When you don’t like to mess up or make mistakes

Do you worry about things you said or did and how other people may perceive you?

Do you battle niggling feelings of not being good enough? 

If you resonate with the term “perfectionist,” “people pleaser,” or “impostor syndrome,” you’re most likely a highly conscientious, caring individual with an acute sensitivity to nuance. You may also struggle with an inner tension that won’t let loose, a guard and self-critic whispering “sour nothings” that something is wrong with you. On the outside, all may look manicured and pretty. On the inside, trying to maintain control and tame creativity can be an exhausting drain of energy. 

One way to break out of the inner prison is the practice of making imperfect. You might say, who needs practice making mistakes; we do that all the time easily enough, right? But I’m talking about practicing welcoming those mistakes, embracing messiness, and loving fallibility. It goes against the grain for those who grew up finding their value in giving people what they wanted. We give lip service to fostering a “growth mindset,” but we’re not taught how to emotionally integrate failure and keep moving forward when everything goes sideways. That’s OK though; sometimes the best learning comes from stumbling through.

I’d like to share a prayer I worked with almost daily for a long time. It originated in something I read and eventually evolved into something more my own. I invite you to edit the words as needed to bring the most genuine relief and freedom to you too: 

You know who is not a perfectionist? Nature. It’s not our nature, nor is it in nature, to have everything line up just so, for all eternity. Find the most beautiful symmetrical flower you can, and there will likely be just one little tear. Some tiny “flaw” that makes it slightly different from its neighbors. Yet wow, isn’t nature filled with such fantastically intricate patterns? Take a closer look at that flower, and you’ll see the awesome beauty of her just being herself.

May you be imperfectly, beautifully whole, and gloriously you,

Julia Aziz


Sidebar on the word “prayer”

If you’re not used to praying, or if the word “prayer” brings up religious trauma or resistance, know that it doesn’t matter if you are praying 
to something or not. I think of the phrase Baruch Hashem from my own tradition, meaning “Blessed is the Name.” I like it because it captures the non-nameable aspect of divinity–I translate Baruch Hashem as “What an amazing wonder this all is, whatever you want to call whatever it is you’re calling.” How could our limited language capture the essence of interconnection and everything we can’t perceive/don’t understand as a tiny person in a vast universe? So it’s OK, we don’t need intellectual understanding of what we’re doing here. What matters is we keep expressing from the heart. We keep opening to ourselves, to each other, and to all of life as is.

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When you’re unwell and people still need things

Have you struggled to tend to the needs of patients, children, clients, or elders while you were going through your own big or small health crisis? I share these inquiries with you today in honor of all the caregivers contending with illness or pain, whether there’s cancer, autoimmune disease, recovery from an acute health emergency, long or short covid, or the many other viruses and bacteria we experience living in a body.

Listening in

Our bodies are always talking to us, and those of us with particularly sensitive nervous systems are privy to a whole lot of conversation. Listening to the body, like learning any new language, requires some persistence and patience. One message that’s often loud and clear though is “slow down and rest”. Sometimes the rest we need is much deeper than a temporary pause, and it questions the very pacing and choices of our lives. We might ask, “What is this illness slowing me down from, and what is it asking me to change?” We may not like the answers to these questions, but we can still tell the truth to ourselves and take some time before choosing what to do about it. 

My new favorite word: Divest

Some humans could use a little more empathy, but many kind caregivers are actually learning to divest. Divest from caring quite so much, divest from being so acutely tuned in to other people, divest from the stories we tell ourselves about how we’re not doing enough. And let’s not forget divesting from standards that are too high to maintain when we’re ill. In divesting, we might ask, “What can I not do? What can be postponed? What could someone else do?”

Asking the now 

Have you ever gotten overwhelmed by the multitude of supplements you should be taking, practices and exercises you should be doing, and all the doctors and healers you should make appointments with? That overwhelm matters for your well-being too. Taking a slow breath, we remember that the body asks for what it needs in the now-time. Can responding to that one need be enough, just for this moment? What would it feel like to trust in taking one step at a time?

