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Say No to Perfectionism and Yes to Self Love!

I had an eating disorder in my late teens that has been a secret for a solid chunk of my life. I shared with a few, and very carefully selected people, that I had suffered from anorexia for a number of years. Today, my disordered years feel like a century ago, and I am very proud to say I am fully recovered. What I've accomplished from that time would completely shock my past self.

The Looking Glass Foundation

May 19, 2016

Say No to Perfectionism and Yes to Self Love! 

By Carolyn Digby

Comparison can lead us down a dangerous path, even more so for someone suffering an eating disorder. We've all had those moments where we think if we could change just one or maybe a few things about ourselves, everything would be perfect. If only we were a little more like this person or that person, wouldn't that be great? If it weren’t just for this, or for that, life would be a breeze.

These unhealthy comparisons and dreams of perfectionism are often rampant, dominating everyday thoughts. It's a feeling I know all too well, and was a consistent theme throughout my earlier struggles with anorexia. I had such a disregard for my own strengths, and constantly compared myself to others to the point where I would drive myself crazy with anxiety. I wanted so badly to be this beautiful, smart and successful "alpha" woman; it infiltrated everything I did. I could never enjoy anything because there was always this nagging feeling in the back of my mind: "Well, this person does it better. Maybe I should try to be more like them" or "If only I was prettier or smarter, then I would have x, y and z and everything would be perfect! It was unhealthy and fed into my insecurities, which in turn kept my eating disorder alive.

This stream of logic can be a hard cycle to break but definitely not impossible. In the years since my recovery, I've learned some practices to help keep these thoughts at bay and recognize my own value as a person, without using comparison as a basis.

Here are a few of the practices that helped me:

  1. Remember the saying "Nobody is perfect" (really, nobody is): The cliché is overused to the point where it has perhaps lost meaning, but it’s still true. While it can be hard to remember, think of it this way: There are over 7 billion people on this planet. People who have completely different ideologies when it comes to what they admire. I bet if you asked every one of those people, each person would have a different idea of what "perfect" is to them. Each of which is entirely their own opinion. It would be completely impossible to please every single one of them. Why bother trying? Why would you want to? When I feel the pang of trying to meet an unrealistic perfectionist standard, what has worked for me is to stop, take a pause, and take a few really deep breaths. While it sounds so simple, it really does wonders to calm your mind down and set you back into the moment. You can do a quick internet search for "deep breathing gifs", and there are a surprising number of resources!
  2. Set healthy goals for yourself: These are completely independent of other's opinions or standards. Goals that aren't centered around (negative self talk) negativity at yourself,; the key here is to focus on something you'd like to achieve that does nothing other than make you happy. Having feasible, positive milestones to work towards can give you a sense of confidence in yourself, and focus your attention on yourself rather than using other as a basis of your self-wealth. A trick I learned is to write goals that are clear, concise, and written in present tense for you to come back to. An example could be, "I set aside 30 minutes each day to take part in self care". This puts your mind in the goal setting framework!
  3. Practice self-love: Recognize and acknowledge what you do well. In a culture that's so focused on self-improvement, sometimes it's hard to realize that you have qualities that already rock! Write a list of things you like about yourself. When you are feeling down, come back to it to remind yourself that you are pretty awesome. If f you have a hard time thinking of anything, go ahead and ask a friend or a loved one; often they can notice things about yourself that you are unaware of.
  4. Schedule in me time: Carve out some time that is solely uninterrupted time for pure enjoyment, otherwise known as self-care. Simply do something that lets you clear your mind and you find relaxing. In our busy lives, it's rare for us to take time to just live. This allows you to focus your attention elsewhere in a positive manner, and can do wonders for your self-esteem! For me, my go-to activity is sitting down with a great book and a coffee. This can be something different for everyone and a different activity, depending on your mood. Just take the time to enjoy yourself!

The point here is to show yourself some love, and cut yourself a break. Nobody can be everything to everyone, nor should you be. Next time you find yourself playing the ever-dreaded perfectionist game in your mind, try out one of the above methods, with no judgment or pressure. We all deserve to feel good about ourselves, as we are!

Carolyn went to the University of Victoria for psychology, and is currently working towards applying for a Master's degree in the same subject. She hopes to uncover what sociological and personality aspects contribute to the development of eating disorders. Otherwise, Carolyn loves writing, drawing, travelling the world, and of course, her handsome cat.  

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