How to accept imperfection: Tips on letting things go
Do you ever ruminate on things that haven’t gone right in your day? When we are having a rough start to the morning, or a hard day at work, we often get caught up in the negative things about our day, rather than appreciating the good things. We put a spotlight on the imperfections. It may make sense in some ways (at least biologically) to react this way. But it can cause problems for our overall mental wellness when we excessively focus on the negative and imperfections. Here I’m going to discuss the concept of letting things go, and give you some tips on how to accept imperfections in your day to day life.
Why do we fixate on the negative?
We all have an ingrained stress response – many are familiar with the concept of “fight, flight or freeze”. We’ve developed this from an evolutionary standpoint – why? It helps us survive. One of the aspects of this stress response is we put undue weight on the negative (or that which is perceived to be negative) – again, why? If we are hypervigilant to anything that signals danger, it’s going to help us be prepared for that danger – and it helps us survive.
Now the reality is most days we aren’t faced with life or death situations but the stress response fires off as if we are. And, for this reason, we are physiologically and cognitively wired such that negative events (or those perceived to be negative) get way more weight than the positive. In fact, research tells us that the ratio is about 8:1 – it takes 8 positives to negate one negative.
Reframing negative imperfections
Here are some tips on reframing negative imperfections to help us with letting go:
- Manage self-talk. Our thoughts can, in seconds, create catastrophes and tragedies. When we’re stressed or under high demands, negative self-talk often takes over. Researchers estimate we have tens of thousands of thoughts a day. Take the time to identify those that are negative and catastrophic and ever so gently revise them to be more neutral and accurate.
- Breathe. And breathe again. And breathe again. It’s amazing what our breath can do! Stress triggers our fight or flight response, which triggers changes in physiology (including breathing rate) – which, voila! This leads to shallow breathing and by extension an increase in anxiety symptoms in our body (often all out of our conscious awareness). And, when we are more anxious we are more likely to put a negative, imperfection filter on things around us. When it comes to breathing, practicing mindfulness can help us to manage our stress – consider practicing four-stage breathing.
- Have an attitude of gratitude. Focus on those things you have gratitude for – and actively and intentionally shift that 8:1 ratio! Learn more about How to Practice Gratitude.
Consider areas of your life in which you can work on accepting the imperfections.
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