Monday, 25 May 2009

Just...(not) Perfect

I was asked last week to write an article about my struggle with anorexia and recovery. I jumped at the idea, without really giving it too much thought. It's been a much harder task than I anticipated- putting something into words what doesn't really, to this day, make very much sense to me (never mind anyone who might read it). What became really apparent as my article took shape was my need to be 'perfect'. To be successful, to make something of myself. It wasn't until I started writing and looking back to when this all started that I realised quite how much of an impact my need to prove myself has had on me. The feeling of never been good enough, of never meeting my own standards, of constantly feeling judged and criticised for my flaws.

The article is pretty much finished and I can't quite bring myself to send it. I've mentioned how much trouble I am having with sleep right now and the article is a huge part of that- I wake up at 3am with something I *need* to edit it right at that moment, and before I know it, I have a big mug of coffee in my hand and am hammering away at my laptop. Clearly my desire to have everything 'perfect' is still there!

I don't think this is ever going to go away. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember- my parents were called in to meet with my teacher when I was 6 because I made a mistake on a spelling test and she didn't think that my level of distress was normal for a 6 year old. Every time I have taken a job or gone back to school, it's been a matter of days before this feeling of inadequace/incompetance creeps in and I start running myself into the ground trying to reach that elusive goal of excelling, I retreat into my default of restrtcing because I know I can do that. Having ruled that out as an option, I am left with the question, "how do I accept myself as I am?"

I know, on a rational level, that perfection isn't possible- if it was, I probably wouldn't be aiming for it. It would be nothing special. It would be 'normal'. I want it because I want to feel special, extraordinary. Not for attention or recognition, but because deep down I feel like I need to show the world that I am deserving of a place in it.

I am aware that this is absurd. Nobody is judging or criticising me (nobody whose opinion I care about anyway!). This isn't coming from anyone else, except my own deep-rooted insecurities. I'm trying to let go. To ease up on myself and remind myself that I am good enough just for who I AM- I don't need to prove myself to anyone. I don't need some great high-flying job to define me anymore than I need an eating disorder to define me. Self-acceptance has never been unconditional to me- it's always been based on what grades I got, what awards I won, what job I got, what I weighed. I'm trying so hard to look beyond that: my personality, my sense of humour, my passions. All the things that make me unique and special just for being ME- accepting myself for who I am, not what I have done.

"When you aim for perfection, you discover that it's a moving target"

Meanwhile, the article seems disjointed, inarticulate, nonsensical. There is SO much I want to say but I am struggling to adequately express what I need to in the way I want to. I have sent it to my dad to proofread (English teacher for a father has it's perks!). As anxious as I am about throwing this out there, I am excited beyond words to have the opportunity to share my story. It's been interesting to write, and has definitely made me come to a few realisations about what steps I need to be taking right now.

Any other perfectionists out there who have found some sort of balance/way of letting go?



Memorial Day Muesli!

Usual oats/fromage frais/vanilla/blueberries/almonds- with a dollop of raspberry jam for patriotic/visual purposes! Note to self: almonds + jam is a delicious combination (I need to try almond butter one of these days!)


Bare Naked fruit and nut granola with Fage. I could quite happily eat Bare Naked granola all day long (mom- if you are reading this, PLEASE bring some back from NY for me!). Hands down, my favourite snack.

Lunch was another salad- despite the fact that it still feels like winter here in Scotland!

Mushrooms (in a sauce made from melted laughing cow + pesto) with kidney beans, roasted sweet potato and spinach. Pesto is so underrated- this stuff is amazing, and so packed with flavour. I have a whole jar (minus 1/2 tbsp now!) to experiment with so expect more basil parmesan delights...

Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend- I thought it was a holiday here in the UK, but having been out and about all morning, don't think it's a holiday in Scotland afterall!


Anonymous said...

Hey! You are is definitely not spring, much less almost summer, here in Scotland!
About eating experiences growing up--we always ate dinner as a family and ate vegetables and healthy things, but most Friday nights my parents went out or even if they were there, it was pizza night. There wasn't a limit and my brothers were usually in charge of ordering, which meant a pizza/ I think my portion control is a bit off from that! If I like something I'll eat tons of it, not realizing I'm full until later when I don't feel good. I need to listen to my tummy more instead of my tastebuds!

K from ksgoodeats said...

I used to be a HUGE perfectionist!! I've come to the realization though (through trial and error, it certainly didn't come overnight) that it's just not worth the stress to care about what other people may think/care about little things in life.

I am in love with that mushroom sauce/sweet potato combo! That's brilliant!! Have a wonderful Monday :)

Thinspired said...

I am perfectionist with *certain* things but not everything. I can relate to wanting your work/essay to be perfect, for sure. You know, if you put your heart into it, I know it will reflect that.
Mmm Bare Naked IS fantastic. There's a brand here in England, not sure if they sell it in Scotland, that's called Body Matter, it's really good too if you can find it!

Anonymous said...

I love the quote about perfectionism, it's very true. I don't think I'm a perfectionist as much as an obsessive - I don't edit my blog posts ten times, keep my bedroom in perfect order or constantly unload and reload the dishwasher to keep the kitchen tidy because I'm worried about being judged or because I think it makes me a better person, it's just a plain old compulsion. I feel like I HAVE to do these things, even though I can't think of a single rational reason why (well, my mum is quite keen on my kitchen tidying obsession :P ). It's quite strange.
Good luck convincing yourself that the article is finished! I hope you manage to get it sent off soon so you can get some sleep.
Aw, Scotland doesn't get this bank holiday? Oh well, I'm sure you guys have some holidays that we don't :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a perfectionist with some things, mainly that I know other people will see and judge, like at work for example, with any jobs I have to do, I'm not happy until it seems perfect to me. I don't always realise I'm doing it and when I do I tell myself not everything has to be perfect.

itsawrapteacher said...

