Poppy Jamie has lived experience of the damage that striving for perfection can do to our wellbeing. Now, she’s taking that knowledge, as well as a mountain of professional know-how on self-acceptance, and sharing it so we can all embrace our wildest, most imperfect selves
There are more than a few words I’d love to remove from our daily vocabulary. The first is ‘should’ – an implicitly judgy and directional word. The second is ‘perfect’; it’s uncompromising and leaves no room for error, or evolving. The idea of perfection, in itself, is far from perfect.
Poppy Jamie knows just how problematic this concept is. In her mid-20s, her quest for perfection saw her bed bound, chronically exhausted, and with so little energy that she could barely reply to a text.
From this rock bottom, the only way was up. Poppy began to learn about her own mental health, and incorporate new practises into her life – including breathwork, which she reveals was transformational for her.
After speaking with numerous world-renowned mental health practitioners, and developing her own self-acceptance toolkit, Poppy decided that it was time to bring all the knowledge and self-led help she’d discovered together, in order to help others, too. And so, Happy Not Perfect was born.
Here, the ‘Not Perfect’ podcast host, founder of the Happy Not Perfect app, and now book of the same name, shares how to challenge limiting beliefs, embrace curiosity, and discover what makes you wildly happy:
‘Perfect’ is a damaging concept
For me, it was quite life-changing when I really started to think about the beliefs I took on from a really young age, and how they instructed my behaviour and decision-making before I started to question them. When I was little, I developed the belief that I wasn’t enough.
To become good enough I thought I had to work really hard.
I became a workaholic at the age of 13, and that morphed into a sense of perfectionism. If I could be perfect then I’d be OK. I’d be enough then.
Perfection is unattainable
Perfection is so transient – even if you’ve done something really well, another challenge appears and you might not do as well. Perfectionism is a completely unsustainable and deeply self-critical way of living life.
Self-acceptance is the key
When I was 25, I woke up in the middle of the night with the words ‘happy not perfect’ in my mind. I didn’t know why these words had come to me, but I knew it was a message, and it felt like an antidote to a way of being that I’d allowed to consume me. From that moment on, I wanted to know what happiness meant, and understand the self-acceptance that I was so far from.
I’ve since concluded that happiness is self-acceptance. Accepting who we are, wherever we are on the path, even when life isn’t anywhere near together, and we’ve got no idea what our next step is. If we just have self-acceptance, that will bring happiness.
When you know better, you can do better
They say that it takes a village to raise a child, but I genuinely believe it takes a village to manage a mind! What I mean by that is turning to books, podcasts, reading, or hearing about lots of different perspectives on the mind.
For me, what created change was learning about my mental health. I do think learning is the route to all change, like that famous Maya Angelou quote: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
We all have the power to be curious, and it can really help when you’re stuck. Ask better questions of yourself. Before you jump to a negative conclusion about a situation, ask yourself: “Is this true?”
Byron Katie has been a huge inspiration and change agent for me. Her method is called ‘The Work’, and it includes four brilliant questions: Is this true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Who would you be without that thought?
This helps us to realise that the root of suffering is often in our thoughts. We’re so convinced by our very powerful inner critic, storytelling brain, that sometimes it takes a professional or a ‘flexible friend’ who can help you bend your thoughts to another viewpoint.
I believe that curiosity is the pathway to freedom, endless possibilities, growth, and a future we couldn’t even dream of.
“There is only one you. You have a unique wonder that only you can bring to the world”
Focus on your wildest future
I challenge you to think about a sustainable future that lights you up every single day. With my book, I’m hoping to help people understand what their wildest self wants because we often lose sight of ourselves as the demands of life take over.
The world will try to tell us who we should be, but when we are our truest, wildest, most expressed self, we are our best ‘us’. Unapologetically ourselves.
‘Happy Not Perfect: Upgrade Your Mind, Challenge Your Thoughts and Free Yourself From Anxiety by Poppy Jamie is available now (Yellow Kite, £16.99).
Hero image photography | Adam Braizer
To connect with a counsellor to discuss managing your mental health and anxiety, visit counselling-directory.org.uk