You Are Enough! You Do Enough! You Have Enough! The Upside of Inner Contentment! with Expert Sheridan Stewart

IAOL 19 | Perfectionism

 

We often have scripts running in our heads that tell us we should be more, do more, and obtain more. These inner narratives work against us, feeding anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. The impossible ideal of perfection is fed by society as well as those who can capitalize on our insecurities. It’s no wonder we suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Maybe it’s time for us to look in the mirror with compassionate wisdom and say, “I am enough.” Perhaps the secret to a happier, more joyful life is not doing, having, or being “more,” but in finding true contentment within our hearts and our lives.

 

Books by Dr. Carla Manly:

Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly

Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond

The Joy of Imperfect Love

 

Book by Sheridan Stewart:

I Am Enough: A 90-Day Challenge to Find Contentment

 

Connect with Dr. Carla Manly:

Website: https://www.drcarlamanly.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drcarlamanly/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/drcarlamanly/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drcarlamanly

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-marie-manly-8682362b/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@dr.carlamariemanly8543

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@dr_carla_manly

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

You Are Enough! You Do Enough! You Have Enough! The Upside of Inner Contentment! with Expert Sheridan Stewart

Discover the Joy of Letting Go of Perfectionism and Being your Amazing, Imperfect Self!

We often have scripts running in our heads that tell us we should be more, do more, and obtain more. These inner narratives work against us, feeding anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. The impossible ideal of perfection is fed by society as well as those who can capitalize on our insecurities. It’s no wonder we suffer from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Maybe it’s time for us to look in the mirror and at each other and say, “I am enough.”

In this episode, we’ll focus on this audience’s real-life questions. “I’m a perfectionist and it’s helped me get ahead in life. I’m burnt out from constantly trying to be thinner, smarter, and more successful. Sometimes, I want to give up out of sheer exhaustion. Help, please.” That question is the focus of this episode.

 

IAOL 19 | Perfectionism

 

In this episode, I’m joined by a wonderful, very special guest, Sheridan Stewart, who will be sharing with us her expertise on what it means to have enough, do enough, and be enough. First, Sheridan, thank you so much for joining us. It’s such a joy to have you.

Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here. I’m on the other side of the world. You are in California, I understand. I’m here in Queensland, Australia. It’s amazing to have this technology where we can connect across the globe at the click of a switch.

It’s amazing. I’m so fortunate to have you because you’re the perfect expert for this question. I have your book here. I have enough. I do enough. I Am Enough. It’s such a beautiful, well-written book. Before I ask you a question, I want to read one of the quotes that you have in the book. It says, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself. Coco Chanel.” That chapter goes into your relationship with lingerie, which we can get to in a little bit. I love that chapter very much. Before we get going to look at this audience’s question, tell us a little bit about what makes you, you.

What makes me, me is over my lifetime, I’ve been fairly audacious. I didn’t grow up with a lot. We were mostly raised by my mother. Certainly, my teen years were what you’d call perhaps restricted income or low income. There are a lot of people that struggle a lot more than we did but we scraped by. There was never excess around and I craved that.

Exhausted from trying to BE more, DO more, or HAVE more? Join Dr. Carla and “letting go” expert Sheridan Stewart for an uplifting journey into the joy of releasing perfectionism and the incessant, toxic drive for more. Discover the secrets to… Click To Tweet

I was never directly given things but I was also never held back from trying things. When I was eleven, I decided I wanted to make a movie and my parents said, “Good luck with that.” They didn’t stop me. I rang the Australian Film Commission and said, “I’m Sheridan and I’d like to make a film.” They said, “How old are you, dear?” I said, “Eleven.” They said, “We don’t normally give film grants to eleven-year-olds but there’s nothing to stop you applying.”

In those days, it was a post. It was life before the internet. They posted the application forms. I wrote the script and applied for it. Lo and behold, I got a film grant and made a small film at the age of eleven. I guess a little bit of audacity makes me, me and sometimes we do benefit from that naivety, not knowing how hard it is. When we aren’t told that we can’t do that, then we get on with doing it. It didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t get the grant and that eleven was very young to be a filmmaker. I didn’t have a particular role model so I went for it.

It was the same in my radio career. I came into music radio, FM radio initially, and then I work more as a broadcaster who does a lot of interviews and everything from politicians to victims of crime to rock stars to everyday people who ring in and we chat. It’s been an amazing career but, in the beginning, nobody told me that it was going to be hard. There was this whole, “There’s not many women doing it.” I thought, “Someone’s got to be the first,” and off I went.

