Pushing Out the Perfectionist

Recently, as I was catching up on my blog reading, I stumbled upon this article that I felt summarized one of the major paradoxes of my ED mind; the role of perfectionism in my recovery.

The desire to be the best, or have people’s approval, has always been a part of my personality. In school I wanted to get the highest grades. In sports I wanted to be an all-star. At home I wanted to be everything my parents could ever want and more in a daughter.

And if I didn’t measure up to what I deemed appropriate, I usually quit. (Uh, hello two-week stint of playing the Violin.)

This is a pretty unfortunate characteristic for someone who is fighting the very difficult battle of recovery, because the black and white thinking that is synonymous with perfectionism, does not mesh well with getting healthy.

This is not a new subject by any means. You have all heard me discuss my competitive nature and NEED to be at the top before, but in recovery it becomes complicated.

As in real life, on the journey to find balance there is no such thing as perfect. It certainly is not a linear path and if you have been a reader for any length of time you will know I illustrate quite well how ridiculously rocky the road can be, but a lot of what has kept me stuck, and even back-track, is my controlling-personality and perfectionist attitude.

As the article states,

Perfectionism destroys the addict’s confidence and motivation to heal. Instead, they conclude, “Recovery is too hard. If I can’t do it perfectly, I’d better not even try.” This fear of not being good enough deters some from getting help at all…”

Yeah. That is definitely relevant to my reluctance to taking the “plunge,” and push forward at full-speed toward the necessary weight-gain needed to achieve freedom.

After many failed attempts, sometimes it just seems easier not to try anymore; to give up and quit.

“I can’t mentally handle eating that many calories…”

“I can’t take a day off from the treadmill…”

“I can’t even look at that fear food…”

“I can’t tell my dad he hurt my feelings…”

These “I can’t” statements are made when the fear of failure is present, which for me is pretty much always.

But for some reason, when it came to performing well in school, practicing hard for athletics, or self-improvement at work, I could quickly shut the negative voice out by doing what was necessary to accomplish my goals.

Even my mom has expressed how she doesn’t understand why I can’t seem to move past my disorder, since whenever I put my mind to a challenge before I had normally been able to conquer it. And I wish I could answer her with a GOOD response, but all I manage to say is recovery is way harder than aceing an AP exam.

I enjoyed reading David Sack’s piece, because I felt like it offered some hope. Cognitively I knew all the things he suggested for overcoming the black-and-white thinking patterns, but seeing it in print was comforting; like someone was telling me it is ok that I relapsed. It doesn’t mean I am a bad person because I made a mistake. I just need to get back up and try again.

Mistakes are normal, great tools for learning and often leave us stronger than when we initially began, which is great news because I am going to need all the strength I can get. I have a seriously long way to go and it is going to require immense patience, acceptance, and motivation. This time I don’t want to quit.

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2 thoughts on “Pushing Out the Perfectionist

  1. CJ this was a really great article (and post) and definitely something I really needed to read right now. Although my struggles/”addictions” are different from yours I definitely see myself in that article. I honestly never thought I was a type A/perfectionist personality but after reading the article I think I finally see that I am.

    I wonder if this isn’t part of why you feel so guilty being hungry after a meal. I think your perfectionism makes you want to follow your meal plan perfectly – and any deviation from it you deem as failure. Do you think that if your nutritionist increased your meal plan that you would have less guilt from eating more? Just a thought.

    Have a wonderful day and God bless!

  2. Pingback: Perfectionism In Relation to Self-Expression « Healthy, Happy, Whole

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