Perfectionism: How striving for the perfect beauty and body leaves us feeling less satisfied and more closed off than ever

Hi, my name is Samantha, and I am a recovering perfectionist. My drug of choice is control, and I spent much of my life worshiping the ground it walks on. I know now that I am a hard wired perfectionist, and that the endless tantrums my mother couldn’t handle were a reflection of my own inner shame spiral when I couldn’t figure something out or perform it perfectly. I also know that the brain is like a coral reef, constantly expanding and contracting into different versions of itself. Because of this magical capability, I have worked tirelessly to retrain my brain out of thinking that more is better, thinner is better, and exhaustion is attractive. First things first: when I am trying to be “perfect”, I am also trying not to be seen. If I am exactly the way I want you to perceive me, then I can never be my messy self with you. I can be a scripted, tailored version of myself that keeps me safe from being truly known, and then I can avoid being truly hurt. Of course, the truth under all of this desire to be perfect is the fear that my messy self isn’t worthy of real love. That if I make a mistake, get some wrinkles, earn some cellulite, that I am somehow less valuable and deserving of connection and belonging..

Well, I call BULLSHIT.

What sobriety has taught me and continues to teach me is that all I really want is to be seen and known, and in order to do that, I have to be willing to be fully vulnerable. And since perfectionism is the armour for vulnerability, it means I have to give up on perfection forever. Of course, it shows up daily: “Look at those under-eye bags—you look old and tired. Maybe you should get under-eye filler so your face is more palatable.” Or, “You shouldn’t eat that nut butter, Sam. It’s at least 200 calories and will put you outside of a calorie deficit, which means you are inching closer to gaining a pound versus losing a pound. And if you do, your body is less palatable.” So every single day is a chance to hit the reset button. Every time my inner critic revs up to try and make me more perfect, I decide whether I want to give energy to that narrative. If I do, I am headed nowhere good. I am headed into guilt, shame, and ‘never enough’ syndrome. If I notice the critic, say hello to her, and then politely tell her to fuck off because I have joy to claim, I am off to a good start. I try to ask myself, what would a person living and loving with their whole heart do? Then I would try and live in accordance with what the answers to those questions are so that I am building up blocks of worthiness that my house can stand on instead of blocks of perfection that ultimately make the whole house crumble. Because if I do what the world and my genetic disposition tells me is good enough, then I am outward bound for what inevitably is an inside job. If I instead ask myself questions based on the person I want to be and the way I want to feel, then I am excavating from the inside out.

I don’t know about you, but I have had more than a few experiences where I have reached my “ultimate destination” and felt no different, or if anything, woI don’t know about you, but I have had more than a few experiences where I have reached my “ultimate destination” and felt no different, or if anything, worse. We hear it over and over and we continue to push to end range. What if the answer to our problems is in the tiny moments where instead of splitting our insides from our outsides, we integrate the whisper of truth we hear in our hearts into small actions. We stop saying we should rest more and we just sit down. We stop saying we want to be thinner and we just eat a nutritious meal. We stop saying we look old and we tell ourselves something on our face that we find beautiful. If what we want is more love and connection, then we have to stop wanting to be perfect. It does not exist, it keeps our world very small, and it blocks us from the joy we seek and deserve. So just for today, embrace your stretch marks, your crows feet, and your dessert. Listen to the quiet voice inside that is trying to guide your next action. Ask yourself what a person does who lives with joy every 24 hours and then make a choice that is congruent with that answer. I love you, you messy, imperfect human. See you soon…

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