I certainly wasn’t the first. There were women in radio but they were marginalized into very specific roles. I wanted to be what you’d call in America a rock jock and that’s what I did for a long time until I realized that that was a little restrictive for me. I wanted to have deeper conversations than better music and more of it from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s with Itsy Bitsy in the morning. Here’s another song you’ve heard a million times before. It was great fun but I wanted something that was a little more meaningful.

Tired of chasing happiness and the promise of a perfect life? Join Dr. Carla and 90-day self-challenge expert Sheridan Stewart for a lively, humorous journey into the art of letting go of the toxic pressure to DO more, HAVE more, and BE more! Click To Tweet

You’re the perfect guest. We dive into meaningful conversations because it’s all about love, the imperfection of love, and how love shows up in our relationships with ourselves and other people. What a beautiful light you are as a reminder that sometimes when we don’t know that something’s hard, it is easier to take it on. That’s one of the reasons we often get into relationships. We don’t know that they’re so hard. We’re in the more saying, “This is not perfect. This is a lot harder than the fairytale told me that it should be.”

It’s like when you have a baby, which I haven’t done myself but I’ve been a stepparent and seen my friends excited about having a baby. Fast forward to having a thirteen-year-old girl in their home, it’s wreaking havoc with their life. Nobody tells you that that baby’s going to become a teenager and they’re going to challenge you like crazy. Sometimes we’re better off not knowing what’s always ahead but we do have and develop the capacity to deal with it.

Sometimes we’re better off not knowing what's ahead, but we have to develop the capacity to deal with it. Click To Tweet

You have the perseverance and the audacity to dive in and embrace life. When we look at your book, I Am Enough, let’s loop that back to somebody who’s a perfectionist. That, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough,” I used to be a perfectionist so that’s not the lingo I heard. In my head, it was always, “I don’t have enough. I don’t do enough. I am not enough. I need it to be perfect. When everything’s perfect, I’ll be loved, safe, seen, and secure.” We know how that’s so impossible. It sounds like the reader is saying that she’s on this treadmill of seeking perfection, which has worked for her. We don’t want to discount that perfectionism can get us somewhere. Let’s talk a little bit about how it works against us.

What happened for me is that the things that worked for me for so long that made me good at what I do turned in on me. We go too hard for too long. We don’t press pause and take holidays. I’m often talking about that in our heads. You might take a literal holiday or go to the beach but if your mind is still on that deadline that you know is waiting for you when you get back. You’re having a lovely time out with friends. You look over and there’s a couple there. You’re like, “That’s right. I don’t have a great relationship in my life at the moment.”

Perfectionism and comparison are the two things that get us in the most trouble. One can lead to the other. When we’re comparing, we are looking at someone’s life, taking a snapshot, and assuming their whole life is this magical moment. We look across the bar and there’s a couple. They’re kissing and laughing. They look all loved up. We’re imagining their whole life is like that. This is what we are fed in social media, in media in general and in advertising.

We get this little snapshot of someone’s life. We presume that if we had what they had, the perfect body and the great makeup, we forget what goes into it. When you see any celebrity in a candid shot, those photograph moments look like we look when we get up in the morning. We don’t arrive like that except perhaps on our wedding day. With a lot of time and money, it goes into looking like that. We never feel like we’re enough.

We never feel like we're enough, when in fact, some of the very people that we were imagining had this great life actually struggled with that even more than we do because they are so famous. Every time they step out the door, they feel the… Click To Tweet

Some of the very people we imagine who have this great life struggle with that even more than we do because they are so famous. Every time they step out the door, they feel the weight of that expectation. Even in the self-help or personal development genre, we are surrounded by these pithy quotes that tell us to reach for the stars. Even if you don’t get your land on the moon, it’s like, “Really?” Sometimes you land in a pile of cow malarkey or poop. Life does blindside us. I don’t think we’re meant to go at eleven.

If your volume switch goes to 10 and like me, you have a perfectionistic background, you are operating at 11 all of the time. Slowly but surely, we are depleting our tanks and energy. We are depleting the joy, fun, and capacity to recover. It’s like thinking you don’t need to sleep. I was certainly one of those people who would sleep when I was dead. Over the years, I wore myself out and became burnt out.

