Perfectionism: Friend or Foe?
When it comes to your body or eating habits, do you find perfectionism knocking at your door? Does this guest bring joy and progress to your health goals? Or frustration, self reprobation and misery? If your goals involve how you eat, day-to-day, meal-to-meal, then being perfect has many opportunities to bang your welcome door down, and invade your thoughts all day long. Perfectionism loves to have you follow a “perfect diet”, count calories, or do the perfect amount of exercise per day. If you succeed you feel on top of the world. But when the inevitable bagel or cookie sneaks in… you crash, and feel miserable. Sound familiar?
At Homemade we know how cunning and damaging this pesky-but-well-dressed guest can be. Conversations in our social cooking classes often include such things as: “I wanted to reward myself with a treat after doing great all week and then I way overdid it and no I feel terrible…!” The big question is: “How long does it take before you want to end this roller coaster of ups and downs and actually achieve your health goals?”
Even with goals that involve so much of your time (like daily eating,) not sticking to an ideal plan for even one day, can feel absolutely devastating. No doubt about it – perfectionistic thinking always leads to feeling, at some point, that you’ve let yourself down. This can be frustrating or depressing, and at times even cause a spiral of disturbing actions in the not-so-good direction. Most tragic of all, after enduring many cycles of identifying with Being Perfect, and Not-Perfect, your health goal slips away, and getting through the week with some sense of self respect is now the big challenge.
Not helpful, to say the least, when it comes to making health goals that stick.
Let’s try an alternative perspective. Imagine that changing the way you eat is like training a puppy. First of all, you can’t train a pup in one day; not even a week, or a month! It just won’t work. Getting frustrated and yelling at the puppy doesn’t help either. It takes time, and patience. Gentle supportive coaxing opens the door to new ways of being. Puppies trained to be service dogs often get two responses from their trainer: either a gentle tug that says “refocus on anything else” or a “nice” reward that tells them they’re doing something right at that very moment. They learn how to be in their surroundings, and it helps them grow into their role in a balanced, calm and supported way!
The same can be said with changing food habits. They don’t all change in one day, and they can’t be forced. The most effective way we have learned at Homemade to keep health goals successful in the long run, is to have an approach that is not perfectionistic, that allows for sways, ups and downs, successes, and even “mistakes,” and lessons.
What supports success and long term changes is a calm and loving approach, one that reminds you that you can refocus, and get back on track to keep going in the direction of your goals. It’s likely, that around the next bend, there’s a great lesson or a feel-good moment to cherish. Truly, you can go farther and longer when you are gentle with yourself. We know you’ve heard it time and again, but when it comes to health and weight loss consistency is key, not perfection.
So the next time Perfectionism knocks at your door, and insists on sticking around, here’s three things you can try.
Immediately invite it out the back door. Let it go. Spend no time with it. Do something loving to and for yourself instead. Make a list of these things you can do now.
Sit it down together at the table and discuss the fact that no one is perfect. It doesn’t exist. Watch it disappear. Appreciate all the “imperfect” people you love. Then relax and be with yourself, with who You are. Which happens to be wonderful and beautiful.
Welcome it in with joy! Give it flowers and your best tea. Say you are so happy to see Perfection everywhere, with everything. Including yourself! Perfect, as is, right now. Let it know “I am perfect!” (Remember the puppy? It’s being a perfect puppy!) Allow your heart to lead the way, as you do your perfect dance through life – which happens to include your unique path to changing your ways with foods and eating!
All to say – by giving less time and energy to Feeling Imperfect or Trying to Be Perfect, you will free up more space for patience, acceptance and joy. And THIS is the real fuel for long-term transformation!