A question I am often asked both in and outside the therapy room is, ‘what is so bad about being a perfectionist?’ Why this question is asked, is often the result of a misunderstanding of what perfectionism means and looks like. When I see perfectionism, I see the year 12 student who is crying because she received 98% on her exam. I see the man who didn’t chase his dreams because he was scared of not being the best in his field. Or the girl who is striving for the perfect body at the expense of her health and relationships. The perfectionistic picture is not a happy one.
Perfectionism is perceived as being equal to happiness, success and achievement. Through society, the message that is communicated to us is that the more perfect you are, the happier you will be. Through obtaining the perfect job, car, test score, friends, house, body, and partner, you can achieve everlasting happiness. What we are not told about perfectionism, is that there is a difference between aiming to be perfect, and striving for excellence. Perfectionism is about wanting to meet your goals to please or impress others, whereas striving for excellence is about achieving your goals to please yourself.
With perfectionism, you are setting yourself up for failure even before you’ve started putting in the hard yards. You are chasing what is essentially an unachievable outcome as being perfect is a concept, not an attainable destination. What makes us interesting are our flaws and the fact that we are constantly learning, evolving and growing. What is also problematic about perfectionism, is that one’s self-worth is based on the ability to achieve the unrealistic goals. This means that the perfectionist will place all their self-worth on their capacity to perform and achieve at this high standard. If these are not met, their confidence and sense of worthiness are considerably battered.
I’ve also heard people with perfectionism say, ‘but having these standards works to motivate me.’ In reality, perfectionism only works to push one to keep up the unrelenting high standards they have set. This can cause a life-paralysis and result in demotivation. I have seen wonderful, talented people become paralysed by their fear of not reaching their impossibly high standards. Instead of serving as a motivating factor, perfectionism has actually worked to prevent them from excelling. In other instances, I have had clients who have managed to come close to, or have reached their lofty goals. What has resulted though has not been happiness or contentment. Instead I hear them describing feeling burnout, stressed, depressed and anxious about maintaining this standard.
So what drives and underlies the perfectionist mindset? Inherently, there is a fear of inadequacy. There is an anxiety that their flaws will be discovered and that the ‘truth’, that they really are not good enough, will be revealed. There is an idea that to be less than perfect is to show vulnerability, which is ultimately a sign of weakness.
While perfectionistic mindsets can be challenging to shift, there are strategies you can implement to reduce the hold of your perfectionistic mindset and behaviours.
1. Identify the downside of maintaining your perfectionistic mindset. Assess what areas in your life you are sacrificing in order for you to meet your perfectionistic goals. It may be impacting your physical and mental wellbeing, interfering with your relationships and preventing you from engaging in things you once enjoyed. Be clear on what you want your life to look like and what happiness means to you. Often my clients find that perfectionism has prevented them from achieving a sense of peace and happiness, opposed to bringing them closer to it.
2. Recognize which perfectionistic standards and beliefs are problematic and evaluate them logically. Is it really necessary to check your work four times before sending it through to your boss? And if there was a mistake, what would be the worst possibl
By Renée Leonard-Stainton
Avoid trans–fatty acids – Margarine and other hydrogenated vegetable oils not only raise low density lipoprotein and cholesterol (LDL is the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol, linked to heart disease), they also lower the protective high density lipoprotein (HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol), interfere with essential fatty acid metabolism, and are suspected of causing some cancers, including breast cancer.
Tip – Keep the low-density lipoprotein intake low and the high-density lipoprotein intake high.
Eliminate the intake of refined sugar – Refined sugar places stress on our blood sugar control and other body control mechanisms. When high sugar foods are eaten alone, blood sugar levels rise quickly, producing a heightened release of insulin, which can result in energy slumps as the sugar ‘high’ wears off. As insulin is actually a hormone, excessive amounts within the body can contribute to weight gain. Sugar also has a detrimental effect on mood, premenstrual syndrome, and many other health conditions, especially when combined with caffeine.
Tip – If you are consuming small amounts of sugar in your diet, make sure that you consume protein in the same meal as this helps balance blood sugar levels
Keep salt intake low and potassium intake high - Excessive consumption of salt, coupled with low levels of dietary potassium, greatly stresses the kidneys’ ability to maintain proper fluid volume. As a result, some people become ‘salt sensitive'; causing high blood pressure or water retention.
Tip - In order to avoid becoming salt sensitive, you must not only reduce salt intake, but also simultaneously increase your intake of potassium by including foods such as bananas and avocados.
