Monday, January 25, 2021

Letting go of Purrfection!

Hello WATRD readers!  My name is Christel Parker and I’m delighted to be a part of this exciting blog adventure.  As a psychotherapist and eating disorder treatment specialist you will see posts from me that focus mostly on the process of creating a life without illness AKA… Recovery!

To kick off the recovery series, I’d like to invite all those who happen upon this post to join me in an experiment… Are you ready???

The challenge is this- to take a risk in the face of perfection! Whether in the process of eating disorder recovery or not, we all can benefit by spending some time looking at how perfection (or the idea of it) both helps and hinders us in our day-to-day lives. I ran across my own issues of perfection just in writing this blog post!  It’s my first posting on WATRD and I was quickly overwhelmed with the idea about how I would write something meaningful, moving, etc, etc… you know, basically something amazing!  The very idea of sharing my thoughts with a large audience, left me feeling vulnerable and I found that the image of purrfection loomed large in my thoughts.  Why? Because… if it was ‘perfect’ then I probably wouldn’t feel so vulnerable, right? The reality was that the idea of being perfect left me in a stand still and not able to move forward.  It wasn’t until I acknowledged the difficulty of taking a risk, and my fears, that I was actually able to do it!

It’s true that we all face issues around overcoming perfectionism but for those who suffer from an eating disorder it can be an even bigger challenge. Of course, not all perfectionism is bad. Being goal-driven and future-oriented can bring forth many successes in ones’ life. The trouble happens when perfectionism and an eating disorder team up together- the consequences can really get in the way of recovery. 

How do you know if perfectionism and the eating disorder are ganging up on you?  You might feel like you just can’t ‘do recovery right’ or feel guilty about asking for help. Others say they recognize it most when they are terrified of failure or completely inflexible about changing a particular behavior. You might also feel like anxiety is sky high with the desire to do things “just right” or even depressed when you’re not able to reach, what are in reality, unattainable goals.  You might even find that these are the times where you turn towards or away from food as a way to cope.

If you’re feeling like it’s time to let purrfection out of the bag here are some experiments to try:

  1. Make a mistake! Oh yeah.. Give it a try!
  2. Ignore the ‘shoulds’ or ‘supposed to be’ thoughts!
  3. Stretch your comfort zones.  You don’t have to step completely outside of it… just a little stretching!
  4. Forgive yourself if (or in this case when!) you make a mistake.
  5. Reward yourself for small steps of successful imperfection!

Many in recovery share how disappointing it can be to have a bad day, a slip or to feel less-than-ideally motivated. I say to them — the downs of recovery are just as important as the ups because they teach you so much about your relationships with yourself, food and others.  So, let’s take on this challenge together and gain energy/support from one another! No perfection-risk is too small! In fact, I would encourage you to start small first to test out how it feels. You can report back here on your experiments and also share how perfection helps move you forward towards your goals or when it leaves you standing in the litter box. Meow.


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