Have you been nailing your eating and exercise plan, but not getting the results you’re looking for?
If you have, you’re not alone. Plenty of people who exercise regularly and eat the ‘perfect’ diet still struggle with their weight.
It may sound strange that despite being perfect when it comes to food and exercise, you still have trouble losing weight.
But, we’re here to tell you that this doesn’t surprise us at all. In fact, your perfectionism is most likely what’s holding you back.
What is perfectionism?
Many people feel that perfectionism is about ‘being perfect’. And on the surface, that’s what it appears to be. However, your need to ‘be perfect’ is more about your self-worth than anything else.
But before we get onto that, let’s clarify what we mean about perfectionism. In a nutshell, perfectionism involves putting pressure on yourself to continually meet (often impossible) high standards, which has a powerful influence on the way you think about yourself.
The Western Australian Government’s Centre for Clinical Interventions says that while it’s impossible to come up with a ‘perfect’ definition of perfectionism, it does involve:
- The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others) that are personally demanding. (Typically, to an outsider the standards are considered to be unreasonable given the circumstances.)
- Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.
- Experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standards, yet continuing to go for them despite the huge cost to you.
Any of that sound familiar to you?
Researchers have shown that parts of perfectionism are helpful, and parts are unhelpful.
The positives about perfectionism
- like to do well
- work hard
- have high standards
- are highly organised
- are efficient
- are prepared.
All of these things are great attributes and go a long way towards being a successful individual. They can also help you in your quest to lose weight. However, there is an assumption that being a perfectionist is a good thing, as it leads to positive outcomes and high achievements.
But people who are perfectionists often get stuck, and are unable to move forward despite having goals they want to achieve.
Before we get onto how perfectionism holds you back, it’s probably useful to examine what is really behind the need to get everything right. And it’s not about achieving goals or wanting success. It’s about fear.
What drives perfectionism?
At the heart of every perfectionist is fear. It’s fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, fear of being judged and fear of not being good enough. In fact, this ‘I’m not good enough’ thinking is a continual message that you tell yourself, which actually paralyses you from taking action.
Perfectionism is also linked to self-criticism, anxiety and depression, and eating disorders.
And this constant belief that you’re not good enough, or what you’ve achieved isn’t enough keeps you in this vicious cycle, because you’re always trying to do more, achieve more, so you can feel ‘more’.
The following is a list of behaviours that is typical of perfectionists. You might relate to a couple, or you may relate to them all.
- Belief in the ‘perfect’ journey — the path to success should be linear, and free of failure.
- Focus on the end goal — perfectionists are unable to enjoy the present moment, or learn the lessons they need to learn, because they’re too busy focusing on what they want to achieve.
- All-or-nothing approach — there is no middle ground for a perfectionist. There is right or wrong, good or bad, success or failure.
- Defensiveness — perfectionists often deflect criticism onto others, or take constructive criticism personally.
- Focusing on faults — despite great success, perfectionists focus on what they did wrong.
- Hard on themselves — because of their belief that achieving something should be easy, perfectionists are very hard on themselves for not being ‘perfect’.
- Rule-followers — they feel the need to be in control, and therefore like to follow rules, and find it hard to go with the flow.
- Hide themselves — perfectionists are afraid of being ‘found out’ and therefore shy away from sharing who they really are.
- Wear masks — in their fear of being seen for who they are, they try to be who they think they should be, instead of their authentic self.
- Afraid to try new things — perfectionists are often afraid to try new things in case they make a mistake and ‘don’t get it right’.
- People pleasers — because they’re afraid of being judged, perfectionists try to keep everyone happy, even at the expense of their own happiness.
- Delegation is difficult — because of their high standards, they find it hard to delegate tasks to other people, or ask for help.
- Lack self–confidence and belief — perfectionists lack self-confidence because they rarely celebrate their achievements and only focus on their shortcomings.
- Require validation — perfectionists often need validation from others because they don’t give it to themselves.
A more productive approach
How many of the above could you relate to? 3, 7, all 14 of them?
Well now, we’re going to show you how a different approach to each of the above may be more productive and lead to increased confidence and better results with your weight loss.
Many people are afraid to make themselves accountable, but accountability will bring the results and freedom that you’re currently craving.
