Do you know a perfectionist? Have you ever worked for one? Or maybe you have perfectionist tendencies yourself, if you often find yourself stuck in a cycle where you can’t quite finish; can’t quite start; or are convinced that everything you’ve done, thought or created is complete rubbish.
Trigger the cycle of perfectionism and we can easily end up losing our focus and spinning out a great deal of energy that goes nowhere fast. Although the roots of perfectionism can start early in life and run deep, there are tools you can use to break these behavioral pathways and open doors to healthier alternatives. Massage can be one of those tools—and just as you encourage clients to receive massage for ongoing health care, you should as well. Here’s how massage relieves the tendency to think one has to be perfect:
1. Massage Helps Get You Out of Your Head
Perfectionism is a mental construct, an endless loop of not-good-enough messages. If you’re feeling stuck, unhappy with what you’re doing or how you look, and chewing on old messages of shame and inadequacy, get to a massage therapist as soon as you can. Bodywork lets life touch us in non-analytical, non-cognitive ways, allowing a respite from the discomfort of not knowing, and bypassing our familiar cognitive and verbal defenses.
2. Massage Helps You Relax
Perfectionists can be some of the most uptight people on the planet—hard on themselves and everyone around them. Massage can open channels that tend to get blocked when we think too hard, are super-critical, and forget that we need our bodies to support us mentally and emotionally.
3. Massage Helps Shift You into Feeling Mode
Chasing our thoughts in circles can be a fairly effective way of staying disconnected from feelings and authenticity—a disconnection that is a significant identifier for perfectionistic behavior. Massage can open up a certain level of vulnerability, releasing thoughts and ideas that may have been hiding behind layers of illusion and self-protection.
4. Massage Connects You With Another Person
A skilled massage therapist will create an environment in which you can feel safe to be your imperfect self. Sometimes just having another person present for a reality check or different point of view can shift us to a healthier mental middle ground. If nothing else, being with someone who will hold a space for you to just be where you are can help you shift into a healthier place of being and thinking.
5. Massage Slows Your Pace
Few human bodies can sustain the pace some of us have kept up for much of our lives. More doing is not the answer. Massage gives us an hour or more to just be—quietly and deliberately not doing. However we break our go-go-go cycle is less important than the fact that we occasionally do so. Use your massage sessions as a place to come up for air and just breathe. While you’re at it, set an intention to use this time to count your blessings, taking stock of every bit of perfection that already exists in your life, and letting go of your focus on the imperfections.
Jane Bluestein, Ph.D., is a speaker, educator, author of 12 books, and the head of Instructional Support Services Inc., a consulting and resource firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She wrote The Perfection Deception: Why Trying to Be Perfect Is Sabotaging Your Relationships, Making You Sick, and Holding Your Happiness Hostage (HCI Books, 2015).