When you read your audience’s question, I thought, “That was me when I sat down to write this book.” She’s a little younger so I can say to her, “If you keep going in the direction you’re going in, like begets like. Eventually, there comes a point where you can’t keep going.” It’s important to press pause. Dr. Carla, I didn’t say stop, give up on your dreams, or don’t do the things that you are good at. There is a time to step up but it can’t be all the time.

 

IAOL 19 | Perfectionism

 

A part of the recovery from being a perfectionist is learning that your perfectionism works for you. When it comes to proofreading a book, doing your best on a work project, or creating a beautiful meal, there are certain times when your perfectionist tendencies can work for you. There’s great wisdom that the journey is in learning. Where is that tipping point? When does your perfectionism start working against you?

The meal that is so perfectly beautiful has exhausted you so much that you don’t enjoy it or you haven’t paid attention to all the guests who were there because you’re striving so hard to create the perfect meal. Getting that manuscript or recording perfectly has taken you 80 hours more than if you said, “It’s good enough right now. It’s getting my message out there.”

How can our readers find that very fine line between going for something that’s not possible? That’s what perfectionism does to us. It’s not possible. It’s never good enough, to that line where you dial back to 9.5, 99.9, or sometimes 8 on that scale and say, “It’s just breakfast. It can be a five today. The kitchen can be as clean as a 6.0 today. It doesn’t need to be ten.” For perfectionists, we want everything to be ten all the time.

Using your cooking analogy, save it for a dinner party or big occasion. Conserve your energy so that when you want to make something wonderful, you’ve got the energy to do it. For the rest of the day, eggs on toast or a salad are fine. We don’t need to live in that state all the time. If we do, you’ll find that overall your tank is depleting and there’ll be nothing to draw on one day.

We get upset because when we’ve got nothing to draw on and something important happens, we want those energies in reserve. We want something that we can pull from. If we are wearing ourselves out on all the little everyday tasks and sending the kids off with lunch boxes that look like there’s something out of a MasterChef episode on television, then what happens when we get to the kids’ birthday party? They don’t appreciate it because every day they’ve had this spectacular feast.

Life is meant to have light, shade, color, and texture. We are meant to ebb and flow. When I wrote I Am Enough and I wanted to contemplate what it meant to have to and be enough, I chose it as a 90-day challenge because it represents a season. Every season is different. What I did for those 90 days, I wouldn’t do the next 90 days the same way or even the next day. We can do, for a short period something that allows us to either step up or step back to give out and then replenish our energy.

I love how you said that. The 90 days is a season and that’s a beautiful way of looking at it. I want to restate what you’ve said because it’s so beautiful. It gives you the opportunity to either step up or step back. How perfect is it to use 90 days to reflect on what’s going on in your life and realize it doesn’t always mean that you need to step up? It might mean that you consciously step back.

It’s not easy to do for those of us who are perfectionists, are very driven, and are passionate about something. Most people are. For those reading that maybe go, “I wish I could step up. I’m frozen in inaction,” that’s the opposite end of the same stick. For example, I’ve got one friend who, whilst I can’t sleep and don’t get any sleep and I’m always overdoing, oversleeps, and feels like she can’t do much in her life outside of her job but it comes from the same place.

You can be a perfectionist who’s not doing anything but inside, you’re beating yourself up about it. You are suppressing your energy and life force. You’re not going forward. We can be frozen in our idea that it has to be perfect before we can take action. They can be opposite ends of the same stick. I thought I’d mentioned that for anyone who was going, “I don’t relate to this overdoing thing. I feel guilty all the time because I’m underdoing.” What’s happening in your head could still be. You’re overdoing it mentally and preventing yourself from moving forward.

We can’t be frozen in our idea that “it has to be perfect before I can take action.” Click To Tweet

You’re so right. Sometimes somebody gets frozen or depressed because of that fear. If I launch out and “fail”, then it proves that I’m a mess up and broken. I better stay in bed and not try very hard or not try that next thing because I might fail. I’m going to go back to what you said. I loved it when we were talking about the dinner party and you spoke about conserving your energy to create a wonderful dinner party instead of doing the perfect dinner party.

It was such a beautiful linguistic shift because you took all the weight off of perfectionism and went straight into wonderful. That is such a healing turn right there for all of us and the readers to realize, “When perfectionism is taking hold of me, whether I’m stuck in bed or high drive, how about if we reframe it and say, ‘Let’s create something wonderful?’”

