Imperfect Advice to Perfectionists.

 

 “At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” ~ Michael Law

Dear Control Freak, Type A, Classic Overachiever, better known as Perfectionist,

Welcome to your imperfect home, your life.

Other than the fact that neither of us are perfect, there are other symptoms we share.

For years, I’ve searched for the “perfect” diet, relying on books to dictate what and how to eat. I am a classic overachiever, in that I dot every “i” and cross every “t” (and then some).

Even 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? (Besides living 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. 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 wellbeing.

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.

 

 

And here are some imperfect (but healthier) alternatives: 

 

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. Liberating!

What if…

You stop the inner dialogue of “should” and “must” and just feel 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).

Don’t wait for the perfect moment to start a business, write a book, tackle a big project, or run a 10k race, it’ll never come. Begin it now, imperfectly.

 

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 we—perfectionists—have spent years or our entire lives trying to be perfect (and exhausting ourselves in the process), we’re 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.

Letting go of perfectionism… or at least considering it, is as close as it gets to a perfect plan.

How does your perfectionism show up in your life?

Get it off your chest and start breaking free. 

 *****

Read More: 

>> Seven things I won’t do today.

>> 29 ways to stay creative: begin with darkness.

 

{Hug Rebelle Wellness + Kale & Chocolate}

 

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Elise Museles
Elise Museles is an attorney turned Certified Eating Psychology & Nutrition expert for women stuck in a motivation-to-frustration cycle who seek more pleasure and joy in the kitchen... and in their hearts. She's here to show you how to heal your relationship with food & body -- by creating a happy, whole & healthy Food Story. Enter a delicious world full of freedom, ease, and fun at Kale & Chocolate. For daily inspiration, join Elise on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.
Elise Museles

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13 Comments

  • Rebelle Society
    Rebelle Society commented on September 11, 2012 Reply
    Thanks Elise for this wonderful and much needed, imperfect truth. Imperfect Rebelle hearts Kale & Chocolate.
  • Elise Museles
    Elise Museles commented on September 11, 2012 Reply
    Thank you, Rebelle Society, for opportunity to offer some imperfect advice to all the perfectionists out there who are ready to finally let go.
  • Mamaste
    Mamaste commented on September 11, 2012 Reply
    And for all of the *types* out there…aren’t we all perfectionists, in a way? Take a deep breath and let go. xoxo ~Mamaste
  • Osmara Vindel
    Osmara Vindel commented on September 11, 2012 Reply
    Totally resonate! My book launch was perfectly imperfect… because fortunately I listened to my intuition and knew that if I pushed the launch date back to get it all “perfect” I would not have gotten my book out into the world. Perfectionism has totally been a form of self sabotage for me and I so love that this article give us all PERMISSION to embrace the undeniable, inescapable fact that we’re all PERFECTLY IMPERFECT. Namaste.
    • Elise Museles
      Elise Museles commented on September 11, 2012 Reply
      Osmara, thanks so much for sharing your story of trusting your intuition & letting go. It must have felt so good to get out of your own way! And congratulations on your book launch. ~Elise
  • Jaina commented on September 23, 2013 Reply
    Great post! As a yoga teacher this line really stands out… ‘listen to the signals your body sends you’. Our body constantly speaks to us and sometimes we just need to learn its language.
  • Valerie Roy commented on March 7, 2015 Reply
    NICE writing. I think I would have liked to have learned about perfectly imperfect & letting go of control this way than an early detection cancer scare at 24.. but at least I learned it! Thanks for the greatly written reminders and new points of view. What is really fun is when you see someone else’s perfection monster & subtly share the wisdom of perfectly imperfect – & I see the lightbulb glow over them. Like they had no idea there were choices & perfection was keeping them driven with blinders. Thanks.

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