Compassion is not complete if it doesn’t include you

Being sick can make us cranky, fearful, zoned out, and despairing. It’s ok to be angry; it’s ok to grieve. Sometimes rather than a pep talk, we just need someone to say, “Sweetie, that totally sucks. It’s so hard. I love you.” That someone might need to be you–whether or not you’re near people who care. No one is going to know just what you’re going through like you do, and the voice of your caring heart needs more airtime than any inner critic. 

Illness making you matter

If you’ve been centering your life around other people and giving less to your own body and spirit than you do for everyone else, illness may be asking, “What about you?” We can’t just keep grasping at crumbs and expect that to be sustenance for caregiving. It’s OK to be high maintenance, to need a lot of emotional and physical self-care in order to continue to be of service to others. It’s also OK to dream your own dreams sometimes. You exist here too, and if there’s one person you are most responsible for, it’s you. 

Wishing you gentle loving kindness, tons of patience, outrageously vibrant health, and a whole lot of letting yourself off the hook.

Julia Aziz

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More encouragement for rest:
Rest is Resistance book by Tricia Hersey
Podcast interview on Time Management for Mortals
Beautiful Chorus song we’ll be resting or moving to in the women’s circles this week

When you’re trying to let go

I’m happy to say I’ve been meeting new friends on my morning walks again. Just last month, I had encounters with a porcupine, owls, armadillos, hawks, foxes, a crested caracara, and coyote. I always try to play it cool, gently slowing down without making too big a deal of it, wanting to greet the animals in a natural way. As you might imagine, they don’t often hang out for more than a few moments, and I find myself feeling wistful each time they leave. Not knowing when or if we might meet again, I’m left with a fleeting joy, better nourished by the connection.

If you’ve been involved in spiritual, self-help, or personal growth circles, you’ve been hearing the phrase “let go” anywhere you look and listen. Lately, I’ve been curious about what I’m calling “letting leave,” a concept best taught by our wise companions and caregivers, the trees, in this new fall season. Letting leave is a less active, more receptive process than letting go, one that honors a timeline beyond human will. The leaves of a tree are not hustling and on the go; rather, when their time comes, they simply fall to the earth. A gust of wind or a big storm may also blow through and accelerate the process of leaving. Life is like this too, isn’t it? Smooth or sudden, ready or not, when change wants to happen, it will. 

In the healing arts, we often begin with what we want to let go of. What’s wrong, what’s the presenting concern, what are you struggling with? A problem focus is helpful in knowing what needs attention, but concentrating too much on the issue can sometimes hinder its release. As I see it, one of the key aspects to actually receiving help and letting support in is being able to let suffering leave. On the surface, we all want that. But when you’ve been struggling with something for a long time, be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, the question of “Who am I if I’m not a person with this pain?” feels almost incomprehensible. There’s no easy bypass here; instead, we might keep asking the question. At a deep level of consciousness, we “let leave” the attachment to knowing what we are or how change will occur.

The letting leave process doesn’t often happen in one fell swoop; everything has its season, and seasons come and go too. It can become a bit easier to trust the natural cycles when we notice the subtle shifts happening all the time. Have you ever found yourself telling a familiar painful story, and realized it’s not actually true or still happening in this moment? Healing may be the recurrent “in the now” experience of letting the resistance to what’s hard leave. It is also, as the Buddhists know well, the loosening of our clinging to what feels good. I watch those trees rooted down into the soil, and see how they allow more powerful forces to weather and therefore strengthen them. We have this capacity too, when we are grounded and willing to hold lightly what we think we have to do.

The invitation I’m hearing this fall is to soften and find courage in letting what needs to go leave when it’s ready, whether that’s old patterns, beliefs, or something more tangible. There will be grief, and sudden loss especially will need plenty of time and love to integrate. In holding sacred the leaving times, may we also find deep appreciation for all that is here with us now.

Until next time, thank you for reading,

Julia Aziz

I was able to catch a photo of this cutie pie, thought you might appreciate 🙂