I’ll admit it. I picked this very topic of perfectionism to write about because it hits close to home. Let me explain. For years, I searched for the “perfect” diet, relying on books to dictate what and how to eat. I am also a classic overachiever in that I dot every “i” and cross every “t” (and then some). And, when it came time to put together this post, I procrastinated. Could I sit down to write on such an important topic? How could I talk about it like an expert? Do I really know enough? (Hello, I live it every single day.)
Perfectionism isn’t usually a tamed beast. People who have perfectionist tendencies tend to be that way in other areas of their lives as well. Diet. Exercise. Appearance. Parenting. Work. Plans. And the list goes on…
On the one hand, it can drive us toward excellence with lofty goals that are certainly impressive. On the other, it can prevent us from achieving, feeling, trusting our instincts and being realistic. But most importantly, it can be a chronic level of stress that can wreak havoc on our overall health and well-being.
Here are some of the negative consequences that result from perfectionism:
- We procrastinate because we are waiting for all the stars to align before we begin something new and exciting.
- We are less efficient with our time as we analyze and agonize over all the details.
- We have unrealistic standards that are impossible to achieve.
- We can make things unpleasant for those around us with our overly rigid behavior.
- We are too worried about doing things the “right” way, so we miss out on the enjoyment or pleasure in our experiences.
- We are releasing cortisol due to the continual self-imposed stress.
You subscribe to the philosophy that “good enough is good enough” during times where those ten extra steps of effort really don’t add any additional value? (Did I really have to read this blog post for the 27th time to check for typos?)
You abandon your overly dogmatic approach and try not to get so caught up with rules or labels. Vegan? Raw? Paleo? High carb? Low Carb? Imagine being liberated from thinking about following the perfect diet, which is most likely some other expert’s plan, anyway. Of course, setting up a foundation with healthy habits that includes eating whole, real foods is essential. But, instead of obsessing or beating yourself up about breaking the rules and restrictions, you learn to listen to the signals your body sends you…all day, every day.
You relinquish control (just once in a while) and become a passenger instead of always a driver? The upside is that you may learn to complete a task, make a recipe, plan a vacation (fill in the blank) someone else’s way, not just your way. And you could end up with extra time to use productively in some other manner. How liberating!
You stop the inner dialogue of “should” and “must” and just felt your way through. I know, the rational side would not approve, but try tuning into your messages and not dictating them because you have a preconceived notion on how you “should” feel or “must” think.
You ban the all or nothing mentality. You know that destructive thought process that leads you not to try something unless you are certain that you can give it 110% (or do it perfectly). Remember your plans to start a business, write a book, tackle a big project, or run a 10k race? Don’t wait for the perfect moment.
You accept your body right now. You stop waiting for it to look like it did when you were 18. No hate. No judgment. Just pure gratitude and thankfulness for the life it gives you with each breath, creative thought and enduring emotion.
You embrace the deviations. You enjoy the slow yoga class you take on the day when your body says no to the 10-mile run you had planned for your upcoming half marathon training. You learn to become flexible instead of insisting on following the prescribed “plan”.
Just thinking about the unrealistic expectations is enough to elevate your pulse and raise your blood pressure. While us perfectionists have spent years or our entire lives trying to be perfect (and exhausting ourselves in the process), we are living with that chronic low level of stress which releases the hormone cortisol that can impact everything from weight to sleep patterns to disease prevention.
It’s time to let go…or at least start thinking about it. And personally, I think that sounds like the perfect plan!
Question of the day: how does your perfectionism show up in your life? Join the conversation and share your comments below!
With love & a little imperfection,
Elise Museles believes you should relish your kale… and your chocolate, too. As an attorney-turned-nourishment-expert, recovering perfectionist and founder of Kale & Chocolate, she helps busy women balance their bustling lives with real foods, simple strategies, and sustainable health habits. Through her outrageously nourishing programs and weekly blog posts, Elise teaches women how to fuel body and soul so they look, feel and live better than ever.