You are talking to the queen of perfectionism is still trying to let go.I'm trying to come to the realization that there are some things that I just CANNOT control!

Anonymous said...

hi love,
first off pesto is amazing on anything! In sammies, wraps, salads, etc. Yumm! Oh and I was just thinking, if you want, we could try to work out some sort of exchange and I could send you some barenaked granola since you seem to be needing it desperately! :) hahah We all have those necessary vices!

Umm so reading this post made me feel so normal. haha Let me tell you, I am the ultimate perfectionist. I push myself so hard all the time. If i dont do something to the utmost perfection, I'm not satisfied and I feel like I've failed. I never think I am smart enough, good enough, beautiful enough, despite what others may tell me. I constantly feel like if I dont prove myself to not only myself but also to others, then I am underserving of anything in life. What's funny is, and I think we are on the same page here, is that NO ONE else is telling us we have to be perfect. My parents never pushed me to be the ideal student or the perfect child, it was all from me. I push myself, push myself, push myself. I just need to let go and say "hey so what if it's not perfect. NOTHING is perfect."

And I, too, often feel like I'm not good enough to deserve a place in this world. I resort to thinking about why I am even here. What's the point? I think that's why my depression really became so incredibly deep. So that's where I am now, trying to remind myself that I DO have great qualities and that I am special and that I can be happy again. Self acceptance and love (i.e. "learning to relove" MYSELF) are the objectives and I must remember that they are achievable, as are they for you.

I think that you just need to pour your heart out in this article and just let it be what it is. Just press send and let that be the end of it. At that point, there is nothing left for you to go back to or to dwell on. It will relieve a lot of stress or so I would hope.

p.s. I dont know if you already have, but one of my last posts (Epiphany) was pretty deep and maybe reading it might help you a little. Feel free to check it out and see if it can do anything for you. :) I really hope it does. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment, I live in a small town near Leeds in Yorkshire.

Anonymous said...

gosh, I definitely know what you mean...I'm a total perfectionist, too! but I guess I had to accept the fact that I can NEVER be perfect, and that there is no such thing as perfection except for God...I found that I was actually being arrogant in thinking I CAN achieve perfection. tough thing to accept, but we've got no choice, or we'll be stressing out all the time! what a waste of time and emotion...

Cacti Don't Cry said...

You know, I don't feel like a perfectionist at all... but I think that's partly the perfectionist in me, because I'm not a "perfect" perfectionist! It's like, if I don't get it completely right, what's the point in bothering at all? Then I wind up feeling like a lazy lug, so ... yeah. Classic black-and-white thinking right there.

As for almond butter... you're welcome to mine. I apparently don't like it. ;p

Nutritious is Delicious said...

I can be a perfectionist at times, but I try to take everything one day at a time and "come what may". Sometimes, you need to perfect a few things though! lol

I love your snack! Bear Naked Granola Rocks!

Elle said...

I just finished up my post for the evening and jumped over to your blog only to discover that you just hit on the same subject. I'm a Type-A to a t, and I'm still struggling to find ways to deal with it. I take some comfort in knowing that whatever I set my mind to accomplishing usually ends up turning out better than whatever standard it was originally being held to - but I have such an intense fear of failure that I will spend hours and hours working on things.

This past spring, I tried to take a more relaxed approach to some of my classes/work, and I was surprised to find that even when I didn't slave away above and beyond what was expected, I still got great feedback about my work. I guess we just have to remind ourselves that the standards we impose are far more stringent than the standards that others have for us; and that we should also hold ourselves to a certain standard of HAPPINESS. If obsessing/slaving over work is detracting from your happiness and enjoyment to a significant degree - maybe it's time to step away from the project and take some time to do something else you truly enjoy.

I hope you send in your article - I'm sure it's spectacular. Your blog is a joy to read, and I think a lot of other people would find your journey to be moving and inspiring.

Much love,

Anonymous said...

Ellie! THIS POST could totally be used as an article! The bit about you wanting perfection, but if it was possible you probably wouldn't want it because it would be "normal" and feeling like you need to show the world that you deserve a place in great! So insightful! Don't beat yourself up so much, you're a great writer and I'm sure whatever you've agonized over is a wonderful article! I hope to read it :)

Anonymous said...

hi hun
wow thats so cool you were asked to write an article. im sure whatever you write will be amazing :) its hard to not lead the porefectionist tendancys not take over things like this, but just remeber the only person who is trying to see perfection in it is you. imperfection is more beautiful and interesting :)
all the eats look great!
have a great monday girlie

dietlexy said...

hey! once again your food lux amazing! I love melting laughing cow extra light cheese! !u shud try making stuffed peppers and meltiing it on top its amazing! you are so healthy. I know you are a recovering anorexic. how is your weight now wen you eat a healty diet. just wondering bc I really want to hav a healthy balance but I just dont think its possible! xx

kristen :) said...

I am definitely a perfectionist, and while sometimes it proves to be beneficial in getting things done, it is most certainly my downfall sometimes. I just wish my brain had an off switch! I will worry so much about things to the point of making my stomach all crazy which makes me more anxious and it does absolutely no good to worry so much about things. Every day is a learning experience and I am trying my best to just not worry and think so much about things! Love your blog, just found it :)

Rebecca said...

How long did it take for you to recover from anorexia? I 'm fighting whit the devil every day!