Perfectionism: The Thief of Joy
Perfectionism is a trait that I see in so many of the people within my community. It’s when you refuse to accept anything less than perfection, and your mind is usually attuned to thinking in a very black or white, all or nothing way. I am super familiar with perfectionism, as I spent many years letting it rule me and drain every drop of joy from my life.
It’s almost scary how easily perfectionism can turn into body hatred and disordered eating. Sadly, it’s not surprising. Every day we run the gamut of societal standards with various outlets and people telling us how we should look, eat, exercise, dress, feel, and live. Anything less than being perfect in living up to these expectations is unacceptable. The hard truth is that these standards are not only unrealistic, but often unattainable.
Perfectionism and Eating Disorders
When you have poor body image, you often develop disordered eating habits, which tend to lead to food obsession.
If you’re unhappy with your body and transformation is elusive, it’s easy to become obsessed with food because it’s something that you think you can control. Your mind becomes consumed with buying, preparing, and eating healthy, and you probably start to log every single calorie that you consume and burn.
How many of us find ourselves in the endless loop of fad diets and trendy exercise routines? You think that if you work just a little bit harder, have better self-control, and push yourself just a little bit further – and do all of this perfectly, no less – you’ll finally, finally reach your goals and be happy.
In a backwards kind of way, perfectionism offers a sense of peace within your eating disorder because you’re taking action.
Perfectionism Stems From the Mind
Your body knows that it is perfect, but it’s your mind (or ego) that wavers on this belief. It’s your mind that falls victim to the all or nothing, black or white mentality, not your body. This happens because your mind creates goals – usually goals based on weight or looks – without any consultation from your body/soul/spirit. Your mind is trying to use the method of “shame yourself skinny.” Either you’re dieting perfectly, or you’re falling off the wagon, binge eating, and failing miserably. There is no in between.
So how does this happen?
We often fool ourselves into believing that perfectionism is the road to success. We convince ourselves that any obsessive or unhealthy behaviors will ultimately be worth it. We tell ourselves that “tough love” will lead us to our dreams and desires. In reality, perfectionism isn’t a tool for success or a method for self-improvement at all. It’s a faulty shield that hides us from the world and the highest version of who we are meant to be.
When you are under the spell of perfectionism, you are often looking for significance and worth in all the wrong places. You are seeking external approval and acceptance. These are mind-based wants, because if it was left to your body/soul/spirit, you would just love and honor yourself as is and do what feels good. That’s often not the case though, and instead you think that perfectionism will protect you and improve you, when really it – not your flaws – is the thing that is hurting you the most.
How to Heal Perfectionism
- Love what is. Right now, in this very moment, you need to fully accept yourself, your body, and your circumstances.
- Stop being a control freak. Take inventory of what you are controlling in your life and ask yourself, “If I were to let go of control in this area, what is the worst that could happen?” Play in that space.
- Love over hate. Set an intention from a place of love and acceptance not a place of punishment and hate.
- All the feels. Focus on how you want to feel. What would loving your body feel like viscerally? If you no longer obsessed over food, how would that make you feel in every fiber of your being?
- Question your intentions. Healthy improvements come from a place of, “how can I be better?” Unhealthy improvements come from a place of, “what will others think of me?”
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