Perfectionism & The “Should” List

I’ve talked recently a lot about a book I’ve been reading, Food: The Good Girl’s Drug, and its thoughts about binge eating it’s really helping me understand the disorder and myself in a lot of ways.

One of the key things I’ve really taken away from it is the idea of perfectionism. The book talks a lot about food, but food is not the problem, its clearly a symptom of the problem, my completely stalled weight loss is a symptom of the problem for me right now. Food: Its something in life that I repeatedly fail to be perfect at and no matter how good other areas of my life are going it has the ability to filter in to my day, in to my head, and spoil everything that I feel good about.

Right now I sit here almost nervous to write this post, its probably something that’s plagued me for a long time because I feel I’m a contradiction really, a lot of my life the outcomes I strived for were not the perfect ones I hoped for, from my exam results in school being distinctly average to my marriage failing I can see so many failures in my life like they are lit up with neon signs.

Thats one of the things though, that black and white thinking is so damaging. Some of the things I see as failures (or have been made to feel like are failures) are not really at all, theres good and bad in most of those situations. I may not have done stellar in my school exams, I certainly didn’t reach my potential, but I did what I could manage at the time and I was immature, unwell, caught up in my developing social life, I achieved a lot during my time and school and at the end of it I did achieve what I wanted to and passed every exam I took. To me though average was seen as a disappointment, average wasn’t good enough, average was just, well, ordinary. Teenage girls don’t want to be ordinary.

This quote though really made stop and take stock though.

“Perfectionism is the mistaken belief that not only is it possible for you to perform perfectly at work, in school, in relationships, and in life, but also that people expect you to. If you agree with any of these statements, said Dr. Bulik, you maybe perfectionistic:

1. Falling short of a goal often makes you think, I’m a failure, not just, I failed.
2. You set a goal, achieve it, then tell yourself it was no big deal and set the goal higher.
3. You do something 99 percent right, and all you can focus on is the 1 percent that was wrong.

Bottom line: Perfectionism is a lie. It is physically and mentally impossible for any human being to be perfect. (Not only that, but since our ideas of “perfect” vary, there isn’t even one ideal to strive toward.) The next time the perfectionist in you says you’re not good enough, ask yourself why, logically, you should be expected to do, be, look, or act more “perfectly” than anyone else. If someone at some point in your life told you that you had to be perfect in order to be loved, they were wrong.”

I’ve done every single one of those things repeatedly through my life, I play down my achievements, unless something is complete and I did it all right it’s usually not good enough, and I’ve called myself a failure more times than I can remember.

In my notebook I wrote a list of why I’m not a failure and even then I managed to pick a few of them apart before I’d even written them down, it took a lot to banish them and write them down regardless. The way I started this was to write down my “Should” list first.

The Should List

  • First make a list of things you think you “should” about yourself – should look like, should act like, should be doing, etc
  • For each should write down where you learned it was important – are they your importants or learned importants?
  • Next why do you believe they are important? What are those things bringing to your life? How do they help your self esteem?
  • What would really happen if you didn’t do those shoulds?

My list of shoulds was fairly long but covered all the typical pressures we find on ourselves, I should be in a good job – senior even, I should have my own home, I should have a better car, I should be a better parent, I should be married, I should have more friends, I should be a healthy weight, I should be better at fitness, that I should be in control, that I shouldn’t feel such strong emotions.

The sources of these shoulds are very varied but I could pin some of them down to various things from my past, from society, from one sentence said to me at age 14. It’s funny how those things stick isn’t it?

The obvious point is that having these expectations of myself has not helped me at all. When I had my own home something else was wrong and I wasn’t happy, the likelihood that I’d ever have all of these “shoulds” at the same time is very slim which means that they will never be a positive driver in my life. I have started trying to think that I would like some of these things, that I can work on some of these things but I can be a happy person without them.

More about this process tomorrow….Do you have a should list? Whats it ever done for you? 

Those You Keep Around You Are Powerful

My family has changed a great deal over the past few years, it’s gone from a married couple and child, to a single parent, to a cohabiting couple and child, it’s prompted me to think about the things that are important to me and the people.

One of the things I’ve learnt through this period of weight loss, reflection, blogging and all kinds of things that people in your life are either negative or positive for you, and that’s not to say that what they bring to your life is negative or positive but that everything they encompass, their morals, standards, their goals and lifestyle choices, its been proven that if your friends eat certain things you’re more likely to eat those same things. The influences on you tied up in your history and your choices and changes can be really important to how you make your own choices in life.