 

IAOL 19 | Perfectionism

 

You are so right there, Dr. Carla. Words have such power and we need to be selective about them. It does help to pay attention to those words. Sometimes that tiny shift, that one word from the perfect dinner party to a wonderful dinner party, can shift the whole energy. Your shoulders drop. You relax. It doesn’t matter if a bit of sauce gets spilled.

The danger in staying in that hypervigilant, where everything has to be exactly so stated, is that this dinner party with everyone around you that you want to spend time with comes and goes. You’ve been so focused on trying to make it perfect that everybody had a good time except you. If any of those friends knew that, they would say, “For goodness’ sake, Sheridan, it doesn’t matter that one of the courses wasn’t perfect or you threw something in the bin. None of us would’ve known. We wanted your company. You created this wonderful evening. Let’s be together and be present for each other.”

When we think about all of our relationships, whether they’re with children, romantic partners, or friends, that’s what most people want. It’s the wonderfulness. No one cares if your makeup is perfect or if you weigh 5 pounds more or less than you’re supposed to or 100 pounds. Whatever it is, people who love you, all they want for you is for you to be happy and well. That’s the essence of genuine love. We tend to be so much harder about being on this treadmill of trying to be more successful, ever fit, or more this and that. Let’s talk about your lingerie. I love that piece.

I’ve got a chapter called Bad Undies. In Australia, we call our knickers or panties undies. I don’t know what you call them there. I have a collection of bad undies. I’m thinking of having a little ritual fire and burning these bad undies because I’ve still got them. I wrote that chapter years ago. The reason I have bad undies or unattractive lingerie is I was always trying to get to the perfect size, weight, and shape. I felt like I didn’t deserve to put on quality undergarments.

Nobody saw them except for my beloved who’s always in a hurry to get them off. I thought, “What’s the point of spending all this money on pretty things?” I didn’t like my body so it didn’t matter what I was going to put on it. I went for the cheap, serviceable undies. I pressed pause during this 90-day challenge on spending and eating out. I was also attempting to press pause on working overtime.

Let’s come back to that point in a moment because I did fail and I do want to talk about what failure has come to mean for me. I realized I was punishing myself by holding back from allowing myself to have attractive lingerie and feel okay about myself at any size, weight, and age. That is something that I’ve taken with me. I’ve still got the bad undies. The ritual fire is still coming but I’d gotten quite slender at one point. I’m somebody who’s always struggled with my weight and size in my adult life. I always wanted more. I’d got slim, fit, and smaller than the size I was aiming at.

When I was in that space, I thought, “I needed to go further.” It still wasn’t enough. Having regained little weight, I look back and go, “It was perfectly fine. All I want to do is fit my wardrobe again and buy some good undies.” I’ve learned that I am Sheridan at any size, at any point in life. No matter what’s in my bank balance, what my relationship status is, and what my age is, I’m still me. That has to be enough because we can’t be anything else. It’s exhausting to even attempt to be anything else.

 

 

You painted the most beautiful picture. You have given my heart such joy. What affirming words for our readers too. I love the story of the lingerie. We call them undies or undergarments. I call them bras and panties. When we look at something that beautiful and intimate, that can be seen as a reflection of our essence and femininity if we like to look at it that way. We can take something that simple and beautiful and turn it into something so harmful. Those panties or that bra look so much prettier on the model. What goes on inside so many people’s heads is, “It doesn’t look as good on me once I got it home.”

Partly because you’re not made out of plastic and we haven’t been photoshopped

I love the example that you are setting off, whether it’s your bra, panties, boxers, nighty, or whatever you’re putting on, to be able to look and say, “I am me. I am beautiful. I am enough. I will always be me.” Our bodies are our houses. It’s our home for however many years we’re on the planet. I’m with you on the comparison thing. In my book, Joy from Fear, I call it the voice of toxic comparison. The moment we get outside ourselves and say, “I should look like her, him, or them,” we have abandoned the self. Right in that moment, we have rejected the self.

We don’t want to reject ourselves. We want to be able to put on whatever we’re putting on, whether it’s a robe, a dress, pants, or a bra, and say, “I am enough. I may want to be healthier and do this or that but I am enough. I am worthy.” That is the message I got from your book. “I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.”

