Are You Too Hard on Yourself? Chasing Perfection Gets You Nowhere

Are you often too hard on yourself? I am and always have been extremely hard on myself. Striving for perfection, I am my own harshest critic. I feel a need to be in control of aspect of my life.

When it comes to school, I have to get all A’s. At work, I can never be late or call out. As far as nutrition, I strive to eat as healthy and “clean” as possible. And when it comes to my health, I can’t get injured or sick.

In terms of style, everything has to match – down to my socks and underwear. As far as exercise, I have to train as hard as I can daily. And as for looks, I must have the ideal physique – flat belly, defined muscles, and absolutely no jiggly parts.

Too hard on myself?

These all sound like pretty unrealistic standards, right? Well, that’s because they are. In fact, some of them are nearly impossible to fulfill.

And as hard as it is to admit, it’s true that no one (including myself) can be perfect in every aspect of his or her life.

It took a lot of mental growth for me to fully accept this fact. Now, please don’t get me wrong: being driven is not a negative trait at all. But, being so driven to live the “perfect” life that it ends up interfering with your relationships is not good. Unfortunately, that was my case for a long time.

Chasing perfection

Throughout high school and most of my freshman year in college, I was completely obsessed with being “perfect.” This made me extremely regimen and inflexible.

I didn’t allow myself any leisure time with my friends. There was always an excuse: I was “too busy” studying or working. But in reality, I was either over exercising, counting macros, meal prepping, or just avoiding any possibility of eating out, straying away from my meal plan, or having to miss an opportunity to be working out in some way.

I also spent a lot of time looking in the mirror searching for every single flaw or imperfection I could find that was preventing me from having the “perfect body.” Every day, I weighed myself, hated the number I saw, and continued to spend way too much time degrading myself. In my mind, I was fat, worthless, and never going to be good enough.

The littlest things set me off and led me into a spiral of negative thoughts. If I ate one piece of candy, I ruined my healthy eating and was going to get fat. Missing one workout meant all my progress was going to be lost. If I got a B on an exam, I was going to fail out of school. These negative thoughts constantly repeated over and over again in a loop in my head. This drove me absolutely insane and led me to engage in very unhealthy behaviors.

When being too hard on yourself is a problem

It wasn’t until I fractured both femurs and my pelvis that I started to realize how unrealistic my standards were. When this injury occurred, I was out of commission from work and exercise for months.

I was still able to attend school, but was so depressed about my situation that I started skipping classes. I also started to eat very poorly. My negative thought process continued looping in my head and my self-degradation never ceased. If anything, it all got worse. I felt lost and out of control. I thought, If one aspect of my life was ruined, I might as well just let everything else go too.

But during those months of recovery from my injuries, I had a lot of time to focus on myself, my thought process, and my relationships. I came to realize that I was my own worst enemy. It was my own obsession with exercise and disordered eating that put me in the situation.

I had osteoporosis from years of malnourishment and fractured bones from years of running abuse. I set unrealistic standards for myself. All of the fitness models I aspired to resemble had different body types than me. In reality, I’ll never look like them.

That number on the scale I determined to be my perfect number was not a healthy one for me. And neither was the mindset I had believing that a number on the scale could ever make me happy.

Perfectly imperfect

Yet, this time was also full of healing. Despite being in a wheelchair, I was able to enjoy time with my family and friends that I never let myself do before. In the past, I avoiding doing things because of my fear of eating out or having to miss a workout. But spending time with my loved ones is so much more fun and beneficial.

Having relationships and making memories is much more important than obsessing over what and when you are going to eat, counting calories, or trying to maintain a certain weight.

One of the worst feelings is looking back on an opportunity you intentionally missed and wishing you didn’t.

Letting go of being too hard on yourself

I also realized that I am never going to be perfect. Somedays I will be tired and sore and skip a workout, but it won’t ruin my progress. Sometimes I’ll eat pizza and ice cream, but it won’t mean that my healthy eating is over.

Other days I’ll eat half a jar of almond butter with a spoon and feel extremely full, but it is ok. I don’t have a flat belly or six pack. There’s no gap between my thighs. I don’t have a round booty or big boobs.

No, I have belly rolls when I sit down. My thighs jiggle when I jump and run. I don’t like drinking smoothies, but I do like eating chocolate. Sometimes I get B’s on my tests and assignments and somedays my socks don’t match. I’m not perfect, and that is okay.

What really matters?

It’s important to learn how to accept your imperfections. It’s important to forgive yourself when you feel like you “mess up,” whether it be eating too much or skipping the gym, especially if it is while spending time with family or friends. Don’t beat yourself up over silly things like that. They are honestly meaningless in the long run.

Nobody is perfect and that is just how it is. But every single person in this world is beautiful and unique and worth it.

Stop prohibiting yourself from living your best life. Forget the calories, the number on the scale, and the reflection in the mirror. Focus on enjoying food, people, activities, nature, scenery, or whatever it is that makes you happy. Focus on making memories, because that is what’s truly important.

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