You that whole thing that happens when you entertain and you feel like you have to be perfect? That your house has to be perfect, that your food has to be perfect and that your hair, your clothes and your kids have to be perfect? And then something inevitably goes wrong, your tomato aspic comes out looking like an Alpo ad rather than a Martha Stewart centerpiece… And you feel sad and you beat yourself up and the whole party is ruined….
But it’s not. But that’s part of what the ED tells us. That we have to be everything or we’re nothing.
One of the motivating forces behind eating disorders is the drive to be perfect. People hope for a perfect body, perfect eating habits, flawless skin, trying to act perfect by always saying the right thing, they try to keep a perfectly clean home and car, and on and on and on– whatever the individual definition of perfection is . This season is particularly triggering because there is this air of mythical innocence and perfection to Christmas to be like Donna Reed in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (I have a client who will be laughing if she reads this because she thinks I make too many It’s a Wonderful Life” references.) The problem is of course, that nobody is perfect so in the strive for perfection, failure is inevitable. And this season is inherently messy. Often, because of that, trying to make things perfect becomes a frustrating let down, as well as a horrible blow to self esteem. “I messed up, therefore I’m a failure, I suck, I’m a horrible person…” and descent into depression or further into eating disorder behavior, or other compulsive behaviors follow. Some people have such high expectations of themselves that they feel paralyzed. They can barely function because their belief of what they have to be is unattainable so they figure “why bother?”and live in a stuck place where they are unable to go forward with their lives because they hate themselves so much for what they are not. Other people are not so dichotomous and strive toward perfection, but punish themselves when they fail. Like people who have very rigid eating regimens and so if they eat something off their plan they binge, and figure they’ll start all over again the next day. Or they might punish themselves by purging or doing excruciating exercise.
Letting go of the myth of perfection is not easy. So many folks have their heads wrapped around that goal that they believe their lives will be meaningless without it.
- Remember that perfection is a myth. No one is meant to be perfect, that’s not the way life is. We evolve, learn and grow. Nobody can sit down having never played the piano before and play a perfect concerto. You must start from scratch, learn, practice, and make mistakes.
- If you never made any mistakes, you would never learn anything. Mistakes are the way we learn. If you can learn from your mistakes rather than making the same mistake over and over again without learning anything, you are evolving.
- Perfection is not a human or even animal trait. There is no such thing as perfection. That’s not why we exist on this planet. Of course I don’t know why we exist, but I’m betting that being perfect is not at the top of the list. Especially considering that it’s so subjective.
- Life is not exciting when our goal is to be perfect because we are unable to take in the intricacies of life. We become so stressed out when we “mess up” that we aren’t able to appreciate what is happening in the moment.
- Having personal goals and striving toward them is crucial for happiness and joy. However, if the end goal is so rigid, the journey there won’t be enjoyable. The end goal might not even be attained, but what you can learn as you travel through can be more enlightening than what you even set out to achieve.
- If you find yourself paralyzed, try to take one small step forward. Rather than thinking that you can’t do this overwhelming task perfectly, make small goals that will enable you to move forward. For example, If you think that you have 200 pounds to lose, that’s very daunting and probably very difficult to begin. However, if your goal is something less daunting, like “try a new vegetable once a week” or “try and get some movement in every day” or “eat at least one fresh fruit and one fresh vegetable each day,” or “make an appointment with a registered dietician” you will find that it’s not too daunting. And if you go a day without getting movement or without eating a fresh fruit, you can always make up for it the next day, rather than thinking, “this is too hard, I can’t do it, I’ll just have to give up.” It’s possible that you might not reach your original end goal, but when your end goal is really health, that is something you can achieve by letting go of perfection and by integrating loving, healthy habits- this is where you will find improved health. If you have a very messy house that seems overwhelming to clean, just do one drawer or one surface at a time. It might take you many weeks or months to complete the task, but cleaning one drawer or one section of your closet, or one corner of a room is a lot more doable than cleaning a whole house.
- Rather than striving for perfection, think about what you can do each day that helps you to be the person that you like. Think about the things that you do that make you like yourself and try to do more of it. You don’t want to do an overhaul and completely change the person you are, that’s a recipe for self defeatism and self deprecation, not to mention a complete self esteem killer.
Being who you are is what makes you perfect. No one can be a more perfect version of you than you.
Inspirational Quote for the Day
“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.” – Anne Wilson Schaef I love this quote because it’s so cute, the pursuit of perfection is nothing more than a way to abuse ourselves. The pursuit of health and self-love however are much more worthwhile pursuits.