As a weight loss and emotional eating coach, I would say the one trait that most of my clients share in common is perfectionism. Perfectionism keeps you fat and miserable, and can keep you from accomplishing your goals. If left unchecked, it can suck the very life out of you. I know because I too used to be a perfectionist. I now call myself a recovering perfectionist, as it only rears its ugly head on rare occasions.
I lost a lot of my life to perfectionism. It kept me paralyzed from taking risks and trying new things which meant I didn’t grow and therefore move forward. It kept me stuck for years. I avoided new challenges like the plague or I would briefly try things (like diets or other programs), but soon quit them when I felt I couldn’t do them perfectly or master them quickly enough.
I stayed safe in my comfort zone by only doing things that I already knew I could do.
Because I compared myself against the yardstick of perfection, nothing I ever did was good enough, therefore I felt I wasn’t good enough either. Because of this, I never felt satisfied about the way I looked, or the talents I had, or anything I ever accomplished.
Perfectionism destroys confidence and belief in yourself. If you feel you can’t measure up or you’re not going to be perfect or successful, you don’t try very hard, and this is what happened to me.
I did the ultimate perfectionistic cop out; I stopped trying at all. I went clear to the other extreme and held no expectations of myself at all. If I didn’t expect anything out of myself, I certainly couldn’t fail myself, now could I?
This resulted in me spending some years in my 20’s wandering aimlessly, depressed, and overeating to fill in the gaps of all that I had lost.
Do you see yourself in this cautionary tale?
If left unchallenged and unchecked, perfectionism can result in an unlived life, or at least, a very safe life that doesn’t change or challenge you much. It also costs you money, as it can keep you from growing in your career.
If you want to break free from the chains of perfectionism, the first thing you need to do is to give yourself permission to make mistakes and even fall flat on your face. Mistakes aren’t bad; they’re how you learn and grow.
Falling flat on your face is one of the best things that can happen to a perfectionist. I know, because I’ve done it many times. The reason it’s so wonderful is that you learn you can survive it; it’s not such a big deal after all. It then frees you up to take bigger risks, and your life is only as big as the risks you’re willing to take.
Fear of making mistakes is all about ego and image. You’re trying to preserve an image of yourself as perfect. When you can accept you’re human and fallible like everybody else, you become more humble and willing to put yourself out there and you don’t have to appear like you know it all or you’ve got it all together. That’s when life and weight loss becomes a heck of a lot more fun.
As Andy Warhol used to say, “Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, so what.” When you can fall on your face, get back up, and say, so what, you’re well on your way to being a recovering perfectionist.
P.S. If you find some typos in this article…so what!