The problem with perfectionism

Why do we often strive for perfection when we’re clearly setting ourselves up to ‘fail’?  I’m very much guilty of this – particularly over the last couple of weeks; I’m finding I’m a little slower as my pregnancy progresses and I need more rest than normal!  I find myself planning the ‘perfect’ day, where I’m going to start with one activity then finish another before lunch and before I know it I’ve given myself a long list of tasks to complete by the end of the day.  It seems doable until the first task takes longer than expected, then I come up against a barrier with the next job and then I get distracted by little things I ‘feel like doing’ that aren’t part of the plan.  Before I’ve had a chance to stop and think about it, I’m beating myself up as I haven’t done ‘enough’ of what I wanted to do!

It’s up to you what you view as success

The problem here is that I’m not realistic with my timing and what I can achieve.  It’s all very well being optimistic and inspired by that picture of perfection that we paint for ourselves.  However when it comes to the reality we sometimes need to be a bit more flexible and give ourselves a little slack and room for error.  I see this issue come up again and again with people trying to lose weight – they often have a picture of how their weight-loss journey is going to go.  There’s often a sense of ‘all or nothing’ that goes hand in hand with this picture.  They are either going to succeed and achieve that goal of losing 2 stone before their wedding or that aim of looking perfect in a swimming costume on their holiday –  or they’ve failed.  There’s no in-between – there’s no recognition of the achievement of losing 1.5 stone or feeling much better about the way they look generally in the mirror.  They haven’t quite got to where they wanted and that’s not good enough – this often results in giving-up (and the inevitable undoing of all their hard work and effort).

This is where I think it’s a good idea to throw away that picture of how you think things ‘ought’ to be – whether it’s about your weight-loss journey or how you think your life should go.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to have big exciting goals that really help you to feel motivated.  It’s just when it comes to the actual ‘doing’ it might be a good idea to focus on breaking your goals down into realistic objectives.  That way you can check that you have considered all outcomes and how you will deal with them.  Working on being satisfied with yourself no matter what the outcome is the most important factor in all of this – if you’re constantly beating yourself up for not being 100% you’re only ever going to feel miserable.  Going back to my post last week on self-affirmations (click here to read it) – self-talk can have a big impact on how we feel and respond.  One of my favourite self-affirmations or mantras for dealing with the desire to be perfect is, rather than aiming for 10 out of 10:

6, 7, 8 or 9, is just fine!

If you struggle with perfectionism, why not try repeating this over and over to yourself when things aren’t going exactly as you want?

How about you –do you have any good ways for dealing with perfectionism?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Louise Tanner-Stokes
Hi I'm Louise, a Food Relationship Coach and registered Dietitian with a passion for helping mums to ditch the diets for good. I want to help you feel good about yourself, feel in control of your eating and enjoy your food again - normal food and especially the cake and chocolate!

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2 thoughts on “The problem with perfectionism

  1. Perfect does not exist, it is a construct of someone else’s reality and it is not yours, the only

    person who creates is you, and if people are judging you then it is for them not you, the only

    question you ask is who does it belong to ??

    1. Absolutely Bill, totally agree with you! I think most of the time when we’re trying to be ‘perfect’ to impress others, but fall short of what we’re aiming for, if you ask the people you’re trying to impress I bet they would say they hadn’t even noticed that things weren’t exactly as you wanted anyway! We should all just stop worrying so much 🙂

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