Counselling support for eating disorders and body image.
Rethink your body
To get the freedom to live the life you want
The prison of perfectionism
by Harriet Frew on April 1st, 2015

Nothing is ever good enough
You feel that nothing ever quite meets the grade; that you have to put in hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears to produce something that you feel is worthy of credibility and acceptance to the outside world. You have a constant, nagging feeling of not being good enough or meeting your own expectations. You wonder if you are a fraud and worry incessantly about being found out. Others seem to sail through life so easily with minimal effort. It is exhausting and frustrating having to meet these standards and to toil in this way and you are weary with the constant pressure. Sometimes, your fear of failing stops you getting started in the first place, this leaving you trapped and discouraged. You have a sense that you are not meeting your true potential, but the fear of trying and then failing is terrifying.
A perfectionist?
If you are relating to this, you might recognise yourself as someone with high expectations and a tendency towards perfectionism. Maybe this is something you feel has been in your life for a long time? Maybe it is something that has recently taken a hold and you can’t quite seem to shake it. I believe some people are more prone to perfectionist tendencies; however often external triggers might have exacerbated and exaggerated this. Perfectionism often masks low self-esteem and is an attempt to feel better and more accepting of the self. It can be exhausting, demoralising and may lead to burn-out.
Channeled into food
Perfectionism can also impact on your relationship with food. Dieting, restricting, starving, striving for the ideal body – these can all be ways that energy is channelled to gain a sense of achievement and accomplishment. Maybe you are not meeting goals in other life areas as you might like to be? Focusing on the body can sometimes offer a safe route to gaining a sense of success without having to involve others. It is yours alone.
The anxiety underneath the maintenance of perfectionism can also be expressed through bingeing or overeating, both effective strategies short-term to dull the worry and possibly escape it. If you are prone to using food to cope in this way and have high expectations of yourself, then it is likely that you will be extremely self-critical when things go wrong and you break your dietary rules.
4 ways to begin to break out of perfectionism
1. Recognise how much pursuing perfection actually holds you back. Are you kept in a prison and prevented from embracing life fully because of your standards? If you can wholly appreciate this, it begins to give you some leverage for embracing change.

2. Understand where the perfectionism is rooted. What early experiences have contributed to this? Be compassionate and kind with yourself as you recognise triggers or events that may have led you down this path. Your perfectionism may have become a coping strategy to try and raise self-esteem.

3. Take a mini risk and lower your standards very slightly in one area of your life. Do you survive? Do others really notice? What was it like to let go a little?

4. Trust yourself to be able to manage, cope, achieve and succeed. Actually, you can probably manage quite effectively doing things to 80% rather than 100% effort. It might well free up some time, space and longed for relaxation. 

Do you recognise yourself here? Would you like some support in breaking free? If you feel that my approach might work for you and you would like to get in touch about working with me to explore some of these issues further, I would love to hear from you. I am now working from Portugal Place in Cambridge and I continue to work at WeightMatters in London. I also offer Skype and telephone support. I am passionate about helping you to eat all the foods you love; and feel great about your body without disordered eating or dieting.

Posted in Bingeing, Body image, Overeating, Self-esteem, Perfectionism    Tagged with Perfectionism, Eating Disorder, Bingeing


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Counselling support for eating disorders and body image.