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Perfectionism and how it’s holding you back

Some of us wear perfectionism as a badge of honor.  We seem to think that perfectionism is synonymous with striving for greatness.  It’s not.

Wait, what?  It’s not the same thing?  No!  It’s for sure NOT the same thing as striving for greatness.  I wasn’t completely sure how these two things were different until I found an explanation that made so much sense that I had to write a blog about it and apply it to what we do.  The explanation came from a book by Brene Brown titled “The Gifts of Imperfection“.  It’s a magnificent book that I recommend you take the time to read.

So, what is the difference and how does perfectionism actually hold us back?

I’ll have more thoughts below on how this applies to what we do here at 90/10 Nutrition, but in this very short video, Brene describes it better than I think I ever could.  So, take 3 minutes and watch the video before you move on to my comments below the video.

Perfectionism and Healthy Food Choices

In that video, Dr. Brown said, “We struggle with perfectionism in areas where we feel most vulnerable to shame.”  If you were make a “top 3 list” of the most common areas where you feel vulnerable to shame, wouldn’t one of them be some variation of your weight, body image, food, or things of that nature?  Isn’t that often what we’re dealing with when we take on a clean eating program or a diet or a fitness regimen?  It’s one of the most shame vulnerable subjects of our time.

So, chances are, if you are working on changing your food choices, losing weight, and getting healthier, you’re living in a place that has a high potential to produce shame and hurt.  I know I feel that even after losing 100 lbs and helping many others change their health.

For many of us, our default response to that is perfectionism.  How does that look in 90/10 Nutrition?  It looks like this:

♦ The desire to track our food down to the ounce as if 91% green tier and 9% yellow tier is victory and 89% green tier and 11% yellow tier is a failure.

♦ Agonizing over poor food decisions and not practicing self-compassion.

♦ Quitting when you make a mistake because you tell yourself that it’s either perfect or nothing.

♦ The belief that if you accomplish the steps of the system perfectly, you will be accepted

Overcoming Perfectionism

Here’s the biggest thing that you can do to overcome perfectionism and experience more success around your health endeavours:

Be AWARE of the difference between perfectionism and healthy striving and combat it with the right self-talk.  Ask yourself what kind of self-talk you are having when you make a poor food choice or “mess up”.

Healthy Striving self-talk says, “I want to feel better for me and for my kids.  I know I can do better than this.  I don’t know why I keep making these choices but I am going to figure it out.  I know I can do this.”  *metaphorically gets back on horse*

Perfectionism self-talk says, “Ugh, I’ve been trying so hard for so long and I can’t get it.  The scale won’t move.  What’s wrong with me?  No one else seems to have so much trouble.  I need to figure out how to be better at this so I’ll be like them.”

You see, perfectionism is what we use as a shield, as Dr. Brown says in the video, to protect us from shame, blame, and judgement, but what it really does is increase those things.  Why?  Because perfection is unattainable.  So, when we inevitably fail to be perfect, we experience the shame, blame and judgement we were protecting against AND we assume that it happened because we weren’t perfect enough. So, the cycle starts over with us trying to be more perfect than last time.  It’s addictive and self-destructive.

Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the best way to combat perfectionism and replace it with healthy striving for great things is to practice self-compassion.  Now, as long as you notice the word “practice” in that last sentence, you’ll be fine.  Self-compassion is most definitely a practice.  You have to practice it day in and day out.

I love this quote:

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” – Christopher K. Germer

Your Turn To Talk

Do you struggle with perfectionism?  Have you overcome it?  Does this relate to you?  Tell us in the comments below.

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4 Comments

  1. Hayley says:

    I would not have thought I was a perfectionist, but based on this I am! This is helpful to recognize so that I can begin walking toward acceptance.

  2. Sue Battin says:

    The area I definitely fail myself is self compassion. I can be compassionate for everyone but myself. I have been up and down with my weight for more years than I care to count. I’ve always allow family members sabotage my journey of weight loss. I hear, oh here you go again, it costs too much, you’ve tried that before, it’s not coming off as fast as you have in the past. Never let’s go for a walk together or I will eat the same thing you do. I’m starting on working on this very subject with my therapist. I’ve always tied my identity to my work. Now that I’m retired, I don’t know who I am.

    • Ryan Chapman says:

      Sue, that is such interesting insight. Don’t be afraid to explore who you are NOW! I think that starts with deciding that you are ENOUGH right now and then finding out how much more you can be. Because then it’s not because you aren’t good enough until you are more. You can be free to become more while also being enough.

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