- The journey has ups and downs — the path to success involves ups and downs and times when you succeed and times when you don’t. But the failures are what teaches you the most lessons, and helps you achieve better success in the long run.
- Focus on the present — learn to enjoy life NOW! Embrace each day and put your energy into taking the actions you need to take to get you to your goal. If you do, then the results will take care of themselves.
- Change one thing at a time — instead of trying to get everything right, focus on changing one thing at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed
- Take responsibility — take responsibility for your situation instead of blaming others. Understand that constructive criticism is designed to help you, not put you down.
- Focusing on your wins — focus on the progress you’ve made and celebrate what you’ve achieved, no matter how small it seems. Little wins add up to big progress.
- Celebrate your strengths, focus on weakness — celebrate the things you’re good at, but learn to work on your weaknesses so you can turn them into strengths.
- Choose your response — you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Choose to respond in a positive, empowering way.
- Accept yourself — understand that you’re a unique person with unique talents. Share this with the world instead of hiding it away.
- Be yourself — it takes less energy and stress to be yourself so stop pretending you’re someone else.
- Try new things — try new things. You’ll learn something about yourself, and you might even find something new that you like to do!
- Please yourself — do what makes YOU happy, and stop trying to please everyone else around you.
- Ask for help — asking for help can make your life a lot easier and remove a lot of stress.
- Celebrate your achievements — look at how much you’ve achieved instead of what you still need to accomplish.
- Compliment yourself — when you give yourself credit for being you and doing what you do, you’ll no longer need it from anyone else.
How perfectionism holds you back from weight loss
You may now be able to see that striving for perfectionism is holding you back. Perfectionists often procrastinate because they’re worried about making mistakes. So they often end up not taking action at all.
Perfectionists also avoid taking risks, meaning they miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. Being risk averse has been shown to inhibit creativity and innovation, meaning you’ll often find yourself ‘stuck’ because you’re not willing to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk of doing something out of the ordinary, in order to solve a problem.
Perfectionists need other people’s validation, so continue to engage in behaviours that don’t support their weight loss efforts, because they want to be liked.
When it comes to losing weight, perfectionists often feel that if they eat something ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ then they’ve blown it, so they may as well keep eating ‘badly’. This is the all-or-nothing approach. They may feel that what they’re doing isn’t enough, and instead of doing their best, aim for impossibly high standards that aren’t sustainable (think exercising every day, even twice a day).
They will find it hard to celebrate that they have changed one key habit, because they focus on all the habits they haven’t changed yet. Or they may feel they have to change ALL their habits at once, and when they find this too difficult, beat themselves up for ‘not being good enough’.
And when everything becomes too hard and difficult, they’ll throw in the towel for a while. Until they beat themselves up enough, to have another go, this time determined to ‘get everything right’.
Finally, perfectionism leaves you exhausted and causes great amounts of stress. If you read our blog on 5 things to do now to lose weight permanently, you’ll understand that stress and lack of sleep can have a major impact on your ability to lose weight.
How can you overcome this habit?
Psychologists recommend that in order to move past this self-limiting habit of perfectionism, you should:
- Stop worrying about what others think and accept your unique self. This is a cornerstone habit that will affect every part of your life, including your career, relationships AND your weight loss. In order to overcome this, you need to work on it consistently and to do this you need help. By making yourself accountable, you can work on strategies to ditch this habit so you can live a life of confidence.
- Accept that perfection is a myth. Aiming for progress instead of perfection is much more productive.
- Build self-esteem by being courageous and facing your fears instead of avoiding them.
- Practice gratitude.
How we can help
At Imani Tribe, we help our clients overcome their perfectionist tendencies by educating, empowering, and providing structure and accountability, so they know what they need to do, in order to replace this habit with more productive, positive ones.
We don’t follow an all-or-nothing approach. Instead, we focus on changing or implementing one thing at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed and tempted to give up.
We focus on the journey, rather than the end goal, because we understand that if you take the right steps and focus on the right action, the results will take care of themselves.
We help you celebrate the little wins (and the big ones!). This releases feel-good hormones, which will motivate you to do more things in order to get to your goal.
We help you uncover your authentic self and provide a nurturing, accepting environment so you can drop your mask and be your real self.
If you think that perfectionism is holding you back from achieving your goals, or you can relate to any of the above and are ready to drop your perfectionist habits for good, we’re ready to help you.