You said it so eloquently. You are Sheridan regardless of your age, weight, bank balance, or any of that. It all ties back to the question of the day. Why be on this treadmill where you’re trying to be more? I can imagine a reader going, “Shouldn’t I try to improve? I do want to be on a self-improvement track. Shouldn’t I? Isn’t that what I should be doing?” What do you say?

Don’t crap all over yourself. It’s not healthy. There is a big difference between letting go and giving up. They are not the same thing. You can let go, press pause, and cut yourself a bit of slack without stopping, giving up, and becoming slack. It’s that ebb and flow we talked about. It’s the changing of the seasons. Allow things to shift and change. Ride the energy.

I’ll say it again. Letting go is not the same as giving up. Sometimes we need to let go or at least loosen our grip a little so that we don’t end up so exhausted that we give up. The language I use a lot and while I was writing the book, what I discovered is it’s not about necessarily stopping entirely but it is about pressing pause and putting space between your activities. My challenge has been to walk my talk.

 

 

In the 90-Day Challenge, I did 90 days of no cafes and restaurants because I was spending a lot there and I didn’t like the result. When we overindulge, in the beginning, it’s fun, delicious, and relaxing. As we turn it in on ourselves and feel guilty, all the pleasure goes out of it. I wanted to pause that behavior. People often say, “I’d love to invite you for a coffee but I know you don’t do that.” No, it was just 90 days. It’s not your whole life. I’m not that rigid. The key is to explore our habits without turning them into another.

I succeeded in those 90 days and it was interesting. I saved some money. I succeeded in no non-essential spending. I recognized that buying myself some good lingerie is essential for my well-being and self-esteem. I didn’t have to go nuts and buy a million pairs but I could look at myself and my undergarments a little bit differently. The point I wanted to come back to, as we were chatting about failure, is I did fail in my third challenge, which was to go home from work on time with no unpaid overtime. It was an epic failure.

As I contemplated what that meant, I realized that this was where I had the most to learn. When we struggle with something or can’t keep our word to ourselves, it’s because this is often where we have the most to learn and a tighter grip on that perfectionism. I constantly think I must be a US size six. That is my ideal. Apparently, you guys have zero.

How can you have a size zero? Is that even possible? That would mean you didn’t exist. That’s weird. From sitting over here where our sizing’s quite different, it’s like zero that would be vanishing. If we’ve had a grip on something that is ideal and we are holding it tightly, our whole identity is, “Until I get this, have this, do this, or I am this, until that happens, I’m not enough.” We are very invested and it can be hard to let go. Failure is often where we have the most to learn.

Thank you so much, Sheridan, for highlighting that piece about learning. You are right. It is those parts where we’re sticking and struggling. “I can’t. I don’t want to.” That’s where I believe the psyche is saying, “Don’t judge or blame yourself but this is the work right here. This is that next place in your life that you can polish.” I love looking at the journey of life like that. The psyche is asking us to polish this next sticking point. We have lots of rough edges when we come into life. Let’s be a little gentler with ourselves and say, “This is the next place to polish. Let’s polish here.”

If you think of it in terms of a musician, there is nothing more delightful than seeing and hearing someone perform. You think, “That was so effortless.” As a listener or someone who’s receiving that creativity, you relax. That did require polishing. That person has practiced for hours but they’ve got to the point where they relax, flow, and let the music flow through them.

If we can carry life like that beautiful music, we can carry things a little more lightly. I got so serious about everything like my weight, size, job, relationship, and finances. I feel myself frowning and scrunching even as I’m talking about it. To that beautiful audience who wrote that question, maybe look at it like, “Am I carrying my life like a huge sack of rocks?” What would it be like to press pause, put it down, sort through the rocks, and work out what is worth putting that much effort into?

“Perhaps I could buy a cart. Perhaps there are other ways I can transport this load than carrying it all at once and all on my own.” Support is vital. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend. If a friend came to you and said, “I’m carrying this huge load of rocks around and all these heavy beliefs. I don’t like myself. I don’t have enough and I don’t do enough. I’m lazy and fat. I’m not successful,” what would you say to them? You wouldn’t say, “Pick up those rocks and walk up a hill. You’ll feel better.” You wouldn’t do that.

Treat yourself like you’d treat a dear friend or someone you cared about. Your child, do we want to be demonstrating to the world that life is hard? Yes, it can be and it can be hard at times. We need to step up during those times. It’s relentless and we’ve become our captor. We are the ones that are insisting on piling those rocks in. Life’s hard enough. Life has curve balls. Things happen that are not fun, not easy, difficult, and take a lot to get through.

