Finding Balance: An Interview with Jenna Rutherford
Hi everyone. My name is Jenna Rutherford, and I am a recovering perfectionist. In my head I hear you saying “Hi Jenna” back to me, so I’m going to continue telling you my story. My whole life I have thrived being an emotional Type A personality filled with passion and drive and always willing to get the job done no matter what. All my life I pushed myself in order to set myself up for success and avoid mistakes. Most “failures” in my life seem pretty minimal, and most of them I can’t even remember.
Please don’t think I am boasting about my achievements. I say this as a warning to all who are like me. For I have learned, that while succeeding is not a bad thing, pushing yourself to the brink and living for others in order to be successful or seen as a successful person, well that can really mess you up. However, I have found that in my darkest days, hitting my mat helped to bring me back to life.
I’ve been a “yogi” for about 5 years now, but my initial reasoning for attending a class was like most Americans; exercise. I played soccer for a good 13 years of my life, but due to a tear in my right quad (my kicking leg), I had to stop. I had lost my outlet, but really I had lost it when I started trying to live up to expectations of parents, coaches and friends when it came to soccer. I had lost the love of the game and it became just another thing on the to-do list.
Being a teenager at the time and not dealing with my trauma, I wasn’t motivated to do my Physical Therapy exercises and waited until I graduated college to do something about the aches and pains in my leg and hip. I had finally come to my senses realizing that I was in my early 20’s, I shouldn’t already feel like this. A hip surgery and plenty of PT later, I still deal with my past mistakes and my pride, but yoga has tremendously helped me get back to being in shape while avoiding any further injury. However, I was just pushing myself to be what I thought was a successful yogi. I wanted to look and feel strong and do the cool inversions like other people in class but ended up just going through the motions and not being very intentional.
I started attending kOMpose yoga classes a few month after they first opened. We had just moved to Broad Ripple and my previous studio was a little too far to try to make classes during the evening rush hour. As fate would have it, taking yoga classes at kOMpose would force me to finally look inward and reevaluate my life and my life choices.
kOMpose exposed me to my first Yin Yoga class. As you may or may not know, Yin is a practice of holding poses for time and meditating while in an uncomfortable position. There’s no escaping your mind; there’s no escaping the discomfort. You just have to sit in it and deal. Through these classes, I started to realize how much I let the external factors in my life affect me and how unhappy I had become. I had a great life, my dream job, a loving family and wonderful friends, and yet, I still felt inadequate and just downright angry. This caused me to start making some changes, but my Type A personality and emotions drove me to once again not focus inward and just make choices that were band-aid solutions to my problems.
In my mind, I believed I was the type of person who had her sh!t together. Everyone around me strived to reach my standard and my level of perfection including myself. Anything less than this was unworthy. I was the go-to for friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and I let them pile more and more on me, setting no boundaries for myself. I found love in achievement and by people coming to me for help. In my heart, I knew I was imperfect and was worthy of a more genuine love and better relationships, but I stood in my own way.
I ended up leaving my “dream job” and this decision opened the floodgates to my inner struggles. Now I don’t regret leaving the job. It wasn’t serving me anymore and wasn’t helping me grow. However, instead of taking the time to process it and open my heart and mind to a new experience, I carried the weight of my old job and put pressure on myself to become a success again. I wanted to prove to everyone and mostly myself that I made the right decision.
The new job was fast paced and required a lot of a person. However, it wasn’t the job. It was my inability to forgive and to let go that allowed the stress of the job to bring on panic attacks and depression. Now, I have a history of panic attacks and mental breakdowns. I can remember a few like they were yesterday. I’ve also been through multiple periods of depression that contained suicidal thoughts. Please note, I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness and I still to this day try to avoid labeling myself without a proper medical exam, but I understand the pain and trauma that surrounds poor mental health. Personally, I believe the majority of my “issues” were self-inflicted as a consequence of lack of balance and perspective in my life. This isn’t the case for everyone so if you need medical help, please seek it out.
I finally realized I needed to take a step back. I needed to refocus and realign and to face my issues head on. So I ended up taking a hiatus from working and took time to look inward. I signed up for unlimited yoga with kOMpose and hit my mat constantly. For once I actually listened to the instructors as they talked about letting go, beginning again, and sitting with your emotions. Sure, I still struggle with this on a day-to-day basis, but I finally opened my mind to a world outside of success and achievements defining me and moved into a world of self-love, stronger relationships and building community.
No, yoga is not the cure and I have found other methods of coping with my anxieties and fears. However, yoga has become on of the best ways for me to manage the everyday obstacles in life with more grace and humility. It reminds me to begin again. With every breath, we can begin again. So for all my other Type A emotional people, first off accept yourself for who you are. Own it. You can’t completely change it, but you can manage it so it doesn’t hurt you or others. Let go of your ego. You are more powerful than you think and with time and a whole lot of patience you will persevere.