It’s official. The Perfectionism Monster has crept into my head. He brought his luggage, unpacked, and getting too cozy spreading his infectious hyper-focus on perfection and failure.
Throughout recovery, perfectionism has been a constant struggle for me.
I struggle relentlessly with black & white thinking patterns: I won’t be good enough to maintain a healthy weight and reach recovery unless I execute the rules flawlessly. It’s a load of crap, but I’ve clung onto the belief for so long that in moments of vulnerability or crisis, I truly believe it.
It’s funny though, in other areas of my life (career, school, relationships) I’m fueled by realistic goals, enjoying the process, motivation, and curiosity – not perfectionism.
While writing this, I scoff thinking of some of the phrases I say to myself because they hold me in such a choke-hold. It’s not the goals that are the problem, but it’s trying to micro-manage how those goals develop that lead to perfectionism and negative thinking.
- GOAL: Eat a balanced breakfast. FEELING: I’m a failure if I don’t have XYZ for breakfast
- GOAL: Have a mid-afternoon snack at 4pm FEELING: I will gain all of my weight back if I have an extra snack
- GOAL: Go to the gym 3x a week FEELING: I can’t eat as much because I didn’t go to the gym today
When my day does not align with this perceived view of ‘success’ – I impulsively go in the opposite direction of what I want. It emerges as overeating, eating foods I wouldn’t normally eat, or spending money.
To sum it all up; I’m stuck in a habitual state of attempting to obtain perfection and believing that unless I perfectly execute everything I’ve planned, there is no point of doing it because it will result in failure.
Moving forward, I would like to remind myself that ‘failure’ coexists with growth. I hold the power to choose which direction I take next. Will the perceived failure keep me stagnant and depressed? Or can I practice skills to convert the failure into an opportunity for growth and development?
In order to make my perceived failures opportunities; my thinking patterns need to emphasize consistency, forgiveness, and permission to fail. I will never be able to completely escape perfectionist thoughts and feelings. I can only manage them, shorten the duration, and focus on mindfully handling the feelings of self-doubt and all-or-nothing thinking.
This journey is so much more than a number on a scale. I’ve already seen so many changes in my mindset, openness, vulnerability, and ability to love. The more I accept that it takes practice, patience, and HOPE; the easier dealing with perfectionism will be.
This week, when I feel perfectionist feelings arising, I will try to internalize gratefulness. I will try to not act out the feelings, but instead turn them inward and find a way to alleviate them through analysis and rationalization.
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” Mark Twain