Perfectionism Vs. Body Wisdom

As a recovering perfectionist, the battle between choosing what’s “right” and what’s relevant has been ongoing in my mind for many years. In the past, “right”, at least according to my often unrealistic, inflated standards is what almost always won. However, over the last 18 months or so, I’ve had the privilege of working with an incredible coach, mentors and teammates who helped me do some deep work into discovering and embracing more of what is relevant for me. 

Let me paint the picture for you. Here are some of the conflicting thought processes that might take place in a perfectionist mindset versus one focused on body wisdom: 

Perfectionism (What’s “Right”):

There are no excuses, you need to go to the gym and do your routine to get or stay fit and lean.

Body Wisdom (What’s Relevant):

You have (insert life here*). Listen to your body and let it recover. Do a light routine instead or pick a form of gentle, active recovery to support healing. It’s also okay to take a day off and rest when your body is saying you need it.

*Examples of life might include: not slept well for days, worked your butt off preparing for an event, injured yourself, etc.

 

Perfectionism:

If you eat anything off of your plan, you’ve blown your diet and you’ve failed again. No bread. No dairy. No sugar. Deprivation leads to success!

Body Wisdom:

What plan? Eat when you’re hungry. Eat what you know makes you feel good. There is no “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. There are only choices. The choice is always yours to make. Want to get a little leaner? Eat a little less. Tune into your physical hunger and sit with it a bit little longer. It’s a welcome friend, not something to be avoided at all costs. 

I heard an amazing analogy on the FItcast Podcast a few days ago. Kevin Larrabee interviewed Georgie Fear on her book Lean Habits. She compared hunger to the urge we get to go pee. Do you anticipate having to go pee and go to the bathroom every time you think about it just to prevent the feeling of having to go pee? My guess is no. You usually feel the urge, sit with it for a time until it’s no longer comfortable, then get up and go to the bathroom. 

So many of us anticipate hunger. We dread it, we fear it, we chase it away like it’s a terrible thing by eating frequently to prevent it. Instead, look at hunger like a signal from your body that it’s time to react. Sit with it for a time, greet it with open arms and calmly react to it by feeding it what your body needs. As my good friends at Precision Nutrition say, HUNGER IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. You are not going to pass out, shrivel up or die if you go hungry for 30 minutes or even hours. Try it out. See what happens! :)

 

Perfectionism:

Your pants are tight. You need to do more cardio and eat less food. 

Body Wisdom:

Ok, you’re not comfortable in your clothes. So what do you want to do about it? You need to wear pants, so go buy some pants that fit you now and make you feel good, just as you are. If you want to fit into your old pants again, think about making some changes to your current behaviors that might help you get there. Are you moving every day? Are you making choices with your food that are consistent with being leaner? If not, identify one thing you can change and do that. Are you at least 90% confident you can give up that nightly bowl of ice cream with the goal of feeling more comfortable in your old pants? Great! Start there. If not, maybe try having ice cream every other night instead. Or pick something entirely different to change…as long as you’re sure you can do it consistently.

 

Perfectionism:

Don’t show your weaknesses. Don’t let them see you want and reach for and enjoy that dessert/bread/alcohol/second serving/(insert “forbidden”, “bad”, “unhealthy” item here). Don’t let them see you do things a “good nutritionist” wouldn’t do. You need to set the example. 

Body Wisdom:

Eat that damn dessert if you want it. Eat it until you’re satisfied, not uncomfortably full. That’s what’s important to teach. You are human. You need to show others how to be human and enjoy life while working towards goals. It’s not about deprivation. It’s not about eating perfectly. It’s about making choices that will help you enjoy yourself while working toward and maintaining your goal. If having a dessert every now and then means getting there a little more slowly, then so be it. 

 

Perfectionism:

There is only one acceptable body type, so you better bust your ass to mold and shape your body into looking like “that girl” or “that guy”.

Body Wisdom:

YOUR body type is the only body type that matters. You aren’t airbrushed. You aren’t starving. You are strong. You are healthy. You are resilient. You don’t have to look like “her” or “him” to be an athlete. You ARE an athlete. You don’t have to look like “her”  or “him” to be beautiful or handsome. You ARE beautiful. You ARE handsome. Appreciate your body for all it does for you.

 

If you haven’t already noticed, body wisdom is full of self-compassion. While it is not giving you a free pass to do or not do whatever you want, it’s treating you like you would treat a friend. It’s not beating you up and kicking you when you’re down like perfectionism would. Who do you want to call your friend?  Who do you want to be your accountability partner? Who is going to make you want to show up day after day, looking forward to the journey ahead? Perfectionism or Body Wisdom?

 

I assure you that I am constantly working to embrace my body wisdom. I learn more about myself every day, in every new situation or environment, with new people. That perfectionist mentality is still there, lurking in the background and sometimes it’s really tough to choose to honor my body wisdom, but I’m committed to stay focused and consistent in the pursuit of my best self - my TRUE self. It’s a practice. I can help you discover and learn how to do the same - just ask. There is strength in vulnerability.