I’m a perfectionist. It’s a character trait that I can’t evade. The idea of perfection seems great on the surface, yet it has the potential to work against me as well. I had to address the idea of fitness perfection before I started my pursuit of better fitness, or I was doomed to failure.
The Problem With Fitness & Perfection
Think about this as you pursue your weight loss and fitness goals. What do you consider the pinacle of fitness perfection? Is it this? Not for me. In my world, this is impractical. That recognition shapes my view of the subject of fitness perfection, and my goals.
As a kid, I hated to lose. At anything. It’s a trait that didn’t really seem to change much as I got older. Be it sports, video games, or academics, I have always strived to give my best. So, when I finally acknowledged that it was time to get back in shape, I also had to come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to be the best. Or even one of the “really good.” It wasn’t an easy fact to acknowledge.
I started thinking about this subject when I stumbled across this article on perfectionism and binge eating. In it, the authors highlight the fact that there are two types of perfectionists. Those who are “self-critical” (that’s me), and those who believe others are evaluating them critically. Although these second types of perfectionists are more susceptible, all perfectionists are prone to set themselves up for disappointment and frustration. Why? Because they demand unwavering, continuing improvements from both themselves and those around them. In many, this often manifests itself in the form of binge eating. Not exactly conducive for weight loss and fitness.
When I first started pursuing my weight loss goals, I determined to pursue them through exercise rather than eating habits. I’ve mentioned before, my goal to complete my first 5K. It was a very difficult thing for me to accept that I would not be a competitive runner. But I acknowledged that if I tried to compete with the fastest runners none of the possible outcomes were good:
- I would fail. I can be a pretty determined person. But in this instance, my level of determination was irrelevant. There exists a group of people that have been runners their entire lives. They live, eat, and breathe the sport. That is how they define themselves and they’ve done it their entire lives. When I started my training I was at least 50-pounds heavier than I am today. Expecting to be competitive with that group would have been folly.
- I would get injured. There had been a time in my life when I may have at least had a shot at being in the top 25% of runners. But when I started this journey, I was physically not that person. I watched my training partner, who is also a perfectionist, fall into this trap. He would say “…back when I was 21-years old I could…” He deviated from the initial goal of simply finishing, and he quit running the day after that race.
- I would miss my true goal. The real purpose behind running that first 5K was permanent weight loss. The race was simply the chosen vehicle to get to my destination. True success is found by keeping your eyes on your ultimate destination, and not getting distracted by the vehicle.
One of the hardest things for any perfectionist to master is redefining what it means to “Be The Best.” Being competitive is part of our personality. That can lead us to be successful in many things, or it can be an anchor that we drag along as a source of constant irritation and frustration. The key for me to find success in my weight loss goals was to be competitive with myself, rather than others.
If you’re a perfectionist, do you find yourself exhibiting any of these traits? What about your friends, do they? If its worked against you, how did you overcome it?