“better” vs. “perfect”

Photo by Daniel Weiss on Unsplash

unpolished thoughts 5/10/2019

I’m not perfect. Not even close.

Thank God!

That would be a lot of pressure, wouldn’t it?

But somehow, somewhere, a long time ago, I must have got the idea that I was supposed to be perfect.

Because for years I took each little flaw I detected as a signal that I needed to work harder.

Work harder at what?

Actually, that wasn’t always clear.

Of course, if I want to jump higher, I have to work at that. If I want to be a better bass player, I have to play my scales. If I want to speak Spanish, I have to practice my vocabulary.

But what if I want to be a better person?

It’s not a bad intention – and maybe you have that intention too – but it’s worth noticing if you ever slip into substituting “perfect” for “better.”

You already know you’ll never be perfect.

But he’s perfect! 

She’s perfect!

When you look at people with capabilities you don’t have right now, do you ever assume that their lives are perfect? If only you could download their skills into your hard drive . . .

Yes, they might have more money, better connections, or better health than you.

They also might be miserable. You just never know.

In any case, the comparison won’t help you.

Instead, what if you could rest easier in yourself right now – exactly as you are?

If, even for a moment, all of your problems became a little less urgent, a little less life and death, how would that change your breathing?

Breathing better doesn’t mean problems are solved. But the place inside yourself where you can breathe from, where you can reduce – even a little –  the way you contract yourself against the world – that’s also the place you can grow from.

I just spent two weeks immersed in study of the Feldenkrais Method in my Seattle training. We focused on the quality of our listening, one of the most essential ways that we interact with the world.

When you really stop to listen, you hear all kinds of sounds that you normally don’t notice. You can also become aware of sensations that are usually buried below the surface. Your relationship to the space around you changes, as well as to the people in it.

But there is no such thing as “pure” listening.

You always listen through the filter of your life story and the running commentary of the voice in your head.

So stopping to listen may call up a painful memory or a strange association. Or it may call up a new creative idea. Either way, in those moments, you have an important decision to make.

Will you or won’t you consent to give more space to that thing that is pulling on your attention?

There isn’t a right or wrong, for all time, but in this moment, there might be.

Sometimes you need a narrow focus and other times you might wish to be open to whatever comes.

But if you can’t consciously control where your attention goes, you can’t do what you want.

Developing the capacity to consciously select where you put your focus is the pathway to freedom.

In the Feldenkrais Method, this essential life skill is developed through the practice of moving with awareness. It becomes a transformational practice when you not only listen to your bones, your joints, and your breathing – but also to the underlying impulses motivations that shape how you move.

Amazingly, if you are willing to inhibit the intention to be perfect, a completely new field of opportunity arises. You can bypass the savage critical voice that makes noise every time it detects a flaw and listen more deeply and patiently.

Instead, if you give yourself permission to engage in safe and creative experimentation, inviting play in every cell, the burden of perfection begins to melt away.

Then becoming a “better person” gets easier and easier.


Tune Into Your Creative Body, is an online Feldenkrais program for people who want to be better – not perfect – in order to rewrite the story of their lives and make a bigger contribution.

Starting May 20, the program includes Awareness Through Movement, discussion, self-study, materials and individual coaching sessions.

Click here to learn more.