Since I started out trying to change my life people have come and gone from it, some I’ve been sadder over some than others, sometimes its taken a while to realise why those people dropped away from me or why I dropped away from them but others it was clear to me. Some of them were previously people who were a big part of my life and healthy or not they left a gap in my life which I sought to fill again. Naturally time does that, it fills the gaps, but I thought I would look back a lot more than I have but instead of filling the gap with memories and sadness I seem to have naturally filled it with dreams and hopes and plans and action.

I think this shows a lot of how my life has moved on. I’ve always been a reminiscer, I love to look back at old pictures, I love to remember happy times and I find great comfort in sharing those things with people I love, I love holidaying with friends, I love to see others enjoying things with me because that shared experience is what bonds you.  Some of the people who aren’t so fond of the confident me are people I’ve once shared these things with and I do have a tinge of sadness when I do look back but I look back less and less these days. I barely recognise the person I was then.

Thinking about the people I surround myself with really has been a key to the progress I’ve made so far, I’ve got better at doing it too, less sad and more focussed on the positivity that can replace it. I spent a lot of my life propping up other people, I’d always be the one people came to for advice, to offload to, and while my friends can still do that, I’m much more effective at recognising when things are positive and negative.

I feel like I’m rambling a bit, but I wanted to point out that other people are just as important in your journey, in your life and for your successes as you are. No man is an island is one of the most true sayings and the most relevant to having a healthy life. You need to be supported in your decisions. I’m not saying that people are good or bad in anyway, I’m just saying some are good for you and some are bad for you and you have to make the choice about what is good for you because no one else will do it for you. I may have a small group of people around me, but I’d trust 99% of them with anything in my life.

You and I are not just friends, we're a really small gang

Lets Get Real Rebecca

Dear Rebecca

Lets get real now. I love you. For a long time I really didn’t, I really didn’t get you at all, I didn’t get what you were about or what it was that some other people saw in you, I didn’t get why people thought you were ever smart or funny and I never saw how you were cute.

That’s changed a lot over the last few years but then so have a lot of things. Time to move on.

I need to talk to you about something though. Recently, you’ve not been so great. Only someone who cares about your future as much as I do could ever talk to you this firmly or frankly so I’m going to take this opportunity to be totally no-holds-barred honest with you, cause god knows you need it.

I can totally see you’re struggling. Christ its obvious to me. You’re pretty good at hiding it from everyone else though, people see you enjoying moderation, they see you smiling and enjoying the new chapter of your life, they see you embracing the changes you’ve made but really, I see you struggling with your self confidence, I see you struggling to find your place, I see you struggling with your anxiety, and yesterday you pinned something that slapped you about the face a bit.

You had a melt down about two months ago and you’ve been living there ever since. Wake up Rebecca cause right now, as far as fitness goes, as far as your weight goes, you’re going no where.

This is the time to cry it out and let it go and move on. You’re learning more about what drives you, about what you need to move on, read the book, take from it what you can and start to put it in to action. Whatever you do Rebecca, do SOMETHING POSITIVE, because right now you’re doing everything that damages you. You aren’t talking, you’re are eating terribly, you’re maintaining your weight because you’re not eating all day then eating rubbish, don’t feel like you’re achieving anything because right now, in this field at least you’re not.

You have dreams Rebecca, daydreams and goals which mean the world to you, think about how you want to look, how you want to feel about yourself when those things happen. Cause you’ll get them. I have no doubt about that, but they will be as sweet if you can reach these goals too. You know that because you’ve lived them before and its not been what you’ve wanted.

You can do this. You’ve kinda lost that faith really and it’s time to simplify and go back to basics, take it one day at a time, and ask for the help and support you need. You have a cheering team that you’re too proud to admit that things have gotten to you over the last few months and you’re struggling to get it back.

You’ve let yourself make excuses. Don’t be a dick. You’ve let your achievements at work make you think that you can let your other achievements slide and disappear. Honestly, you’re always going to have to work. Will it always be an excuse? Make a fucking plan and fucking stick to it. Jesus girl does that sound so complicated? You’re forever saying to others that its as complicated or as simple as you make it, time to swallow your own medicine. Grow up a bit, don’t let this

You have made a plan. Stick to it. Just do it every day. You know how hard it will be, talk your way through it instead of letting the fuck it switch take over. Understand that its hard, but you’ve slogged your way through over 50 lbs. You can slog your way through more with all you’ve learnt.

