About imperfection, unrealistic expectations, and the art of contentment

Over the years, I have come to terms with lowering expectations for myself and others around me, trying to live by the yogi mottos “Accept What Is” or “No Judgements and No Expectations” (Notice the word “try”, because I will come later to that). These simple, yet powerful, statements are specially suited -I find- for women. During a recent trip to Nepal with a fantastic group of women (and two patient men), I had the chance to exchange some thoughts about women and buddhism with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the Abbot and spiritual head of the Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery in Boudhanath. After attentively listening to his explanation of the teachings of Buddha (particularly, non-attachment to things or people since the only certainty we have is that everything changes), I dared to make the question. But first, a bit of background: Over the previous days, I had heard that women were seen as the “repository of wisdom”. Naturally, being me, I had to get to the bottom of the matter…so, I told him about what I had heard and what it meant…did it mean that we are way ahead, since we want to change everything/everybody around us, especially the man/woman we are with??? I think I took him off guard, but he was nice enough to bear with me in the moment.

The thing is, when I talk to my friends and women from all paths of life, we tend to agree that we have the rare ability to find numerous and creative ways to beat ourselves up for not being at the level we consider we should be. Yes, we can be too harsh with ourselves and others (oh, la, la), but only for the record, it is just because we want “things to improve”, or people around us to “be their best”. As if we had our own (internal and external) evaluation radar, ALL THE TIME in our heads, making sure the possibility of enjoying the present moment vanishes as soon as we spot the next “improvement area”. Like Brene Brown would say, we are full of shame, guilt and criticism towards ourselves…
Ironically, as soon as you have reached one milestone, the next will be waiting for you -merciless-, along perfectionism road.(Should we baptise it as road to perdition, instead?) Quite frankly, this becomes incredibly tiring…

Before Christmas, a friend of mine living in Washington, DC sent me a rather intesting article by an Academic woman, former top official in the State Department a couple of years ago, in which she analised her (and other women’s) reasons to step back from high demanding jobs under the premise that women cannot have it all…at least, not all, all the time. It left me thinking about how I already got a similar message from another wise friend (older than me) while working together in Costa Rica: life is long and there is one moment for everything. Yes, you will have to take a step back on one front or another to be able to regroup, focus, get stronger, and be the inspired human being you aspire to be. Ufff

In my case, I have to admit that being content with life as it is, with its imperfections, and lowering expectations does not always happen gracefully, as I was saying at the beginning, and even sometimes I stubbornly refuse to follow those yogi mottos….or any other kind of wise written or oral advise that has come my way, for that matter. After all, human beings are full of contradictions, right? Indeed…after having decided to quit my highly demanding job to spend more time with my 9 year old daughter and focus on my passions, I slowly started having an identity crisis and raising expectatios for myself. It seems as if one part of me (the enlightened part-wanna be, I suppose) rationally believes in the validity of that yoga wisdom, spreads the word, and appreciates the immense benefits of its practical application would have in my health and quality of life. However, the other part (the ego) wants to hold on to old patterns, freaking out due to the stress of not being able to reach the meticulously set plan, to finally get frustrated and disappointed. In this battle against oneself, a la Dr. Jekill and Mr. Hide, I find speaking to other wise women (and some patient men, deeply in touch with their feminine side) can be of great help to bring perspective to things and recognize how much we have in common and we can help each other. “Relax, mommy”, says my daughter…nothing like children to get your emotions in check when you most need it.

The art of contentment sounds as a Dalai Lama book, I know…my main point is that contentment cannot be another unattainable goal in the distant future, but part of a vocation you grow into over the years,savoring life’s successes and precious moments that will evolve into other moments…since everything changes. Getting there, yep, with a little help of (my) friends.

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