Dharma talks, which are sort of like Buddhist sermons, are one of the many tools that have helped me ease feelings of anxiety. Tara Brach, who is also a clinical psychologist, is one of my favorite teachers.
Many people view Buddhism as a form of psychology than a religion. The Buddha (which means the “awakened one”), was simply one of the world’s first neuro-scientists.
So back to Tara Brach. One of her latest talks, called “Relating Wisely with Imperfection“, addresses a very important point about the misunderstanding that many people have about the “anxiety of imperfection”: that anxiety is a necessary component in motivating ourselves. It follows that if we relieve ourselves of anxiety, we won’t work as hard, or will give ourselves a free pass.
I have worked on lessening this fear but it stills visits me. “If I don’t keep DOING, keep being productive, if I don’t get out of bed right at this moment, if I let myself feel my exhaustion, will I ever get up again?”
A major transition in my life came when the anxiety of not being capable enough in my job became stronger than my anxiety of looking like a quitter. In a way, one form of anxiety put me on the path to taking care of the other anxiety.
So in essence, the anxiety I felt was not “bad”, it was useful in my journey to self-realization. Without knowing it at the time, there was an intelligence in my anxiety that I initially interpreted it as weakness.
Tara Brach says as much, that the anxiety of imperfection tells us, “hey, I’m not aligned with my potential… Hey, there is an obstruction to me completely being who i can be.” When we view anxiety as a flaw, we create a mental distortion that in actuality covers up our true intelligence and radiance.
This image say it all for me. It is based on an image from one of the first self-help books I ever read, called Life 101 by Peter McWilliams, that shows how we confuse ourselves into thinking we are “not good” and pretend we are good to cover up the “not good” we think we are.
These anxieties still show up at my door, but I learned to trust that I am good enough, whether I do “great “, “mediocre” or even if I “fail”. What does “fail’ even mean? As Thomas Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.
Listen to Tara Brach’s Relating Wisely with Imperfection and let me know what you think. What is your relationship with the anxiety of imperfection?