Circling right back to the beginning of our conversation, Dr. Carla, you want to have some energy and reserve for when the storm comes. When there’s no storm recognized, there’s no storm. I can put down my sack of rocks and sort them out. “What have I learned? What do I take forward? Can I carry them more lightly? Can I get a little cut or help?” That’s what pressing pause allows us to do.

That’s such a beautiful way of looking at it and realizing it. Going back for a second to you talking about the musician, I have some clients who are musicians. Not that I’ve listened to them play but when we listen to somebody who’s playing music and they’ve made that their love and world, yes, it sounds wonderful when they’re playing. We realized how much work goes on, especially when they’re masters at it.

Behind the scenes, the practice, the constant perseverance that when we look at other people as beautiful as their music, whatever type of music they’re playing in their life, there is work going behind the scenes. It’s that constant crafting. We often forget that we want to be crafting our souls as well. We want to be playing the music of our soul.

We can’t do that very well when we’re oriented externally and toward perfection. Instead, one of the biggest gifts of pausing is the reevaluation of your priorities. For this 35-year-old, 25-year-old, 65-year-old, or however old someone is, saying, “Is this where I want to be in my life,” use that pause to say, “Perhaps it’s time to go inward.” “I’ve been working on polishing all these externalities. The way I look, how fit I am, how much money I have in the bank, and how successful I am.”

Let’s go inside and look at not finding perfection in there because we’ll never find perfection but finding the beauty of the imperfection and falling in love with ourselves. Often, when we work on falling in love with the self maybe for the first time in our lives, sometimes we’re not so hard on ourselves because we see that we’re so much more than having the perfect makeup, weight, or whatever it is. There’s so much more inside that we can tune into.

I love the falling in love analogy because when we fall in love, we think we’re in love with the other person. We do appreciate them. We are connecting with them. What’s happening, I wonder sometimes, is that we’re getting to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes as well. Suddenly, we are letting love in. It’s like discovering you’ve got a whole extra room in your house that you didn’t know about. That’s why we’re so bereft if that person doesn’t choose us or goes away, as opposed to remembering, “That room was always in my house. Someone came and opened the door for me, opened the window, or shone a spotlight.” That’s what we can do for each other.

It’s got nothing to do with perfectionism. I remember being younger and thinking I was too chubby to be in a relationship and too fat for this or that. One day, I looked around me and saw people of all sorts of shapes, sizes, ages, and even capacities experiencing love. Look at this beautiful dog sneaking up behind you, Dr. Carla. Speaking of love, love has entered the room in the form of a gorgeous dog. Gorgeous dogs don’t sit around thinking, “Have I been groomed perfectly today?”

Dogs don't sit around thinking, “Have I been groomed perfectly today?” They just greet you with love every time you walk in the door. We could learn to do that for ourselves. Click To Tweet

They greet you with love every time you walk in the door. If we could learn to do that for ourselves. If you can’t treat yourself like your dog treats you, you are everything to them at that moment. They’re delighted that you are alive and you are here. If I dive under a wave and I come up, my dog acts like, “You’re still alive. I love you.” There’s so much joy in that.

We hold ourselves back from joy. Of all the years, I didn’t let myself swim because I was so self-conscious that the idea of putting on a bathing suit and having my bikini body, which I never had, was so prohibitive to the simple enjoyment of walking on the beach or diving through the waves. It was when my friend Mel, who I Am Enough is dedicated to, was diagnosed with a second terminal illness. She was already dealing with terminal cancer and then she was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a condition that is rarely coming back from.

I was so aware that she didn’t get to do this anymore. She didn’t get to walk on the beach and go swimming. Why would I be held back by worrying about my vanity and perfectionism when I got to do this? Mel is extraordinary, though. You talk about a half-full person. The cup could be empty and there could be a molecule of water in the bottom. That’s where she would focus. She would always look for that little thing that she could be grateful for. I learned so much from her. I want to start a hashtag, #BeLikeMel because she’s moved me so much.

She sounds like an amazing person. The ability to find the molecule in the glass is a capacity we can all learn to focus on a little more. It’s within us all. Wherever we put our attention is where we go. If we’re focusing on not having the water in the glass, not being perfect, or not having enough, that’s where our energy goes.

