Women’s History Month: Voices from Women Will Save the World

One afternoon, about seven years ago, I was driving with my boyfriend at the time to LAX airport. I’ll never forget that moment when he turned to me with wide puppy-dog-like-eyes and said in awe: “You’re perfect!” It was as though the world stopped for a minute, and I thought to myself, “Wow, finally, someone gets me. I’ve arrived!”

I smiled a huge smile, and the words that came out of my mouth were, “I’m sorry, but you’re going to be disappointed, I’m perfectly imperfect.”

For a while this man couldn’t see my flaws at all. I could see his, but I loved all of them. It was the first time I loved someone’s flaws, and it was liberating. However, there came a day when we were no longer able to see each as perfectly imperfect, and our relationship ended. From this I learned valuable lessons: I can love imperfection, and I also can be seen as perfect.

It made me wonder, what is this viewpoint that makes someone seem perfect?

When I was little, my parents told me if I got straight As they would buy me a horse, something I wanted more than anything in the world. I realized at that young age that if my grades were perfect, I could get what I want.

So I strived and worked hard but I never could accomplish the straight As. I almost got them when I was a senior in college. When all my friends were partying, I was staying up late at my last attempt to hit straight As. And I did get As in all classes except for my favorite one, where I had received a D on a test because I didn’t give myself time to study. Why? Because I was counseling a friend who had just split up from her boyfriend, and I was too exhausted. How perfectly imperfect is that?

For the majority of my life, I wore multiple masks to appear perfect, and I was driven to get the best running time in track, the next promotion at work, and well — you already know about my love life!But this game was exhausting, and it wasn’t until I got my Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology that I decided to stop. What I learned at the University of Santa Monica is there are blessings in imperfectionism. I learned that the outcome of a goal achieved is temporarily satisfying but that true fulfillment comes from enjoying every single day of my journey to the best of my ability. I learned that humanity’s core wounding seems to be feelings of unworthiness.

So I practiced new beliefs and behaviors that honored my inherent value. I found what I call my sweet spot of enough-ness.

I also learned about acceptance. There is a beautiful quote by the Sufi poet Rumi that goes, “Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.” So I became focused on creating more of these fields and loving the what-is-ness of life. And most importantly, I learned that my true nature is as a divine being having a human experience. But it wasn’t until the last few years that I started to embody these truths that have deeply shaped my way of being and my work. This is when I made a choice to be in nature a few days a week. I saw a great image the other day that said, “The closer I get to nature, the farther I am from idiots,” and this is exactly how I felt!I started to do more of what I love and found my calling as an equine-assisted life coach. While working with the horses and with people, I was surrounded by incredible mountains, trails with multiple wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, coyotes, deer, red tailed hawks, and even a resident mountain lion. Each time I was in nature, I would look out in awe at its expansiveness, its presence, its natural way of being and expressing. And I realized something … I accept nature. I love it. I appreciate its beauty.

Think about it for a second, when is the last time you looked at something in nature and wished it was different? Do you often think, wow, I wish that branch was in a different spot on a tree or that sunset needs a little more yellow? When is the last time you looked at a bunny or the ocean and thought it was ugly? My guess is never.

Yet, when was the last time you judged yourself or another human?

Here is what my recovering perfectionist learned from being in nature and working with majestic horses.

  • I learned that a horse is never trying to be anything other than a horse.
  • A horse doesn’t care if you think it’s fat or skinny; it just glows from the inside out.
  • A horse doesn’t care if you drive up to the ranch in your clean Maserati or your messy Ford Focus.

Horses remind us of who we truly are … They require our presence, evoke our joy, celebrate our authenticity, and return us to our innocence. Nature understands that growth is a process. In fact, it’s a natural law. There isn’t a commitment to perfection; there is a commitment to evolving. And nature can be our ever-present mirror for us to see our own true nature.

Nature can help us to see the beauty in the imperfection, the incomplete, and the impermanent. The caterpillar struggles as it becomes a butterfly, but it doesn’t wish to have different colored wings. It’s just ready to fly. It also accepts its extremely short life span because that’s what-is. It knows how to travel and really see the world in the short time it has on this precious Earth. The oyster makes its pearl after it is injured or attacked and when a grain of sand enters into its shell and causes a disturbance so crystals are perfectly formed around it to protect it. The spider creates a seemingly perfect web to catch its meals and will re-build from an endless supply of silk whenever it needs to create. And each Fall, there are millions of leaves from the birch and oak trees changing color and taking flight to the ground as the seasons change and they prepare for winter, their innate intelligence knowing how easy it is to let go and that nothing is truly lost.

So why is it that only humans are perfectionists? I believe it’s because of our protective personalities. Our fear-based thoughts that keep us separate rather than in states of connection. We look at others with our egos, not with our souls. We are quick to point out what we don’t like rather than pausing to find what we do. And this is dangerous because we stop protecting our true nature. So what is this special viewpoint that we seem to hold with nature? How can we also hold that for ourselves? I believe it’s seeing through the eyes of love and acceptance. We can practice seeing the true nature of a spirit in a body having a human experience.

What if you finished reading this and committed to seeing everyone, and most importantly yourself, the way you see nature? To see the light that glows from within and to love yourself and others as perfectly imperfect creatures. I dare you to embrace and express your true nature.

In what ways have you become a butterfly?
What are the pearls in your life?
What are the webs you have spun?
What are the leaves you are letting go of?

This has been my journey; it’s a daily practice because sometimes I forget. Luckily, I have the horses to remind me.

I leave you to contemplate this … Another Sufi poet Hafiz (why are those guys so smart?!) said:

All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,’You owe me.’Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”

Kate Neligan is the founder of Synergy TV Network and is an equine-assisted life coach, a speaker, and an author. She also is a contributor to “Women Will Save the World.”This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post and on Kate’s website, Conscious Rockstar.