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Psychology

Perfectionism — why the desire to be ideal ruins your life

Basically perfectionism is an attitude where we want to have everything work or planned in 100% and have everything under control as well. We set mega-ambitious goals and don’t accept any — even the slightest —lapses from what we planned. When a lapse occurs we start to feel bad. In case of diets, even a small amount of extra unplanned calories makes us feel uncomfortable and often leads to giving up the diet.

When you’re a perfectionist it’s hard to be satisfied of yourself and your physique because deep down inside lurks a terrifying thought that your body is not perfect and can be better. You start punishing yourself for even slightest lapses on the road to perfection marginalizing successes. You’re afraid of failing and facing new challenges (e.g. new forms of activities) because you feel that you won’t perform perfectly and they won’t bring desired results. Perfectionism mainly affects people who were overly criticized in childhood, their successes were ignored and bar was set really high.

You’re not a machine. Even professional athletes don’t execute their diet and training plans in 100%. There will never be 100%. 100% is not achievable. But, do everything to be as close to 100% as possible.

ideals
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Take small steps. Perfectionism is a nifty creature. On a conscious and logical level you know that additional square of chocolate won’t hurt you but your subconscious mind will try to sabotage you.

What can you do to fight perfectionism? First of all you need to convince yourself that ideals don’t exist. Perhaps your ideal vision for perfect physique is taken from magazines and media. People there are not 100% real. Experts prepare them for a photo session for long hours, perfect lighting is set and later — even after so many tricks — photos are improved in Photoshop. Therefore, your perfect image does not exist, it’s artificial. Start looking for some real-life inspirations like people with great physique who have been training regularly for years, are active and live a healthy lifestyle.

Take small steps. Perfectionism is a nifty creature. On a conscious and logical level you know that additional square of chocolate won’t hurt you but your subconscious mind will try to sabotage you.

Get rid of the feeling that you can’t make mistakes. You can! You’re not a machine. Even professional athletes don’t execute their diet and training plans in 100%. There will never be 100%. 100% is not achievable. But, do everything to be as close to 100% as possible. Bear in mind that along the way you will fail a couple of times and face issues that you have minimum influence on. Think and analyze the situation. If you stick to your plan for 6 days a week and in the 7th day you allow yourself to let go a little bit — will it make you fail the whole plan? No, it won’t. The effect of scale. When you are close to 100% most of the days you will still succeed.

Reward yourself and don’t compare with other people. Being on a diet is not easy. It’s stressful. Make a “reboot” occasionally and eat the forbidden fruit. It will give you mental comfort and motivation. Great if the lapse is something healthy instead of some junk food. It’s important because you want to form healthy lifelong habits.

Perfectionism mainly affects people who were overly criticized in childhood, their successes were ignored and bar was set really high.

Take small steps. Perfectionism is a nifty creature. On a conscious and logical level you know that additional square of chocolate won’t hurt you but your subconscious mind will try to sabotage you. You will start feeling that something is wrong and lots of thoughts will pop out like “I just can’t” or “I have to persevere no matter what”. You get a feeling that you just can’t do it because something terrifying will happen and you will feel uncomfortable not realizing the plan in 100%.

Therefore, fight your perfectionism gradually; force yourself to eat that extra square of chocolate (or an apple), do 40 minutes of running instead of planned 45. Get out of your comfort zone and just do it. Habituate your mind that it won’t be 100% every time as planned, i.e. perfectly. You will notice that occasional lapses won’t ruin your long-term goals.

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