The Debilitating Plague of Perfectionism
I’m going to be honest here…I’ve waited to do a lot of things in my life because I believed you had to be “All or Nothing” to have any sort of positive outcome. If I wasn’t 100 percent ready, guns a blazin’, reach for the stars…Blah blah blah…I wouldn’t do it. I’d sit around and obsess over it, that’s for sure. I’d be jealous of other people who were doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. Hell, I even said unkind words about them because I’m human and I have insecurities that I project on to others (you know we all do that right?). I wouldn’t even write in a damn journal because I was afraid I wasn’t ready. Something that NO ONE but myself would ever see. Writing, singing, and creating music are things I’ve loved to do since I was wee little girl and I was terribly afraid to do it. WHY??? I was still “learning” and wanted to be perfect.
Now, I look back and see those as piss poor excuses because I know it's impossible to be perfect; especially when you're taking on something completely new or something that requires creativity. The mere thought of others criticizing and judging my heart as a I served it on a platter was too much for me. I was so physically debilitated by perfectionism that sweaty palms and a rush of tingly anxiety pulsating through out my body would prevent me from ever performing in front of others or putting my writing out there. I wish I would’ve figured out how fulfilling it feels to share my soul through creativity, even if it’s far from perfect, a long time ago. There is no comparison to the intense human connection that happens when you decide to take the dive (maybe it's more like a graceful belly flop-that's okay too) into the waters of vulnerability. The sad part is that deep down, I already knew how alive it'd make me feel. I was just afraid. Bear with me while I circle around and connect all these ideas to fitness.
Let me tell you a few things that have gotten me absolutely no where in my twenties so far: Being afraid I wasn’t good enough, being afraid I couldn’t commit to something, being scared of challenges and feeling uncomfortable, being worried about other people’s opinions, being afraid of being judged, and being jealous of other people’s “after” product when I hadn’t even thought about what it took them to get there. Starting to see a theme here? In my opinion, perfectionism directly relates to our self-esteem. When you feel self-confident and truly know that failure and set-backs are apart of life's learning process, the need to do everything perfectly fizzles out. When you can finally grasp the fact that it's okay to not do something perfectly the first or even tenth time, embarking on new endeavors becomes a lot less scary and intimidating. My point is that all of this translates to every aspect of our lives. I know that making changes is hard and it's a vulnerable position to be in. The possibility of failure is terrifying, but sometimes you just have to go for it. That's why my journey with my creativity got me thinking about the common phrases I hear people say when they're thinking about starting up a health and fitness routine.
I know I need to hit the weights, but I don't have time for it right now.... I want to go to the gym, but I'm not at the level yet....I keep falling off the wagon.....I need to get back on the wagon...It's too hard... I don't know where to start...I can't be consistent.
What is this wagon you speak of and how does one buy a ticket? Or why do you have to wait for the wagon to come around…Maybe just walk instead? Let’s start there.
Here’s the truth about giving a damn about your health and fitness (or any other goal you set out to accomplish). All you really have to do is give a damn. Even just a little damn…I don’t believe a single person that says they simply don’t care if they are healthy or not. We all know our lives are easier and more enjoyable when we are feeling energized and we know we’re doing our best to make healthy choices. We all want to be able to stick around for the long haul and experience every bit of life with our friends and family. We all want to show up for the things that matter most. It’s not that you don’t care; it’s that you are making it more difficult than it actually is by waiting for the perfect time, the perfect scenario, or the perfect anything. I'm about to give you some tough love. Your excuses are a delay tactic and a defense mechanism.
Take a look at your excuses and really pick them apart:
- You don't have time? You don't have to have 3 hours set aside per day to dedicate to meal prep and being in the gym. Hell, you don’t even need 1 hour. You don't need a detailed plan, a huge shopping trip, or new Lulu Lemons to start moving. Go for a 5-minute walk everyday. Do 5 push-ups or 5 body weight squats. You don't even need to step foot in a gym if you don't have time to drive to one. There are hundreds of exercises you can do with just your body or you can add in some $10 resistance bands (if you feel like really committing). Look up some YouTube videos and get moving.
