Perfectionism is a term that is often thrown around when we talk about disordered eating and body image. We may not realize it, but a lot of chronic dieters engage in perfectionistic tendencies. They often feel like they are to blame when a diet or fitness program doesn’t as planned, and that they are never quite good enough to reach their ideal goal in their mind.
So today, let’s dive in on what is perfectionism? and How can we learn to control it?
This definition can vary from person to person and how they experience perfectionism. A perfectionist is someone who is very focused on getting everything exactly right. Perhaps even over working themselves by doing EVERYTHING all the time. Often, perfectionists don’t allow themselves to focus in one area at a time because they are holding themselves to such a high standard across all parts of their life (like relationships, finances, work, etc.). As a result, there is a degree of obsessiveness that develops, as the need for perfection is so high!
Example: some people may go through their previous conversations earlier in the day/week and just ruminate over this conversation by telling themselves “I can’t believe I did that” or “I should have done this instead”. There is a lot of beating ourselves up and asking ourselves to do something that is just not really possible for a human to do.
There are MANY reasons!
One common reason is related to developmental or relationship trauma. For example, imagine a child whose caregiver is emotionally absent and negligent.
THEN Perfectionism develops! It becomes your friend, someone who makes you feel empowered and makes you feel like you have SOME control over your circumstances.
Body Image can be one way our minds decide to manifest our perfectionism. Our bodies are a place where we can become hyper-focused and feel like we need to take control over it when our world seems so chaotic.
One of the most common ways someone may try to take control over their bodies, is by trying to control food. This can be in the form of dieting, restriction, portion sizing etc. As a result, we can see changes in our bodies AND other people see these changes too.
We may not realise that the changes in someone’s body can be a byproduct of their deeper struggles.
We may be complimenting someone’s pain.
A lot of people get really attached to their perfectionism because on some level, it keeps them safe. But, being a perfectionist definitely comes with a cost.
One of the most concrete consequences about perfectionism is how it can affect our relationships. Perfectionists are always trying to achieve really big, and often unrealistic goals! They are always “on” and they are trying to be connected to other people. Sometimes they try to find ways to relax, but they can’t disconnect themselves from others or their goals. You can’t be doing both simultaneously!
If you are always trying to achieve some unrealistic standard, you don’t have the chance to be YOU, you don’t get to experience life in the way you may want to.
A LOT can be said about how perfectionism and perfectionistic tendencies impact the way we view food and view our bodies. Perfectionism is about more than re-reading an email multiple times to make sure there are no mistakes. It can develop into something more powerful that can affect your overall quality of life!
“Give yourself permission to celebrate and revel in the day that you created for yourself, without the expectation that it’s supposed to be like this forever.”
I HIGHLY recommend you listen to the full podcast episode on this topic. I had a wonderful, eye opening conversation with Rebecca Newkirk, a lisenced therapist who works with Type A and B perfectionists.
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice