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?