The Price We Pay For Perfection

The world seems to only agree with those who keep a million plates spinning. Some days it's hard not to get bogged down and feel like "when is it my turn?" When will all this "doing good" and "meaning well" start to finally pay off?

How can we keep our selves from becoming skeptical and competitive and angry?

The mindset of a competitor, business owner, mom, trainer, coach, or anything else which takes multi-tasking- can get very low. Depressing even. Why? I've noticed lately that the more pressure I put on myself, the more pressure I put on others. I feel as if I am over here doing all of "these things", so why can't you over there pick up some slack. Or, I have even had the thought- how can I give so much, and not see any "return".

Here is the problem with this mindset, and then I will relate it back to horses, I promise.

When your expectations of yourself are high- but then also of others, you will most likely be let down. Because it is not your job to assess how others do things, think about things or how they pay it forward.

You can only do you.

And being a perfectionist can get really depressing. I know a lot of trainers and horse people in general who strive for the best, put in a million hours of work a week, and get very little thanks or appreciation.

Let's just put this out there (and I am talking to myself): if you are doing something to gain something else in return, you are doing it for the wrong reasons.

It is REALLY hard to think of this when you run your own business because no one else wants that business to succeed as much as you. And no one will put in the time and effort more than you.

So in this category: perfectionism, the horse can teach us A LOT.

I always know when I need to get out and see my horse or go for a ride. When I feel like

1- people aren't understanding me

2- I feel unappreciated whether it be at work or at home and

3- When my perfectionism is getting me no where. When I am so "wound up" and manic that I could burst. I need to sit in the saddle and then... oh. It slowly slips away.

The horse can teach us a lot about perfectionism and the western cultural view of "keeping up with the (fill in name here)".

You might think "well, it's easy for a horse, they are just a horse." But think of the pressures they might endure as an animal especially one who competes and travels. Stressors? Yes ma'am. PTSD? Sometimes. Separation anxiety? Sure! Stage freight? Well, not exactly but there is an element of uncertainty being pulled out of the trailer in a knew place. And what about at home in the peace and quiet of their own environment? We still demand a lot of drilling. This is especially true in the Hunter/Jumper world where making a perfect distance is key. Or keeping that perfect turn in rhythm etc. Have you ever gone to a clinic? It is repetition and sometimes just for repetition sake.

With endurance horses it can be the stress of the starting line or the fact that being tied to a trailer all night while other horses talk and whinny and get loose (yes, almost every ride camp one horse gets loose), they have a lot of pressures!

How does a horse deal with perfectionism? First of all, he really wants nothing to do with it. He wants to get it right as quickly as possible and let it go. Horses are pleasers. If you have a horse who you think is definitely NOT a pleaser, he most likely is in pain and so bitter he is unwilling to try. Almost every prey animal must make split decisions in order to survive. But then return to a state of peace so if not to overwhelm themselves and the herd.

So you could say that a horse is better at catching on to most things than we are.

We are the ones who need the drilling- they just need a solid teacher.

Perfectionism kills the ride, kills the business, kills the relationships. It is the pressure we put on ourselves that is really unnecessary. So why do we do it? How have we become so numb to all the spinning plates?

I think there is a misconception that to be great at something you have to be perfect at it. You have to come off like "yes, I washed my face, put on make up, worked out this morning and came to the barn ready to rock"...yeah right. How about- I was up all night with my child, or I have to work a double, or maybe I'm not feeling good enough today. Or even, I need to get a second job just to pay for my horse. These stressors are there. And it runs across all classes. You can be wealthy and have stressors. You can be not so wealthy and have them too. We tend to judge another persons stress and perfectionism based upon money. Money makes things easier. Well guess what? Sometimes it makes things harder.

Forget about money for a second. Think about the basic concepts of why we ride or enjoy horses. We do it because we need something out of it. I have not yet found a horse that I dislike. Why? Because each one brings something to the table. A learning experience, a gentleness, a kind touch, a lesson to be learned. Every single one.

Can you tell I am an advocate for the horse? But I am also an advocate for my fellow man (more for women but thats an entirely different blog post)

My wish for you is the same wish for myself. That you think of yourself as worthy. And that your horse does too! My wish for you is to take pride in whatever you do and be OK with it NOT being perfect. Chipping away each day towards a goal is sustainable. We as humans need to build our lives around the concept of sustainability. Or else what happens to us? We can't keep up and we give ourselves a hard time and who we are eventually fades.

Perfectionism is poison for a couple of reasons:

1- it might seem like that a perfectionist-type person has it all together- but really they are a mess inside. Beating themselves up, expecting too much out of those around them and putting on a persona that IS NOT sustainable.

And 2- perfectionism is really only raised up on a pedestal by US! We have the power to use less pressure and be more practical. It comes down to a mental health issue in some cases.

Recently I've seen so many down and depressed equestrians. Why? Because we push ourselves, work too many hours and give everything to our horses. Where is the self-care? Self-love? Perfectionism is taking its toll. But how many times has trying to be "perfect" made your round better or made your horse faster? Preform better? Not many I'm sure.

A relaxed, healthy horse and human always make for the more enjoyable ride. If a horse is stressed out, jaw clenched and back tight- he will not jump correctly. If a person is anxious and not thinking clearly, she will not give her horse the best of her. Think about it! Any mental game you have can be lost because you might be "trying too hard".

There is a price we pay for perfection. But more times than not our horses are the ones that pay. Be better by not drilling more but putting emphasis on the important things. Stop over-riding and ride with intention. Stop thinking about everything else going on in your life and be present with your horse. This might ring true to all you multi-tasking trainers who pretty much do EVERYTHING. Or maybe you are a hard-working business owner who is just trying to find more time in the saddle.

Everyone can benefit from a little less perfectionism and a little more intention.

Girl, go make that to-do list, and by all means prioritize it! You WON'T get to everything, but as long as you are chipping away, you are doing it!

Be proud of yourself. Every now and again put a mental sign post up that says "I am doing a great job". Because most likely you are.

If you feel like you are drowning or just don't have enough time, try this little game:

When making your lists or prioritizing or however you get everything done that you need to, put a time limit next to the task. A very realistic time limit. If the task doesn't need to be done TODAY- then move it off the paper. Sometimes my to do lists are so long I get overwhelmed and then nothing gets done.

You can also put up post-it notes telling you to chip away. "Chip away, Diane- don't ruin your day"... As long as you are moving forward you are making progress.

Don't let perfectionism meddle. Give your horse the best of you by being present and being aware that horses just don't think the same as we do. They have no need for being perfect- just at peace. Your mental health affects every aspect of your life. So rearrange if needed but always know that going to the barn should be about JOY!

This might have been more of a rant- or my need to tell myself something. But I hope you got something out of it.

Advocate for your horse and advocate for you! This year put perfectionism aside and gain a little more self-care.

Just as you can train a horse, you can train your mind.



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