As a recovering perfectionist, I’m keenly aware of how pervasive the tentacles of that frame of mind are. The deeply embedded stories about our value and worth as humans run far and wide!
Our bodies are one of the most common ways this shows up, but it also affects how we show up in:
Relationships—I have to be the perfect friend, daughter, sister, wife, girlfriend, etc. or I’m not worth having around.
Performance—if I don’t beat everyone in the workout, competition, yoga pose, etc. then I won’t be remembered, so why would anyone want me around?
Career—I have to climb to the top and/or make a huge impact, or I’m worthless.
Hustle—I need to outwork everyone! I may not have the natural abilities that others do, but I sure as hell will get noticed by my level of effort.
And a myriad of other ways.
While everything works in tandem and is rarely isolated, my clients often come to me with a perfectionist attitude towards their bodies—and therefore food. This is a HUGE pain-point that feels all-consuming, so we begin to tackle this immediately.
Without looking “perfect”,
Who am I to the world?
Who will love me?
I’m not anything special without this!
I’m simply average. Mediocre. Nothing memorable.
These are the stories so many of us have been told about our bodies and appearances, so OF COURSE we’re going to obsess about it, right?
Of course we’re going to kill ourselves in the gym, track our food obsessively, monitor our weight and body composition, and compare ourselves to others.
We believe our value and potential to connect with other humans depends on it!
This isn’t true, of course, but when mired in the thick of this mentality, it feels painfully real. Thus, everything about our relationships with our bodies and food is equally as painful.
When stuck in this mentality, nothing about our exercise and food choices are truly enjoyable, although we may manage to convince ourselves that we love our routines when our bodies are “looking the part”.
This is due to the fear of losing it all—the admiration, validation, attention, love.
These fears are absolutely valid, and I remember them so vividly.
However, I’m here to tell you that they’re simply not true, despite how inconceivable this may seem at the moment.
If you’re reading this and thinking,
“Ok, I can logically understand where you’re coming from, Jess, but I’m so deep in the rabbit hole that this seems completely unattainable. My body equals my worth and ticket to love in the world.”
You’re not going to unravel these belief systems overnight—as much as I wish I could give that gift to you. (It surely has taken time for me, and I still get triggered at times).
However, you can begin the process right now!
The process begins with acceptance and self-compassion.
1. Acceptance—accept where you are in this moment with you physical state, relationship with food, and where you believe your worth comes from.
Feeling lethargic, a little blue, heavier than what you feel is ideal for your body, inflamed, lean but miserable and desperate, low energy and vitality, obsessive or controlling with food, or anything that’s not “ideal” for you?
This may mean that you acknowledge your belief that you’re not loveable with your current body, or you won’t be if your body changes.
Accept it! Call it out. Name it. Write it down. Look at the reality of your body, your relationship with food, and where you believe your worth comes from, but do so without applying “good” or “bad” labels to it.
You don’t have to love where you are currently, but you can begin to neutralize these states and beliefs by simply acknowledging what is. If we’re hiding from it, we’re attaching shame to it, and we simply can’t grow from that place.
2. Self-Compassion—Loving yourself and your body can seem like a really big leap when you’ve been trapped in a headspace of believing you’re only lovable when you’re perfect.
In fact, it can seem so insurmountable and preposterous for some that the concept of “self-love” is quickly dismissed and avoided.
What is more feasible? Compassion. We can all find compassion for fellow humans when we look closely enough, as we all share pain, loss, and defeating belief systems. Therefore, we can find this for ourselves.
How? By imagining what an act of compassion would look like towards a friend who was struggling with the same set of false beliefs.
What would you say to her? How would you treat her? Would you list of all of the ways she ACTUALLY brings value to the world?
Do this for your inner self and your physical body. Show compassion to those parts of yourself you don’t feel like anyone wants to see. Show your body compassion with rest, nourishing foods, enough food, whatever it most needs.
Essentially, give yourself the gift of compassion for being a whole, multi-faceted human being.
Really engaging in these two steps should bring about a sense of ease, even if just a glimmer. We can work with a glimmer!
The perfectionist thought patterns, and narratives will continue to surface, so remember that we always have a choice with our responses. Just because they pop up in our minds doesn’t mean they’re true! And we certainly don’t have to act on them.
It’s also important to not let the quest for unraveling perfectionism become another outlet for perfectionism:)
It’s a lifelong journey, so settle into the process, sister!
I promise these thoughts will become less invasive and frequent if you continue to practice awareness and put in the work.
When in doubt, remember that all of us humans are in this together, and not one of us is perfect.❤️