Today’s episode addresses the idea of perfectionism and “all or nothing thinking” that is often present when we begin our journey into wellness, health, and self-care. This episode talks about the lie and illusion of perfectionism and how it’s hindering us from achieving the health we desire.
I shared with you on episode 1 why I think self-care is important and the consequences of pushing too hard and not listening to my body. For those of you who do not know me, you can find information on the mission of this podcast in the previous episode.
In today’s episode, I want to address this idea of perfectionism and the “all or nothing thinking” that I see and hear often when it comes to wellness, health, and self-care. I have met many women who have failed and achieving their nutrition goals because of not being able to do things perfectly. In this episode, we will talk about the lie and illusion of perfectionism and how it’s hindering us from achieving the health we desire.
The image that comes to mind of a “perfect” woman in terms of health looks something like this: she is skinny, works out every day, buys the most wholesome ingredients, and then somehow has time to cook homemade meals every night despite working full time. If she has kids, she is somehow able to get them to eat the same healthy foods that she makes, including fruits and vegetables. She is calm, seems to have it all together. Nothing shakes her. She seems to enjoy the effort it takes to be healthy and she is motivated. She is good at taking care of herself – always looks good from the outside. And she makes all of this look completely effortless. Am I missing anything?
Honestly, I don’t know one woman like this. I have no idea where this vision of the perfect woman came from or that any of us need to be this woman. And if there is, in fact, a woman like this, I’m sure she is suffering in some sort of way trying to bend to these crazy standards of perfection. And btw, being skinny does not necessarily mean that you are healthy, but we can get into that in another episode.
What is perfectionism?
Brene Brown (my fav) describes Perfectionism as: the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”
Perfection is harmful because it could lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. Feeling like somehow you are not doing enough in the world. That you “should be” doing something other than you currently are. It may lead you to not take the risk for something you really want because it’s not going to be good enough. It keeps us from not making the changes we so desperately desire. Being perfect or not having a perfect day is a way to let yourself off the hook and not continue with the commitment that you made to yourself to do better.
Perfection in health may look or sound something like this:
- I can’t work out because I don’t have an hour/day and anytime less is not enough. OR
- If I don’t lose 1-2 lbs. per week when I am dieting, despite eating all the “right foods” that what am I doing wrong, why am I even trying, what is the point? OR
- Waiting to start a diet on Monday because you want to start the week off perfectly
- I should NOT be getting fast food for my kids as that will make me a bad mom – even though I had a horrible day at work and barely getting by and I really don’t have the energy to make dinner.
Do you hear how crazy this all sounds? Why do we do this to ourselves? Btw, I am not judging this as I myself have uttered these same words. We need to remember that perfection comes at a real cost.
Action Step: There is no such thing as being perfect. You will have days when you feel like “man I have it all figured out, I am rocking this day, I can handle anything life throws my way. And then there will be days when you think, “man I can’t get my shit together” and “everything I try to do is so hard”. Like anything in life, there will be periods of time where we feel like we have it all figured out, and other times where everything feels messy and hard. Despite what you may have heard, this is the reality of life. There is nothing wrong with you. I don’t know where we got this idea that life is easy and perfect all the time or that if we don’t do something perfectly, then we need to start over. When perfection is the standard, not having a perfect day is a way that we let ourselves off the hook; it’s a way of not following through with the commitment we make to ourselves.
Why Is Imperfection Better:
Imperfection will allow you to take the risk without feeling like you failed. It will help you be vulnerable, be willing to fail, and have messy, awful days – all of which are required for true change to occur. And it sucks. But that’s the reality of what it looks like to achieve wellness, health, and self-care. I want to give you a big fat permission slip to let the perfection go. I want to give you permission to let go of the all or nothing thinking. It will not serve you. Just start.
In terms of health, NOT being perfect looks something like this:
- I can only work out 30 minutes today and that’s OK because something is better than nothing at all – OR
- Weight loss takes time and some weeks you may lose more than other weeks and that’s OK because it’s the consistency that will matter in the long run OR
- I can start to lose weight right now. I can start with one meal and then keep going. I don’t have to wait until Monday OR
- Having your kiddos eat fast food occasionally to make your like easier is OK, it’s not the end of the world
Trying every single day will over time bring you to a goal that you want to achieve. If you fail one day, start again the next day. Keep on doing it. Keep looking at the big picture of why you want to make this change. Do you want to be a better woman? A better mom? Do you want to be able to go on long walks with your friends without feeling winded? Are you holding yourself back from things you really want to do because of your health? Do you want to be able to have fun and run around with your kids and explore new activities with them with ease? Remind yourself every single day why you want this change for your life. This journey will take time and effort and may even require you to step outside of your comfort zone. And there will be challenges along the way. It won’t be perfect. Done is better than perfect. Self-care is not an impossibility – but only you can make it happen. I don’t have it figured out, but I know I can do a better job than I am doing now. You may feel that way too. For true change to occur, you must be vulnerable and willing to fail. And know the journey will be for effortful and messy.
Remember: It’s not about being perfect it’ about being 1% better each day. Be kind to yourself friends. I’ll see you next week.