If we focus on being so grateful for the body, health, and love that we do have, and if we want more of it, then let’s create more of what matters, love, connection, empathy, and kindness. Wrapping back to the piece on the dog and relationships, I do agree with you. When we do fall in love, we are often drawn in because we have someone. Especially in those early stages, they’re seeing us and reflecting to us that love that we naturally yearn for from childhood forward. We want to be seen and loved.

How do I tie that into a dog? My dog, a giant schnauzer, has an amazing soul. He looks at me and I look at him with such unconditional love. That is the love I would wish for the reader who wrote that she can look in the mirror and love herself with the same unconditional love. Yes, our partners look at us generally with unconditional love but they have good days and bad days like we do. They have their moments.

That’s one of the reasons we like our pets so much. It’s that unconditional love that, ideally, is the most important thing for us to emulate when we look in the mirror. To say, “You are not perfect but you’re beautiful. I love you.” That’s what our pets do. They know we’re not perfect. We forget to get meals to them on time. We get snarly some days. They know we love them and we know they love us if we can again do that with ourselves.

They let it go. When you are late and you arrive, they’re so happy that you’re there. Some pets are pretty cheeky and they might sulk for a moment. It’s like, “You’ve left me by myself.” They let it go. They don’t hang on to grudges, stew on it, ruminate, and get caught in the loop. They get back into the moment. It’s like, “Dinner’s here. Excellent.”

Do you know what’s amazing about keeping pets? My dog, as beautiful as he is, I don’t find him in the mirror saying, “I should be lighter and fitter. I should be doing more.” No, he knows how to do this perfect balance of what’s right for him. As human beings, we have so much we can learn, not only from each other but from the creatures in our lives, be they our pets, that we admire and take some of those lessons.

Dogs certainly know how to push pause. No pun intended there but they know how to pause. When they are tired, they are down and sleeping. They let go of things that don’t matter. The day that you’ve done such a good job at shedding light on takes us to the importance of unconditional love first for the self and then for others and letting go of comparison. There’s no upside.

The only time I see the comparison that’s helpful is when I see my dog do it. We’ll be on a walk and he’ll look at two dogs playing. He’s going, “I want some of that.” He goes and gets it. He is not comparing himself to them but to the activity. We use comparison in that way to say, “I like that garden or how that event’s done. I want to embrace a little bit more of that joyful energy in my garden.”

That’s so key, especially if it goes as far as envy. If there’s somebody we envy, it’s like, “What is it that they’ve got that I’m not allowing myself to have or include in my life?” Have a look at what’s underneath the icky feelings. You’ll probably discover that there’s an action you can take that takes you out of that, that says, “I envy them.” Make sure that what you are envying is real. You’re not envying the facade of a great act. We’re presented with that all the time, whether it’s the perfect selfie angle from above with the great lighting and the filters.

I tried to make an Instagram clip as a no-makeup first thing in the morning thing. I was sitting with a friend and we got stuck in a filter. It was so funny. It’s this Barbie filter where we had these huge blue eyes. We looked silly. It was hilarious. That is not life. We can’t get stuck in a filter and think that that’s real. The filters are so exaggerated, the ones I’m talking about where they put things on top of you and add sparkles, snow falling in the background, angels singing, and all that thing. It’s not real.

Be careful that what you’re comparing yourself to is not a facade. If you think of say a movie star or an actor that you admire and you’re imagining they have this fantastic life, they are having a human life. What you are seeing is a snapshot of a fantastic moment that has been beautifully crafted to sell that film or its image. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. We can all hold those things up and go, “That takes me in the direction of my dream. If I want to be an actor, I like that hairdo. I need to grab my hair a little bit.” We can use it as a little guide but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the whole picture.

 

 

Tying up one more piece, you brought up envy. I didn’t want to leave that alone because it’s such an important thing. Many people who write to me or clients will say, “I don’t want to tell you this but I’m envious or jealous.” We both know the power of neurolinguistics. I say, “Envy and jealousy are natural feelings.” It’s so human. It’s what we do with our envy and jealousy. We see it as a message of something that we might want more of in our lives. You might be jealous of somebody’s love relationship. Instead of wishing them ill or getting into a funk about it, be like, “What about that snippet of that relationship would I like to cultivate in my heart or my world?”

