An Alternative to Perfect

Last week I published a post that discusses the connection between perfectionism and difficulties in weight maintenance. I think  perfectionism is one reason why weight maintenance is so hard for me, because it puts excess stress on me and it makes it hard for me to accept occasional setbacks.

To continue the discussion, I asked Deborah Cook from DietSchmiet to write a post about the role perfectionism has played in her life and in her weight issues.

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Guest post by Deborah Cook.

When I was young my father would constantly repeat, “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts.”

Of course, although he promoted this concept, he didn’t walk the talk. Indeed, my much-beloved father was a perfectionist who was highly competitive and hated losing.

So even though he tried to teach us differently – telling us we only had to try our best – I suspect both my brother and myself somehow picked up on what it was he WASN’T saying.

Frau zeigt beide Daumen nach untenI’ve been a self-confessed perfectionist for much of my life. Sure, the attention to detail, work ethic and focus on achieving outcomes are good things; but I can’t help but think the black/white thinking and constant discontentment have been detrimental to my long-term happiness.

Instead of taking chances and living the life I’ve (secretly) desired to live, I’ve played it safe. If I suspect or know I can’t or won’t do something well, then I won’t do it. If failure could be an option, then I won’t try.

And, when failure or less-than-perfection is the result, I wallow in grief and guilt, and sometimes apathy.

This has certainly been an issue as my weight has yo-yoed about over the past 20 years. And I cannot help but wonder if my fear of failure has fed the antipathy I have towards weight loss. Just a week or two in my own blog, I commented that I’m ‘motivated’ to lose weight, but not ‘committed’. Which is strange given that I blame being overweight for most of the bad things in my life!

I’ve recently been blogging about a book called, The Happiness Code in which author Domonique Bertolucci suggests we reject the concept of perfection – saying that it will only lead to unrealistic expectations, disappointment and the feelings I’ve experienced first hand.

Her recommendation is that we strive to be the best we can be, or that we simply try our hardest.

That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And it sounds easy doesn’t it? After all, why on earth would we NOT do something to the best of our ability?!

When I first read it, this concept was incredibly freeing:

All I needed to do was try my hardest; or to do my best.

The notion was novel. I asked myself why I’ve never considered it before?!

Generally unable to assess perfection, I’ve always measured myself and my performance against others; rather than comparing them to my own PB or ‘personal best’.

I suspect being a perfectionist and being competitive go hand-in-hand. I find it really hard (ie. impossible) not to compare myself to others, whether it be in relation to weight loss, blogging stats, income or relationship status.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth reminding myself of the fact that… I’m often relatively happy with my life, UNTIL I look around and see what others have. It’s only then I’m dissatisfied.

I’m sure others can relate.

But, surely if we can manage to convince ourselves that all anyone (including ourselves) can expect is that we will try our best then there can be no reason to question our efforts or the outcome, whatever that may be. Surely?

Do you believe perfectionism and competitiveness are related?

Comments

  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Well, in the perfectionist’s mind, perfectionism and competitiveness feel related. However, in the rest of the world, you have to do a bunch(!!!) of trial and error (which means deliberately taking the risk of making mistakes) for years to get good results. Think about Thomas Edison and his workers doing about 10,000 failed attempts before achieving the long-lasting light bulb filament. Thomas Edison was super competitive!

    🙂 Marion

  2. Satu says:

    I used to think I’m not competitive, but now I think I was mostly deluding myself. 🙂 In high school me, my best friend and my sister used to walk and run a track near our home. My sister and my friend used to end our run with a spurt – I think I declined to participate in that so that I didn’t have to face the possibility of being the last.

    The competitiveness may be related to to the comparisons.

    I also wonder about the meaning of “Do your best”. You can’t do your best in every aspect of your life because it wouldn’t be unrealistic. You have to choose what is important and what is not and allocate your energies accordingly. And sometimes having fun is more important than doing your best.

  3. Biz says:

    I am not sure about that, but what type of person I am is an ALL or NOTHING person. Either I am 100% on, and if I slip up, I throw in the towel, and I might not get back “on” for days, weeks or even months. I need to allow myself the occasional indulgence in a healthy lifestyle and not beat myself up about it. Great post Satu!

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