Drink adequate water - Water is vital to our health. In fact, water is the most plentiful substance in our body, as it constitutes over 60% of our body weight. It’s an essential nutrient that is involved in every function in the body and helps transport nutrients and waste products in and out of cells while also being necessary for the control of body temperature, all digestive, absorptive, circulatory, and excretory functions. The tissue of the human body swims in a salty sea. The more salt there is in our inner sea, the more water is needed to dilute it to maintain the proper concentration of sodium which is why salty foods make us feel thirsty. When you know that the average person loses about 3 litres of water daily through excretion and perspiration, you understand why it’s vital to drink at least 2 litres of water daily to replace this fluid (the remaining quota is made up from our food, primarily from fruit and vegetables).
Tip – Herbal teas count towards your water intake, so you get the chance to get two health hits in one – peppermint for digestion, chamomile for relaxation…so many to choose from – go wild!
Avoid additives - Additives are placed in foods for a number of reasons such as to lengthen shelf life or make food more appealing by enhancing colour, texture or taste. Additives and artificial ingredients add little or no nutritional value to a food product. They can wreak havoc with many of the body systems.
Tip – You can buy or download little guides to help you decipher the meaning of all those ridiculously long words or numbers on labels that indicate additives have been, well, added! Bring out your inner detective when you go shopping!
Go organic where possible - The healthiest fruits and vegetables are those that have been grown organically- without the use of insecticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, or growth stimulating chemicals. Organic is undeniably more expensive, so just try to make changes as and when you can.
Tip - Maybe start with growing some veggies of your own – so satisfying and I swear they are extra tasty when you know you’ve nurtured them yourselves!
Go fresh - When choosing your produce, look for fruits and vegetables that are at the peak of their ripeness. These contain more vitami
Think back to when you were a young kid. You probably didn't think to yourself: I have to get my thirty minutes of cardio in. Why? Because, when we were younger we wanted to be active. Being active was fun, and a way to socialize. Chances are you were in either soccer or dance, baseball or lacrosse, and you spent your summer's swimming in the pool, or playing manhunt. These are all forms of exercise that as kids we never thought about as something we had to do, but rather something we wanted to do.
To make a real long and complicated story short: I have had a couple of really rough and painful years. I am still not sure about the ‘how and the why’ of it all, and maybe I will never be. I spiraled down the path of depression and an eating disorder and in my fall I lost track of everything else. I was in the dark to the extent that I did not see my friends or family, I could not feel their love, even though it was absolutely there. But I wasn’t. I was empty and completely lost.
And then, December 2012 happened. The world did not end, but my life changed in every way. It felt like my own personal apocalypse. It was the most painful experience I have ever known.
My body took over and I gained the weight. It was not a choice. The choice came later: go back, or move on, fight. And I chose. I wanted to see what was on the other side. Very slowly things are changing. My dreams woke up again, I can feel the love and see the beauty in this world. I am still as lost as I was before, but now there is hope. The future doesn’t scare me as much as it did, it doesn’t seem hopeless and I don’t feel that desperate anymore.
There is still a very long journey to make and it will probably take a lifetime. That’s okay. My fight has given me a huge amount of pain, but at some point I have to accept it as a part of me. In a way it’s also one of the most meaningful and most beautiful things in my life. It’s almost like I have found that bit extra that makes me think harder and feel deeper. And that is a very powerful thing . It can break you if you’re not paying attention. But it also has the power to make you great if you learn how to use it right. Like magic, it can be used for good or evil.
My inspiration is coming back, and I can see it in the notebooks that I keep. They are filling up faster, more creative and positive. My attitude changed too. Yesterday I was thinking what it was that I could do every day to keep this going and keep my focus on my emotional well-being. When you read it, it may seem really obvious, but I thought it was worth sharing, because we all need a reminder sometimes…
1. Try your best every single day. After all that’s all you can do.
2. Go easy on yourself.
3. Be grateful and humble.
4. Accept the things that you can’t change and that are beyond your control.
5. Be honest with yourself and the people you love.
6. Be creative and look for inspiration: write, draw, read, watch movies, travel …
7. Maintain a healthy balance (in terms of eating, sleeping,etc…)
8. Respect your boundaries.
9. Be happy about every step you make. However small it seems, if it means something to you, it’s important.
It helped me to just write this and I hope these words can help others too.
An-Sofie Mattelaer is a student in Belgium with big dreams of one day travelling the world as an anthropologist and doing humanitarian work. Besides exploring the world, I am re-exploring myself, reconstructing my soul and focusing on my health–mentally and physically. My goal is to inspire and be inspired.
