When Perfect Is Not So Perfect

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Perfect
HealthNutritionSelf Improvement 9 Comments

By Elise Museles – If you consider yourself A Control Freak, Type A, Classic Overachiever, or Total Perfectionist, then this post is for you.

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.

perfect-is-the-enemy-of-good-voltaire-quoteHere 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.


What if…
 
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?)

What if…
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.

What if
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!

What if…
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.

What if…
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.

What if…
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.

What if…
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!

With love & a little imperfection, Elise


Elise MuselesWoman You Should Know Elise Museles (HHC, AADP, CEPC) is an Eating Psychology & Nutrition expert based in Washington, DC. A self-proclaimed “recovering perfectionist,” Elise shows women how to loosen the reins, bend the rules, and experience true satisfaction.

Get to know Elise & discover a new kind of “perfect” at kaleandchocolate.com.

You can also join Elise on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

  • Anon

    I have just shared this post with almost all of my friends, which makes me wonder…do perfectionists only befriend other perfectionists? Oh dear!

    • Great question, Anon! Maybe there are soooo many of us out there. The trick for all of us is to try to find a way that we can make it work for us, not against us.

  • Alex B

    Ummmm… how did this woman manage to get into my head? I have bookmarked this and will refer back weekly (err… maybe daily). What a great tool to have! Thanks Elise.

    • Alex, I am so glad that this post resonated with you!

  • SJV

    had no idea this was a “thing”… just thought it was my crazy wiring. 🙂

    • SJV, I hope it is comforting to know that you have company:).

  • AJ

    This post really hit home. I played golf with my husband this morning. Now, please understand, I really do love playing golf, but because I am a perfectionist, I MUST hit every shot perfectly. And you know what? I really can not do that!!! So I kick myself every time I make a mistake. What has happened, and why I am so happy I just read this post, is that even though I love going out to play the game, I no longer enjoy myself because I am trying too hard to be perfect! So, as of today (God, are you listening?) I am making a resolution not to be too worried about hitting that great shot, and perhaps, perhaps that way I will not miss out on the enjoyment and pleasure of this game.

  • jen

    As a control freak, Type A, overachieving perfectionist of epic proportions, I really took this to heart as it was kind of like a good club to head to read. In fact, this weekend I was producing a large scale event, and as a test, I put into practice some of what I took away from this… gotta tell ya, it worked! I was still on top of my game, but much more relaxed with my approach (even in response to unexpected hiccups that popped up) and everything worked out beautifully. So I got the same results as I typically do, only this time I wasn’t stressing myself out unnecessarily. Who knew it was possible? I sure didn’t. Thanks Elise!

  • Cahrotsi

    Um… I know a “few” of people like this.

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