The Peril of Perfectionism

I used to have this delusional belief that in order to matter in life, I had to be the best. This had nothing to do with narcissism —it was the opposite actually. Any source of self-esteem I possessed had run dry. I had no reserves left when I was feeling low. Internally I was depleted, and so I embarked on a desperate external search for fulfillment —no matter the source.
My quest for meaning looked a lot like perfectionism. I didn’t do things out of intrinsic motivation per se, but rather out of frenetic hope that something I did would be the golden ticket to granting me self-worth. I was good at things, but never the best —never perfect —and therefore, a failure.
A handful of unthinkable conditions collided. And when the dust settled, I found a new outlet and source of identity —an eating disorder. Although an eating disorder is never a choice, I was quick to cling to the instant gratification I received from performing compulsive rituals. I was good at an eating disorder and I was committed to becoming the best.
I was reluctant to give up my eating disorder. Sure, maybe I wasn’t happy, maybe it was ruining aspects of my life, but it was also what made me feel special. It was something I was an expert at. It was something no one else could take from me. And frankly, I had invested so much time and energy, that letting it go seemed worse than continuing down a grim road I knew well.
Personally, it seemed preferable to be the best at something horrible, rather than average at something wonderful. I feared that without my eating disorder, I’d once again be left empty inside. In reality, my life with an eating disorder was not only empty, but a dead end. Only in hindsight was I able to see how irrational this logic of mine was.
Much of my recovery process was about detaching little by little from my eating disorder, while little by little committing more to my healing. And eventually I found that I had developed enough self-esteem and courage to abandon a once familiar path and begin again somewhere new. ~Britt?
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2 thoughts on “The Peril of Perfectionism

  1. I can relate to this with all of my being. 40 years of thinking that being “perfect” at something was the only way to go – or don’t even attempt it. Made my life so small. I too was really really good “perfect” maybe at my eating disorder. Until I was so tired and could not maintain my weight or mind! Then I joined the yo yo diet world. Just now starting to learn what it means to eat for fuel and what I feel like eating. Amazing!! Finally I can feel what it is like to take care of myself and feel the mind-body connection again. Thanks for sharing these real, raw and moving stories. I don’t feel so alone with this “stuff” when I see so many of us fell victim to this way of thinking.

    1. We share many similar ways of thinking –it definitely shrunk my world and joy by viewing life through an all-or-nothing lens. I’m so happy you are now able to experience the rewards of self-care and healing! There isn’t a much better feeling than piecing everything together as a whole. I really appreciate your comment and you are most definitely not alone. <3

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