While I was traveling and visiting family in Johannesburg, South Africa this past week, I walked in to a tea garden and saw a quote on the wall that said, “You are NOT Perfect and that is Perfectly Fine.”As a Dietitian that works with eating disorders, a professional ballroom dancer, and someone who tends to get caught up in seeking perfection throughout my own life, this truly resonated with me. My first thought was, “I need this hanging up in my office,” so I bought it; and my second thought was, how hard is this concept to truly believe and accept for so many individuals, but crucial in finding proper balance, health, happiness, and success in multiple aspects in your life? Throughout this blog post, I am going to discuss the balance between achieving optimal physical and mental health in optimal aspects of life without the over focus on achieving perfection.
- Nutrition- When focusing on nutrition, it is easy to get caught up on following a “diet” or eating plan perfectly, only eating the healthiest foods, in the right portions at the right times or otherwise you are “going to get fat,” “going to feel guilty,” or “are not going to be as healthy as possible.” The risks of this mindset are severe and can result in disrupted social interactions around food, malnutrition, decreased energy, decreased self esteem, and many other negative detriments. This being said, I believe making overall conscious healthy decisions is important in being healthy, but there needs to be balance and moderation. If you can ensure you are eating a balance of different food groups, including variety in your eating, and are timing your meals in a fashion that keeps your metabolism efficient and your energy at it’s best (allowing room for less healthy choices and variance in times to adapt to the flow of life) you will be more able to reach your optimal nutritional health without the negative detriments of achieving perfection.
- Physical Activity/Sports- While ensuring you include physical activity in your life consistently is an important part of maintaining optimal health, for some it can become obsessive or overdone to a point that leads to injury and/or body dysmorphia, and eventually decreased performance if you don’t know how to find the balance between successful training/exercise and rest/re-cooperation. Whether you are following a workout routine to stay in shape and healthy or you are training for a sport, having a routine and maintain motivation is important in achieving success. As a professional dancer, I have a consistent workout schedule to stay in optimal shape, have set and focused practice times working on reaching a high technical level while also allowing myself to diverge from a pure focus on always doing everything perfect, but explore the benefits of committing to actions and movements and trying new things that may not be perfect, but can lead to improved artistic elements, genuine movement, and can even eventually lead to improved technique and performance. It can be difficult when training to allow yourself to take a break sometimes whether for the sake of rest, recovery, or even spending time with loved ones especially with the concern of “getting out of shape or not putting in as much work as the person you are competing against.” It is important to remember that you can take these moments to rest or spend time with loved ones, allow for the flow of life once in awhile as this generally allows you to continue successfully working out at your best, training at your best, and performing at your best without losing to motivation.
- Body Image- There will always be something that is not your favorite feature or you want to change about your body. Whether you want to be skinnier, more muscular, taller, shorter, have prettier hair, nicer skin, etc. there is always something that “could be better.” It is okay to eat a bit healthier, exercise, try different looks, etc. It is important to appreciate and love yourself at every stage/look/weight you are at because there will never be a “perfect.” Keeping in mind that loving your body and being healthy mentally and physically is more important than always being and looking perfect. It is also important to remember that everyone is built differently and you should strive to be your best you, not your best someone else.
- Emotional Health- Everyone has different ways of handling emotions, different tendencies and hormone balances when it comes to mood, and handle positive and negative situations differently. Having optimal coping tools such a meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, reading, walking, etc. for less optimal situations is helpful in avoiding behaviors such as binge eating, smoking, or other less healthful behaviors. It is okay to not always be the happiest or most stoic person in every situations, but it is important to allow yourself the opportunity to process any difficult emotions you may feel so you can feel your best more often then not. If this is a difficult area for you, it is okay to work with a therapist to help yourself manage your emotions in a healthy way and find healthy coping tools to minimize less optimal situations so you don’t always have to always be the perfect emotional specimen externally while struggling internally.
These different areas that people may struggle with striving for perfection are not comprehensive, but do demonstrate many of the areas where striving for perfection can actually damage your physical and mental health. I really wanted to point these areas out as I find it important to be aware if this is a struggle that you have and ensure you find your balance in being your best you while realizing you don’t always have to perfect. If this is a struggle for you, don’t hesitate to reach out for support from loved ones or, if necessary, working with a professional such as a Registered Dieititian, therapists or even a psychiatrist- it won’t make you any less of a person, but may even help you become your best you!
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and would love to hear any thoughts or feedback you may have!
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Wishing you optimal health and self love,
-Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”