Get Over Your Perfectionism Already

by Dr. Brooke Kalanick ND | Follow on Twitter

The 5-step program to becoming a recovering perfectionist.

AS A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST, the idea of simply doing better is still sometimes hard for me to swallow. But I know it works because I did it wrong for so long.

The problem with perfection is that it’s simply impossible. You will get busy. You will catch a cold. You will have a lapse in willpower. You will miss a workout, eat chocolate cake and have a bad attitude from time to time. It will happen – and if perfection is your goal and any one of these things happen, then you fail.

Perfection is a goal you’ll miss every time. So why bother? –> CLICK TO TWEET

We love it — that’s why.

Perfection is shiny, sexy and has no cellulite.  Perfection is intoxicating, but it isn’t real. Even women with so called “perfect” bodies and lives aren’t perfect all the time – everyone has bad days.

The problem isn’t wanting a great body or successful career, the problem is thinking if you aren’t taking every perfect little action every second of every day that you suck. Ask any woman with a great, healthy, fit, lean body and she will tell you that she isn’t perfect every single day but she gets it right more often than not, most of of the time. She’s found a way that’s livable AND gets results for HER (no one else, she does what works for her).

“I’m terrible”, “I’m worthless” and “I’m never going to get there” are all part of my internal dialogue – although the tape plays a lot less often now. It didn’t used to – and if you’re still addicted to perfect, these tapes are on repeat in your head.

Managing the process to a better body and life is really where the work needs to be done. It’s actually quite easy to be told by me or someone else what to eat, how to exercise, etc.  It’s HARDER TO DO IT. Not all the time, but some days it’s hard to do it and when you don’t pull it off it’s EASY TO GIVE UP. Because, the tapes start playing “You’ll never get there, so why not have a margarita, guac and chips and just give up already?”

The addiction to perfect doesn’t go down easily. She’s tough – and if you’re like me, she had a death grip on your psyche. If you don’t already follow the work of Brene Brown, start. Her writing, books and tweets will help you understand you’re not alone – we are all fighting this perfect war. But you can win it when you start to pay as much attention to the process of getting a better body as the outcome.

I know it’s hard to swallow, but it doesn’t help to cling to perfection. It does help to embrace being better than you were yesterday. It’s simple, it’s doable and it will get you results – and you’re allowed a melt down or two in the process.

Loosen perfection’s hold a bit by following these five BETTER strategies:

1. It won’t be perfect, that’s Ok.

Stop waiting for the perfect time to start – just get started.  And accept that the process won’t be perfect either. You will mess up. Your goal is BETTER, not perfect.

If you get off track, don’t wait until Monday or next month when you think it will be easier. The sooner you can right the ship the less likely you’ll sink into bad habits. You messed up, don’t give up. Get back on track now, not later, not Monday. Now.

When you do give in, learn from it.  Then let it go and hit restart — now. Don’t let it compound into more willpower crashes and bad choices.   Get very good at starting over, finishing will take care of itself. In this moment, you are back on track.

2. Your progress is about you.

Compare yourself to the old you, not to anyone else.  How much better are you doing than you would have done before? Comparison is a killer – really.  It wipes out your motivation, your self-worth and gets your ego all wound up – none of this helps get you what you want.

3. Cultivate more compassion for yourself.

Think to a recent failure, what did you say to yourself?  Question the truth of these statements – and the tone.  Be as kind to yourself as you would a child.

If you mess up, apologize to yourself – just like if you let anyone else down, you’d say sorry, so treat yourself with that same care. Write a letter from your future self to your current self: looking back, what would you want you to know today? This can be a life changing exercise.

Just think, what do you wish you could tell yourself as a little girl. Think of the wisdom you’d want to pass on to her, how gentle you’d want her to be with herself during failures and the guidance you wish you could give her to navigate the tough stuff.  Do this exercise. It generates compassion for your current self as you strive to be better.

4. Chose and commit.

“Choice” and “commitment” are the language of power and results. “Have to” and “should” are the language of hesitation and indecision. “Have to” is stress talking.

When you hear yourself saying, “I have to …” try the simple breathing technique of 4 counts in and 6-8 counts out. Anchor to your WHY power and choose.

When you hear “should”, that is depression or guilt talking. When you feel sad or guilty, talk to someone – these bad feelings have a tougher time surviving out in the open.  Change your language to “I choose to” instead of “I have to” or “I should”.

In “I choose to …” there’s freedom to get to your WANT and not be miserable or restricted. There’s even ease in making the best out of bad choices (i.e. picking the lunch meat and mediocre lettuce off a sandwich at catered lunch.)

Never forget, this is your choice. You don’t have to lose another pound or eat another vegetable – but if you choose it, commit wholeheartedly. Own your choices – and your results. Don’t feel you have to justify what you’re doing to your friends, co-workers or dinner companions.  Simply – and powerfully – say, “No thank you.”  You sheepishly trying to explain yourself isn’t necessary.

Give yourself permission to do what you need to do, no excuses necessary. If you aren’t getting results, take a look at what you could be doing differently, what you could do better.  If you’re not sure, get help and get support. Adopt “I don’t” instead of “I can’t”. I can’t is the victim stance again. It’s powerless.  It implies that if you could, you’d choose something else – which makes you feel agitated and conflicted.

The truth is you can eat any ol’ thing you want and never have a gym membership – there’s no salad and workout police. You are responsible for getting your want. Think of anyone committed to their dietary strategy – like a vegan.  Vegans don’t hem and haw about ordering a burger – and they don’t say “I’m sad that I can’t have a burger”.  They simply say, “I don’t” – because that’s their choice.

5. When you do indulge, do it mindfully and don’t rush through it.

Learn what this craving is all about —  how do you feel with the craving: anxious, salivating, anticipation? And then, how do you feel when you give in? Is the anxiety or anticipation relieved? How does the actual experience of this compare with the expectation? (This is such a great question.) Does the craving ever get relieve or do you end up wanting more? Do you get satisfied or just stuffed and guilty? Take the time to work through repeated cravings and unravel them.

Ask some tough questions about your self-destructive behavior. What nasty feelings are you trying to avoid by eating or drinking? This may be the reward aspect of your habit loop. This may seem like a lot of work – but it’s worth it!

Understanding why and how you get in your own way is the only path to getting what you want.

About the Author
Dr. Brooke Kalanick ND

A recognized expert and author in the field of natural medicine and fitness, Dr Brooke is a licensed naturopathic doctor devoted to helping women achieve a healthy weight and a happy state of well being through her integrative and holistic approach to health. Using tailored nutrition therapy, coaching and a comprehensive naturopathic and functional medicine approach, she helps women heal their metabolism and restore their hormonal balance. Her book, Ultimate You, co-authored with celebrity trainer Joe Dowdell, offers the latest in nutritional and exercise science to help women lose body fat by understanding their hormones.