Remember September? You want to look amazing then… You want people to say wow. You might be a bit vain but that’s what you want. A good starting point no?

Love you lots, whatever shape you are.

Rebecca x

PS Also, this.

PPS This post was totally inspired by a FF/E post

Binge Eating

I’ve talked a fair bit about eating on  this blogs and the links to my mental health and wellbeing in general. As a teenager I was very much a restrictor and binger, sometimes a purger, but as I stopped restricting – after having counselling – I never really grew out of the binging habit.

Then I found myself very unhappy and 285lbs and I started to turn it around a little. I stopped hiding how unhappy I was, I started to address what was making me so unhappy, I lost lots of people from my life and started to let other people in, I embraced happiness instead of being cynical, I realised that happiness was a choice for me.

I recently started reading a book, I’ve mentioned it before, its called Food: The Good Girl’s Drug: How To Stop Using Food to Control Your Feelings. Its a book written about binge eating, from a binge eaters perspective, its part workbook, part insight, and part anecdotes. I’ve found it an incredible insight into binge eating and it’s made me think a lot about my own place within the disorder.

One of the things that really stuck with me was a line about failure, it basically described the understanding that someone gets when they get in to the “I’m going to do this” mindset, as if pure will power will overcome the habit and problem that you’ve carried all through your lifetime. That struck a distinct cord with me, I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve decided I’m going to do it and it’ll be different this time. It also talks about perfectionism and I’m going to write about that another day because it was particularly poignant for me.

When I finish the book I’m going to work through the tasks and I’ll share some of them with you, I strongly recommend the book for yourself though, it’s really great. It’s made me realise that something I thought was much more under control than it is, and is much more complicated than I understood, is still present in my life and while it doesn’t affect my everyday living its still part of my life which I need to tackle to keep this happiness and healthiness.

My First DNS

Last weekend should have been one of many firsts. I should have done my first triathlon and this is my very first “Did not start”. It became my first one for a number of reasons and I wanna start off by saying that I’m ok with all of them and I’ve learnt three important lessons from it.

Think about what you have happening at the time of the race.

Things I didn’t really consider when booking this race…

  • That I would have a very important deadline at this time so the month or two leading up to it would be very busy
  • That my boyfriend would be moving 200 miles on the weekend of the race, and starting a new job on the Monday
  • That the Tour De France would be starting in the same city that weekend so getting a hotel would be impossible

That is a list of three things, at least 2 of which I should have thought about before I booked the triathlon, especially with it being my first ever one I needed the time to put the training in, I needed to recover from the 10k I did in June and the hard work after that to rebuild some confidence.

I really didn’t expect for these things to collide, who would have known a cycling giant would derail my plans!? I am more than happy to say though its a lesson I’m glad I’ve learnt now. I will plan much more carefully in future, it will be a more serious thought process and I’ll be considering what is happening in my busy life.

That not starting something which has the potential to harm you is OK.

Yup. Its ok. No one died. The world didn’t stop spinning when I didn’t rack my bike that morning. I made the decision that day  that it would do me more harm than good to do the Tri untrained and injured. Honestly, I’m in this for the long haul, the last thing I need is to injure myself at a time which I’m feeling motivated and ready to kick some butt. My leg got hurt at work in a relatively minor incident at work so I need to rest it a little, I think pushing myself through it could have been disastrous.

I refuse to kick myself over something I a) wasn’t ready for and b) would have more than likely hurt me.

Listening to your body is so important, pushing yourself through discomfort is one thing, but pain is quite another. I tried to run the weekend before and I had to stop short through the workout. I’ll be back to it when the pain has died down, its a minor tweak so it shouldn’t be long. Doing a tough Tri with an injury would have been mental.

Confidence is a Preference

I’ve been honest that my confidence is at an all time low recently, post 10k I felt pretty awful and I’ve worked on that a lot, but my confidence was not great and carrying an injury too I needed to step back and really look at whether it would be a good idea to go into something I may not even be able to finish. I guess I felt I needed to protect the confidence that I’d rebuilt and thats ok too.

There comes a point in your life when you realise that its important to protect yourself, even from goals beyond your able achievement. I wrote about running before you can walk and I’m guessing this was a step too far. I was too busy to train, and I just wasn’t ready. Pushing yourself into a situation where you feel insecure because you know you are not ready yet sometimes is ok, you can learn and push through it, for me this just wasn’t one of those situations.