wellbeing just a pipe dream that we’ve made up so we can sell some fantasy idea to the world?
And my favourite that loves to pop up in times of crisis, ‘What the heck is wrong with me?’ Was I ever going to feel truly whole and satisfied?
A terrible feeling of ‘I am not enough’ and ‘there is something seriously wrong with me’ came rearing its ugly head and pounding on my tender heart. So I did what I always did when life gets funky, I pushed myself even harder.
I pushed myself harder and embarked on a more hardcore “bootcamp-like healing pursuit”, behaving like an obsessed animal hunting down my quest for true wholeness. I started tightening the reins on my self-discipline routines and rituals, forcing myself into an even stricter health schedule. I took out anything from my diet that I thought might be contributing to this darkness and agitation. I started meditating for longer, forcing myself to more yoga classes, punishing myself for not sticking to my whole-life fitness regime if life got busy, or I got tired, or the kids schedules started to conflict with my health routines. I decided that I had to learn more, dig deeper, and further my training, just in case what I already knew about health and healing was not enough.
I furthered my studies, signed up to an intensive meditation therapy course, underwent a comprehensive mindfulness program, honed in on my mind-body connection, learnt more about the ancient healing practises and wisdom traditions, studied the power of nutrition, and started an intensive yoga teacher training course so I could officially call myself an ‘integrative wellness practitioner’ and stop feeling like I was ‘not enough’.
I started to run workshops on mindfulness, yoga therapy, and meditation, refined my whole-life mapping plans and wellness models, developed a more integrative wellbeing service for my clients, obsessed about the evidence and the science, and placed a huge amount of pressure on myself to shake this perpetual feeling that I was still not enough.
I worked even harder to prove my new discoveries to the sceptics and non-believers, all the while buckling at the challenge of finding my steady footing in a world that focused on treating the symptom, rather than the root cause.
I continued to build my online resource centre, expressing my enthusiasm for this new way of life to everyone and anyone who would listen. It had become my life’s passion and people wanted to know ‘the secret’. How did I achieve my glowing skin, my new found energy and vitality, my spark and my joy for life? How was I able to keep it altogether whilst building my private wellbeing practice, working at the hospital, studying, running workshops, maintaining my health, and keeping up with the demands of family life?
I loved that I was able to do so much and achieve what I was able to achieve, but I felt like a big fat fraud. Something was still not right, and I was losing my footing. As the months rolled on and then a year passed by, I started to experience longer bouts of exhaustion and old symptoms started to creep back into my body and mind. I was losing my drive and my enthusiasm for my cause started to wane.
From the outside, life looked pretty exciting; I was living my dream and forging ahead with my vision. But, on the inside I was slowly withering away with shame and embarrassment that my health and body was failing me, again. My magical mind-body formula seemed to be losing its potency, and I was starting to doubt everything.
The more tightly I clung to my newfound knowledge and my science-backed health methods, and the more I tried to use them as a means to take away my increasing unpleasant symptoms and emotions, the more they were losing their potency.
The more I tried to use my wellness methods as a means to push out this feeling of unrest and this niggling void gnawing away inside, the more they lost their effectiveness.
I couldn’t understand what was going on. My failsafe formula didn’t seem to be working anymore.
It had lost its magic.
I started to question everything I was doing. I started to question my newfound healing methods. I started to question my new direction and my wellness programs and models that I had created. I seemed bright and happy enough on the outside, but I had this distinct and unsettling feeling of ‘not enoughness’ and exhaustion on the inside. I was starting to fill with dread.
If this stuff wasn’t working for me anymore, how can I teach it to others? The science says it works, so why has it suddenly stopped working for me?
I was back to that god awful, soul wrenching, question, ‘what the heck is wrong with me? Will I ever be truly content?
And it was this question that became the doorway, the dark threshold to a new light-filled understanding and realisation about life.
It was leaning into the un-comfortableness of this question, leaning into the shame and loneliness of this feeling that exposed a crack, a big gaping hole that let the light shine in, beaming an illuminating torch into the shadows and unveiling a whole new truth.
Asking this question, and leaning into it with a compassionate open-heart led me down a path of profound soul awakening. It opened my heart and untethered my soul onto a path of deep surrender, where I got to unfurl into the divine flow of life’s loving embrace.
I can’t wait to share the realisations that awakened my heart and unlocked an inner wisdom. It was this realisation that was my missing link. Finally, I had an answer.
I can’t wait to share the secrets of this way with you.
Stay tuned for the release of my upcoming book: Awaken your Heart, to the Beauty of your Life. It’s a practical, heart warming guide to how to truly let go and surrender, how to embrace all of life, and how to allow LIFE to truly take the lead so that we can let go of the striving, clinging and grasping that causes us to lose the magical essence of Life’s True Perfection.
This book will offer you a pathway to sustainable happiness and wholeness. Oh, and its super practical and simple! Life has taught me – life was never meant to be easy, but it certainly can be SIMPLE.
I think it may surprise you how truly beautiful and uncomplicated it really is. Life unfolds in the most magical ways when we learn to let go and surrender onto the path of LOVE.
LOVE IS THE ONLY ANSWER.
With all my love