How Perfectionism Spun Me Into an Eating Disorder
I erased the two lines I wrote down, smacked my head on the table and let out a sigh.
My green tea was cold, and the time was 6:33pm – two hours after I started to write. Nothing made sense, everything was ‘stupid’ or I assumed ‘nobody would even care.’ So I sat there, with my palms in my face and a pit in my stomach. I knew I needed to get these words out; I was on a deadline – it couldn’t be late, that was unacceptable.
I kept going and going and going until I finally erased the entire article, slammed my screen down, dumped out my six-hour-old green tea and went to bed. I laid there in bed thinking about how much time I just wasted trying to get a few words out on a piece of paper. Negative slander rippled through my mind like a London tube; it was unstoppable.
My mind was racing, thinking of all the things I should have done today, could have done, or could have done better. Delivering a line better in an audition, hitting that triple turn with more grace or getting that stupid question correct on that math exam. Nothing was ever good enough. When I thought I did ‘ok,’ I would set the bar even higher, always distancing myself from feeling good about me – it was a constant battle.
Committed to Perfectionism
My commitment to perfectionism was only strengthened and reinforced being in the performance industry; rejection is just how I experienced life, it was all I really knew. When I did have a miracle or a victory – in either school or my career – I would quickly sabotage it by creating a new goal and not appreciating the current one. The soundtrack of my mind was a constant tune of ‘not good enough’ I knew this song better than my all-time favorite track, The Middle – by Jimmy Eat World.
Compliments slid off my back like water. When someone would take the time to compliment me or my work, I thought they were mildly delusional – as if they were missing a few brain cells. I never registered words of praise; I just laughed it off awkwardly, hoping the subject would change in a hurry.
This pattern went on for years, and in some way, it served me. It allowed me to massively excel in most areas of my life, but the darkness and pain that came with it just weren’t worth the excellence they delivered.
Manifesting and Channeling
When I was 18 years old, I stopped the performance industry all together. I decided to go travelling to ‘find myself’ an identity that wasn’t wrapped up in performance. I wanted to find out who I was besides the award winning dancer and commercial actress. I was on a quest to figure out who I was at the core, not how the world perceived me.
I would wake up some days and not really even know what I liked to do. I was so influenced by those around me and the pressures of the industry that I wasn’t even sure I liked who I had become during this time – it was all very confusing. I decided to book a one-way ticket to Australia and experience a world that didn’t involve 20 hour studio weeks and multiple auditions, this was new ground for me – equally terrifying and exciting.
The innate perfectionism that was ingrained in me at such a deep level needed somewhere to manifest, somewhere to be channeled into. Unfortunately, it manifested in one of the worst ways possible.
Significance is one of our human needs; we need to feel significance in some way in order to feel apart of society. I had a very strong sense of significance up until this year – I knew my role, my title and how the world perceived me, now – I am clueless, I am no longer a performer, I needed to seek this in other ways.
My perfectionism decided to manifest itself into my relationship with food.
Everything was accounted for – every calorie, every trip to the gym, every brownie. Nothing would go unnoticed. I was seeking to find my perfectionism in controlling my food every chance I had. I had channeled my perfectionism into disorder eating patterns, which was a painful reality.
Putting an End to the Battle
I knew I needed to break free from the battle, I just had no idea how to. I spent four years of my life adding up the calories in and the calories out – until I hit a breaking point. I realized that if I kept going on this trajectory, I would be so riddled with shame and guilt that I simply wouldn’t have time to do much of anything else. Perfectionism is painful, it rips us out of compassion and forces us to constantly look outside of who we are for answers, it doesn’t allow us to be human.
Perfectionism is painful; it rips us out of compassion and forces us to constantly look outside of who we are for answers. It doesn’t allow us to be human.
Living as a perfectionist means thinking and living in ‘black and whites’ – there are no grey areas. You either are perfect with your diet, or you throw in the towel and completely screw it up…all while shaming yourself. Perfectionism is the death of happiness. It’s impossible to feel happy and at peace with yourself when you are on a constant path of self sabotage. Comparison and perfectionism are the thieves of joy – when we are comparing and distancing ourselves from ‘the goal,’ we aren’t being present and appreciating all we have in the present moment.
Focus on how you want to feel in your body – how you want to feel when you are eating – how you want to feel after you eat. When you allow yourself to experience what this feels like before you are there, you raise your inner vibrations to attract that into your life. This is how you take inspired action rather than forced action. Forced action is operating out of fear and hate – ‘I hate my body, so I am going to do anything I can do change it’ – it’s the classic and destructive diet mentality.
Start in a state of acceptance. It is the catalyst to overcoming perfectionism. Begin to focus and have gratitude for the parts of who you are that you love – what we focus on expands. It’s important to ask yourself “What is it costing me to stay stuck in a cycle of perfectionism?” – because it comes with massive costs.
Allow yourself to be imperfect – you are human, and you are enough – right in this very moment.
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