Raise your hand if you are a left-brained, well organized, hyper-vigilant, detail-orientated person.
Raise your hand if you like order, distinct parameters, and guidelines to follow.
Raise your hand if NOT following the plan, NOT doing what you need to do, NOT being THE BEST at whatever task in front of you makes you extremely anxious and overwhelmed?
Can you see me raising my hand?
I am a TOTAL perfectionist. TOTAL.
In high school, as soon as I got an assignment of any type (essay, lab report, handout from Japanese), I HAD TO do the homework RIGHT AWAY. RIGHT. AWAY. I wanted to start completing the task so I could have as much time thereafter to revise revise revise revise to get the finished product PERFECT.
After I had my daughter, I was constantly cleaning. Scrubbing the floors, vacuuming the carpet, disinfecting toilets, I had to had to had to keep the house pristine and as spotless as possible. In my brain, a clean home equated to being a perfect mother (*shrug*).
When I was teaching high school English, I was always planning. Lessons were outlined weeks or even months in advance, and I was always correcting “working ahead” so that if SOMETHING came up, I would at least have a plan in place to work from. I was also known as being the fastest grader in the English department…not because I particularly LOVED spending hours commenting on essays, but moreso because seeing a stack of unread papers on my desk made my stomach churn. I hated having unfinished work piled up. In my head, being a quick scorer and overly organized teacher equaled to being a perfect educator (*sigh*).
I must admit that the rigidity I had with school, family, and work was mentally and physically exhausting, yet I brushed it all aside. I needed the details planned out. I needed the guidelines, the outline, the rules and regulations to ensure that I was doing what I was supposed to do. And I wanted the results in the end to show to the world that I was, in fact, perfect.
Supposed to do. Those three words (along with “should do” and “must do”) were the bane of my existence for years, no, wait, decades on end. All of the things I was supposed to do left me utterly uptight, scared, and literally in fear.
Fear. For me, fear is the driving force of many of my negative behaviors (like not eating enough or exercising too much). Fear is what caused my initial eating disorder start and continued the illness for years on end. Now in recovery, there is a different kind of fear that I am challenging and working through.
Fear of me recovering perfectly.
It’s a real fear. I had this fear in every single one of my past treatments. Let me set the scene for you.
First meeting with treatment team required a meal plan for me to follow, exercise plan for me to follow (which was none, ha ha), and psychotherapy for me to follow. I would leave excited and raring to go. Why? Because I wanted to prove that I could recovery perfectly. The best. I’d be the best patient, the fastest to gain weight, the one client to get through therapy quickly. A week would go by. I’d follow the exercise plan laid before me, but MAYBE make an allowance or two (“Eh, what’s one short 20 minute run?”). I’d eat my meals but MAYBE miss a snack. I’d go to psychotherapy weekly but MAYBE not share all of the fears I had. More weeks would go by. No weight gain. Running once in secret led to everyday in secret. Seeing the MD was anxiety producing because she’d ask probing questions I didn’t want to answer. I knew I was in a bad place, that my perfect exterior was shot. So I’d lie. I’d say I was eating what I was supposed to and not exercising. I’d say I didn’t know WHY I wasn’t gaining weight. I’d say I had to work and couldn’t make therapy. And a few months down the line, I’d end up leaving. Leaving because my perfect persona was tainted. I had made a mistake. An error. And I was too fearful to admit it and go back to change it.
So what will be different this time around? How will I overcome this hurdle of NOT needing to be perfect?
I’m sharing with you here on this blog that I AM IN RECOVERY AND AM NOT PERFECT.
I’m sharing on my YouTube channel that I AM IN RECOVERY AND AM NOT PERFECT.
I’m sharing on my IG that I AM IN RECOVERY AND AM NOT PERFECT.
Typing (or saying it) out loud….I AM IN RECOVERY AND AM NOT PERFECT….actually makes me feel a heck of a lot better.
Because in reality, who is perfect?! And in the end, who am I recovering for? Is it so I can get accolades from my husband or coworkers or friends or family? No. I am recovering for me. And I know I’m not perfect. I know my shortcomings. So why feel pressured to hold myself up to this unattainable exterior or perfection?
Eating disorders thrive and live in secrets and fear. So I am exposing all of those…all of the ugly thoughts, the less-than-perfect ideologies, the crazy-sounding voice that tells me I need to be perfect in order to BE SOMEBODY…all of those things I am going to make public. Why? So I don’t feel compelled to HAVE TO BE PERFECT. Living in a perpetual state of NEEDING TO ATTAIN is not healthy. There is no way I can recovery and be perfect. End of story.
Since I am going to be VERY transparent on this blog, YouTube Channel and IG, I’d love to also hear about YOUR experience with recovery and/or being a perfectionist (because I know you have great knowledge in these areas too!!!!). 😉
How have you overcome your perfectionistic tendencies? What steps have you taken to remain true to yourself in treatment? Comment below! I’d love to hear from you.