If you’re looking at someone and envious of something in their personality or looks, it can be something as simple as reframing it to, “I noticed that. That person does happen to be a different body size and entirely different life than me. That’s lovely for that person. Let me turn the lens back to me and say, ‘Maybe I’d feel better if I weighed a few pounds less.’” We would focus on what looks better. Use those natural human emotions to find out if there’s something we want to shift in our lives or if it’s a simple notice and you go, “That’s pretty cool. I don’t need to have it or be it but it’s pretty cool.”

“I’m not willing to do what it takes to get that.” I still aspire to perhaps drop a pound or 2 or 20, whatever it is at the time. However, I’m not willing to work out to the level where I have a ripped body. I have too many other things to do with my life. That is not my life. I’m not a bodybuilder or a bikini model. I don’t need those things. Am I willing to do what it takes to get them? If the answer is no, it’s like, “I’ll get me a little bit of that. What does a little bit of that look like?”

It looks like taking a walk in nature each day, being a little fitter, and making a few tweaks to my food choices. I’m speeding up. I’m doing a little bit more and letting go of sugar or something that’s not particularly good for me on a more regular basis. That might be like, “Thank you for that little bit of inspiration but I don’t need to chase down something that I don’t want. I don’t want to do the work it takes to get it.”

That’s beautifully said. If you see something that you admire or even envy, maybe a little bit of that. We don’t all have to want to expend our energy to get that perfectly fit body, cushy bank account, or whatever it is. For many people, having a fraction of that is what is most reasonable. Sometimes, a fraction of that is what is most wise and healthy because so much is illusion, even that which isn’t illusion is often not what’s right for our soul and being. That’s a big piece where you talked before about letting go. Sometimes it’s pressing pause so that you can decide to let go.

If we are clinging so much to an image of something that’s not us, we are missing the beauty that we each have. What makes a human beautiful is your uniqueness or individuality, not being a carbon copy of some marketing ideal. It’s so important. You don’t want to miss the good stuff or your life because you’ve got your eyes on someone else’s prize.

What makes a human beautiful is their uniqueness and individuality, not being a carbon copy of some marketing ideal. You don't want to miss the good stuff. You don't want to miss your own life because you've got your eyes on someone else's prize. Click To Tweet

I can’t say anything to top that. You don’t want to miss your life because you’re going after somebody else’s prize. With that beautiful, poignant statement, we will pause and have you back again because there’s so much more to be said. Sheridan Stewart, what an amazing soul and gift you have brought to all of us. Where can our readers find you?

I’m trying to build an Instagram following so that would be nice. @Sheridan.Stewart is where to find me. I do have a website, SheridanStewart.com. The book is I Am Enough. If you type in I Am Enough Sheridan, it will crop up everywhere. It’s all over the place. You can order it, read it, listen to it, or however you like to consume your book. I love to hold a book and I was so thrilled when the designer came up with the cover because I’d imagine something far more illustrative but it allows that message to stand out.

I’ll tell you a very quick story if we’ve got a second. I met a chap and he was chatting away. He said, “I’ve seen that book at the airport. I walked past it and I went, ‘I have enough. I do enough. I am enough.’ I stood up, squared my shoulders, and thought, ‘Yes, I am enough.’” He kept going. He didn’t buy the book. It would’ve been a better story if he bought the book. However, seeing that cover was like having an affirmation that he was able to take that with him. I thought it was such a joyous story, even though he didn’t buy the book.

On that note, we are all going to go and redo our lingerie drawers, undie drawers, or little thing drawers and be on our way, knowing that we are enough. We don’t even have to go buy new undies. We can maybe find the ones we have and cherish them and how they fit us. It’s a metaphor for let’s hit pause and tune into how beautiful we each are as imperfect human beings who don’t need to get on the hamster wheel of chasing perfection.

You are enough. How could you be anything else?

Thank you, Sheridan. What a pleasure.

It’s been an absolute honor. Thank you so much, Dr. Carla.

 

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About Sheridan Stewart

IAOL 19 | PerfectionismSheridan Stewart is an author and radio broadcaster known for her insightful, inspiring and, relatable style – plus, she brings the fun! A popular an FM presenter (Triple M), music journalist, comedy producer, and speaker, Sheridan also facilitated personal and professional development workshops for women before joining the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) in 2014.These days Sheridan can be heard on ABC Radio Queensland (Sunshine Coast) when she’s not swimming or writing! Sheridan’s first book, I Am Enough – a 90-Day Challenge to Find Contentment, was released in 2023. She’s currently developing a podcast inspired by her mantra, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.”

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