- You're not at that level? The level to care about your health? A gym is a where place everyone shares a common goal: to be healthy. It can be a positive, uplifting environment to put yourself in. Even if you've had a bad experience at a Globo-gym or feel too self-conscious, there are endless options now when choosing the type of environment and community you want to be a part of. There are small, personalized, body-positive gym communities. They have knowledgeable trainers floating around that are not only rooting for you, but want to meet you where you're at. In fact, I work at a gym like that! ;-)
- It's too hard? I have news for you. You can make it as hard or as easy as it needs to be. Take a step and do what has to be done next without worrying about the things that cannot be done. The trick is to give yourself an easy goal to start with instead of telling yourself you need to be Arnold himself in order to live a fit and healthy life. Make one healthy choice for yourself today. If making a nutrient-dense meal with whole foods is too difficult right now, taper it down and set your sights on something easier. Focus on mindfulness. Think about what you're eating and why you're eating it instead of actually changing the type of food it is. If that's too much, try focusing on how quickly you're eating. Simply practice slowing down and really tasting and enjoying your food.
- You don't know where to start? It's as simple as actually taking some action. Start here. Right now. Figure out a time of day that you know for sure you have 5 minutes to dedicate to something to your health. Grab your phone and set yourself a reminder that goes off everyday at the same time. Use some badass Emojis like the flames and the arm flexing to get yourself fired up (or maybe the puppy dog one just because it's cute). It will turn into a habit, then a routine, and ultimately second nature. Ah, the magic of 5 minutes.
- You can't be consistent? We've all heard things like "consistency is key" and it's one of the phrases floating around the fitness community that actually rings true. If there's one thing you choose to really focus on that will create dozens of ripples, it's consistency. Telling yourself that you can't be consistent is holding you back. You are perfectly capable...But it takes practice just like anything else that you want to become good at. Practice being consistent and it will become easier and easier.
Your fitness routine doesn’t have to be this perfect little thing that you tie in a box with a gingham bow. Your excuses feed your perfectionism and your belief structure. If you have a set of beliefs that isn't working for you right now, it's time to start questioning them. You have to figure out something that works for you and it's not going to look like my routine, your best friend's, or that Instagram fitness model's. Make it your own, eat nourishing foods you like, and move in a way that makes you feel good. That may be walking, dancing, or swinging a kettle bell around (if that's the case, I can help you learn how).
My point is that you have to start somewhere and you are much more likely to commit to a goal that actually seems attainable. I still follow this train of thought and I've started applying it to many different things I do. Even though I do enjoy working out, there are plenty of days where I don't feel like doing it. I'll give myself a simple goal that I know I can commit to. I'll tell myself I'm just going to go walk on the treadmill and use a foam roller. I don't have to go beast mode in the gym to feel good about myself for doing it anymore. At this point, I'm intrinsically motivated by the endorphin rush, feelings of inspiration, and sense of accomplishment that comes along during and after a workout. It may take time for you to get to this point and for you to develop a so-called "complete" health and fitness routine, but I assure you that it’s a snowball effect. Maybe you’ll do 5 body weight squats everyday…for a year. That’s 1,825 squats! For me, getting a fitness routine down showed me that this same way of thinking can be applied to any goal you're trying to accomplish.
I’ve seen many people go through the transition of starting something small and having it grow. Sure, it takes some dedication. Sure, it takes a small commitment. However, the people that I admire most for their success don’t have an “All or Nothing” mentality. They don’t try to be perfect. They show up and do the work, even if the work isn’t going to be their best that day. It’s taken me time to learn this and I’m definitely still learning; but I know a lot of other folks that suffer from the debilitating plague of perfectionism. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t use it as an excuse to put things off that your heart, soul, and body are begging you to do. It will follow you around, like a little dog nipping at your feet, and eventually you’ll get so fed up you’ll either kick the dog out of frustration (please, don’t kick the dog), or you’ll pick it up and let it lick your face.
I write everyday now. It started with jotting down my feelings on post-it notes and the whiteboard on my fridge. It snowballed into filling a spiral notebook, then a word document, and now this blog. I have a writing routine just like I have a fitness routine. Is it perfect? Am I always stoked on the finished product? No way; but it's habit now and the important thing is that I show up and do the work. So, how about that 5 minute walk?