‘I’m a Nike Trainer, and Here’s How Mindful Movement Has Helped Me Quiet My Inner Perfectionist’

Photo: Nike & W+G Creative

'It's just not right. It has to be flawless. Why are you so bad at this?' If these or similar thoughts rattle through your mind when you attempt to complete a task, then there's a good chance you're a perfectionist (and there's a good chance that's not a newsflash to you).

Sure, there are good things that come from having high standards, but when your normal standard is perfection, life can become exhausting, and everyday duties can feel impossible to tackle. Just ask Nike Well Collective trainer Clarissa Karunaratne.

"I like to think of myself as a recovering perfectionist because I certainly am aware that I have perfectionist-like tendencies, and over the years have made peace with my humanness," she says. "However, these perfectionist thoughts still creep in and part of healing is choosing differently when faced with the same situations."

One practice that helped Karunaratne break out of her perfectionist patterns came through mindful movement—or understanding why you're exercising, and focusing in on whatever movement you're doing, no matter if you're doing it "perfectly" or not.

"When we practice mindfulness on our mat—whether it’s imagining a specific muscle is working while we’re doing a rep or if it's paying attention to our breath during a challenging yoga posture—mindful movement is remembering why you started and what keeps you showing up for yourself," Karunaratne says. "These mindful moments during a fitness class or a workout, serve as an opportunity for us to explore, play around, and surprise ourselves."

Here are four mindful movement practices that helped Karunaratne quiet her inner perfectionist and allowed her to make mistakes, mess up, or look silly without getting frustrated with herself.

1. Move your mind

Mindful movement is all about connecting your body to your mind, and it's important to get equal exercise for your body and brain—which is why Karunaratne recommends starting with meditation. "Meditation is movement for the mind, so I would 100 percent start there, and this could be as simple as two minutes of stillness every morning," Karunaratne says.

Especially for perfectionists who are usually highly critical of themselves, learning to quiet your mind through meditation can be a useful tool to help put tasks into perspective and silence your inner critic.

2. Try yoga

Don't listen to that voice in your head that may be telling you you're not flexible or athletic enough to do yoga—the practice is about so much more than the physical postures, Karunaratne says. Yoga at its core is about stilling your mind, so even by taking walks and meditating, you're doing a form of yoga, she adds.

"Stepping on your mat is a great way to connect with your breath and body and notice all the subtle shifts going on in your body, such as your heartbeat, the coldest and the warmest points of your body," she says. "Point out something about yourself that you love and remember that for the rest of the day—especially when negative thoughts try to creep in."

3. Make a mantra

Mantras aren't just for yoga class—any motivational or encouraging phrase you establish on your workout mat can extend outward into your daily life as well. For example, if you've ever dreaded working out knowing that you might not be the fittest person in the room, then a mantra to remind yourself it's okay to be at your own fitness level will help you push through these thoughts and stop comparing yourself to the people around you—in the studio and otherwise.

"A mantra I’ve been holding onto lately is 'done is better than perfect,'" Karunaratne says. "I recently just launched my holistic health and nutrition community called Evolv and oh my goodness, it feels so good to be on the other side of the launch. I reminded myself throughout the whole process, whenever any ounce of impostor syndrome or perfectionism creeped in: 'you are right here, in this very moment, for a reason.'"

4. Go for a walk

When your perfectionist inclinations start to shine through, Karunaratne suggests taking a walk to help clear your head. If you work from home, she recommends setting walk reminders on your phone to work to create a healthier work-life balance.

"I challenge you to keep your phone at home," she says. "Take a walk and notice the beauty around you. Look at a flower and notice all the tiny intricacies and how it’s different from the rest of the flowers it’s around—perfectly imperfect. Maybe even put your bare feet on some grass or on the sand if you’re by a beach. Connecting with nature is so healing and grounding."

Ready to quiet your inner perfectionist? Then give Karunaratne's tips a try and remind yourself that it's okay if you slip up—no healing process is linear, but if you keep working toward your goal, you'll get there eventually.

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