I would like to share a tip that has helped me in my own life. Recently, I found myself moving in a downward spiral, as I became flooded with negative thoughts about many situations, which lead to a depression. The content of my inner dialogue was consistently one of negativity. My attention was being pulled to everything that was wrong or “not good enough”. As a teacher of yoga, I was aware that where I placed the attention is where our power lies. In this moment, I was not the mover but the moved, and I realized I was not in control.
Fat is essential! Avoid fat! Sugar provides no nutrition! Sugar is natural and provides energy. Confused? That’s understandable. There’s so much controversy about what actually constitutes good nutrition that it’s easy to lose perspective. And with a veritable smorgasbord of fad diets and health crazes to choose from, it can be refreshing to remind ourselves of the simple stuff and stick to basics. I don’t believe that any natural food is categorically good or bad. When we start looking at foods in such a black and white way, we can lose perspective and end up swallowed in a whole host of dietary dilemmas and dramas. Food shouldn’t be stressful, it’s to be enjoyed and embraced…just with a little bit of education under our belts…
You're being a good little engine, eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising--but still, it seems like you've hit a roadblock when it comes to burning calories. What's a person to do? Instead of working harder, work smarter. Here are 5 ways to get your metabolism working for you again.
As a child I was a dreamer. No doubt about it. I dreamt of being famous; perhaps an actor, musician or even a radio star! As I grew the dreams continued, although they became worldlier. After overcoming depression and realizing I could help others do the same, I suddenly dreamt of changing the world; helping everyone learn how to love their most precious selves. Be able to accept themselves unconditionally. It was my dream.
Across the planet, roughly half (yes half) of the world’s forest and trees have been cut down by humans. Even with new laws in some countries, which enforce re-planting of trees, many countries have no such protection or regrowth laws. Trees are vital to the planet, humans and all life. They are home to many animals and insects and supply food for many of them as well. Trees supply oxygen, are windbreakers, provide shade, support soil erosion, slows water runoff and is used by humans in many facets of our lives. Trees are so important that if the planet were to continue losing them at the current rate, life on Earth will continue to change and be dramatically different in the future. As trees vanish, so does the life living among them and relying on them to survive.
By Rosie Fae
This morning I woke up and proceeded to get ready for the day ahead in my very precise and planned manner. Although mornings for most is a foggy scramble and stumble out the door with a piece of toast between the teeth, for me it is a chance to set an intention for my day, align some order and make sure that, when I step out into the world, I am ready for everything. This consists of meditation/belly breathing upon waking, dry brushing, and oil pulling occasionally, a warm lemon and water and supplements, a breakfast of oats, rice milk, sheep’s yoghurt, flax oil and LSA/chia powder, speaking positive affirmations and reading specific bible scriptures!
After completion of my routine on this very morning, I wandered down to Uni, to my Brand Communication class, feeling proud of my committed and dedicated healthy lifestyle. During the lesson we investigated “marketing ploys” and “Macro trends.” Ironically, the macro trend of ‘eating healthy, organic, exotic foods and engaging in what once were ‘unique and alternative’ lifestyle practises came up. The class talked about how these things that were once only for “hippies” and “health-freaks” are now becoming a trendy and acceptable way of living. But is this macro trend really coming from people who have general interest in their health and wellbeing and want to make a change, or people who jump on the bandwagon because ‘he, she and the next person does it and it worked..?’
So the question is...do people who boast a ‘healthy and simplistic lifestyle’ really walk the talk? or do they simply use it in social situations to sound ‘better’ and more enlightened than their peers, when really the only thing in their life that contributes to this lifestyle is the packet of green tea or ‘Goji berry muesli’ in the pantry?
We must realise that a healthy lifestyle change and organic way of living must come from the individuals desire for change and to do something good for THEMSELVES regardless of what people around them claim or are involved in. Not just a passing trend to partake in in order to have the upper hand in your ‘#healthy meal photos’ but a way of living that will sustain your health for years and years to come.
So if you’re serious about yourself and your health, have a think about who you are living for… the opinions of others, or for the sake of your wellbeing? Then take the time to fully commit by establishing daily wellness routines for your mind, body, and spirit. You will eventually gain something so much more rewarding and fulfilling than a ‘healthy façade’.
Rosie is a proud Kiwi, currently studying a bachelor of Visual Communication Design, an avid junkie for all things health and wellness related, Organic/alternative skincare lover, Jesus follower, who believes that by nurturing your gifts and passions and taking all challenges as lessons, the greatest successes will become you fortune.