I used to be a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I wore the title like a designer label, "I'm a perfectionist," I'd say and follow with a story of how I re-worked a project until the wee hours of the morning, or re-hung the photos on my wall until they were just-so. "What's your greatest strength," they'd ask in job interviews. "Perfectionism," I'd say confidently. Believing it was the fuel that helped me achieve all the things I set out to achieve.
Now I see perfectionism fuels a lot of things for me, but achievement is not one of them. For example, aiming to be perfect fuels a fear of failure. It ignites an all-or-nothing attitude that makes me only want to try if I feel confident I'll succeed. Perfectionism sparks anxiety in new situations (What If I'm not perfect? What if they don't like me?) and it keeps me in my comfort zone.
Our ideas around perfection impact our health too. If we eat a cupcake, why not eat 3? Our day is ruined anyway, right? If we skipped the gym last week and watched a Bachelor marathon, why ever go back? Our New Year's Resolution is foiled so who cares. Sounds silly on paper, but we do this all the time.
The problem with aiming for perfection is that perfect is not a goal. Perfect is an abstract, overwhelming, and unattainable concept that leaves us feeling like we're never enough.
In my quest to overcome a lifetime of perfectionist thinking habits, I've found that focusing on one small step at a time, is a concrete, manageable, and rewarding way to make progress and feel successful along the way.
Give it a try, what's one small step you could take this week to improve your health?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Try a new vegetable
- Go to bed 15 minutes earlier tonight
- Sign up for a spin class with a friend
- Eat a vegetarian meal one night this week
- Find your slow cooker (next step, put something in it!)
- Dig your Fitbit out of the drawer (next step, wear it!)
- Stretch for 5 minutes tomorrow morning
- Bring your lunch one day this week
After a while small steps add up to big changes, and you will be a shinier, healthier, happier version of yourself. Now, what could be more perfect than that?
Ready for a few more steps? Real Food Starts Here is a 6 week virtual course designed to transform your relationship with food one small step at a time. Go on, give it a try!