Striving for Perfection

I am, to the surprise of no one who knows me, a perfectionist. A hard core perfectionist. I don't remember not being that way. It's one of the reasons I hate games that keep score. If I don't win, I beat myself up ruthlessly- even if it's a game I've never played before. There's this constant dialogue in my head about how I screwed up.

And let me tell you- I've always done something to screw up.

What started this line of thought is going to the grocery store. No, no meltdowns this time. I got in and out in one piece. But as I was unloading my bags, I started thinking about what I had purchased. Plenty of produce, to be sure, but also plenty of other things. Things like a box of Cheez-Its, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups cereal, graham crackers.

I felt insecure and inferior at that moment.


I didn't have the "perfect" diet. I was eating (gasp!) processed foods. And we all know that Processed Foods Aren't Good For You. There's a part of me that knows this is BS. Bread is processed. Butter is processed. Damn near everything is processed and the human race continues. But the part of me that knows this is the calm, rational side of me. The side of me that doesn't really give a crap about what other people are buying, nor judges people based on what they eat.

The emotional side of me, on the other hand... That side is very afraid that all of the government recommendations might be true. And even if they're not, so many people believe them that they will surely judge me if I don't comply.

Won't they?

I want people to look in my cart, look in my cupboards and think what a "good" person I am, how "healthy" I eat. That the two are linked in my mind and in popular culture is no coincidence. The quality of your diet has become the quality of your person, the quality of your soul.

"Those people who eat fast food," we scoff. "Lazy." I don't get fast food much, but when I do, I do and there's not a whole lot more to it than that. Yet sometimes I'm a little embarrassed to walk into a McDonald's and say yes, I would like fries with that. Because that means I am a Typical Fat American and I am going to take over the world with my fat ass.

The simple fact remain that most people don't care about the size of my ass. Nor do they care about what I eat. I still can't figure out how to escape these standards I've set for myself. I think I'm scared. That if I give up on trying to be perfect, it will mean I have failed.

Hello, black and white thinking. Nice to see you again.

I wish I could stop caring so much. I want to get to the end of the day and feel satisfied with what I've done and with who I am. I can never see how much I've accomplished; all I see is how much I have left to do. There's always way too much. It's the way my life is. I can't imagine things any differently. My parents are a lot like this- though I take it to a whole different level. These feelings are all I really know.

I'm not a "yay me!" kind of person. I find the idea of loving myself to be ludicrous bordering on hilarious. I'm okay with not thinking I'm the bee's knees. I just want to look in the mirror and see a good enough person.

That's it.


disordered girl said...

Hi Carrie,
My head is right there with you on this stuff. But we are not called to be perfect. I truly believe that. You deserve to reflect at the end of each day about all the worthwhile things you have done, because you are good enough exactly as you are. We all are. We just keep working on believing it (maybe we need to be more like Stuart Smalley when we're in front of the mirror? :-)


Faith said...

Because that means I am a Typical Fat American and I am going to take over the world with my fat ass.

Oh, this is my thought process (about myself, of course) entirely.

Wow. Interesting to see it in print.

Sarah said...

Oh gosh. I really related to this

I want people to look in my cart, look in my cupboards and think what a "good" person I am, how "healthy" I eat.

I think I need to have others think those things about me because I almost never think them about myself.

I hope you have a peaceful, restful, and fun weekend.


Tracey said...

Well my Dear, I for one will say you are an incredible person- and most definitely GOOD ENOUGH! More than good enough- spectacular- stellar! <3

I realize it's not the same as "believing" that yourself at those testing and aggravating moments all of us as humans have, or when you peek into that proverbial mirror- and I'm not trying to make light of this "striving"... we all do this to some degree, but not all of us have had to have an ED, or the remnants of its grip accompany this as well.

Something Rabindranath Tagore once stated:

"Usually we think of the mind as a mirror recieving accurate impressions of the world outsde, not realizing that the mind itself is the principal element of creation."

Some interesting double-blind studies (if I find the papers I can fax to you, or maybe you might find the link) were done at the Uni of Cali Med Center by Randolf Byrd which illuminate on consciousness as the source of experience, "the play of mystery itself". Sometimes we all get a leading role and/or small interesting parts! I think that's why we can still resonate with Shakespeare so well too!

Again... I'm not belittling or trying to undermine your conflict (and that's probably wording it wrong and/or assuming too much- ugh!)

What I'm trying to say in too many words is BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF, Carrie- Luv yourself too! I think it's a challenge in a rigorously demanding society that on one hand promotes excess, consumerism, mass capitalism, etc. and then brow-beats ultra eco-purity with absolute 100% organic-ness or you are labled a "green sinner"- sheesh!

Sometimes we just can't take it too seriously... do enjoy those Cheez-Nipz!


emmy. said...

first of all, i love the way you write. and i feel like i was reading about myself. i'm sure most with an eating disorder can relate... that's what we do. my mom often comments on how hard i am on myself and i just can't help it. i've managed to stop manifesting itself in the form of an ed, and it IS getting easier for me to let go of things, but there's still always that pin prick of "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU" first. pardon my language. it's something you need to start slow with, but it really is possible to fight it. i never thought i'd say it, but i'm getting better with it.

second, i wanted to let you know that my url has changed to if you get a second, i'd really appreciate if you could change my link for indexing purposes. thanks :)

hang in there, hun.

Anonymous said...

Carrie, I can relate. You may want to check out the book, "When Perfect isn't Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism by Martin Antony. Truly a helpful (and not cheesey) book.

Tiptoe said...

I definitely hear you on this one. I think people can tell you so many times that you are good enough just the way you are, but it's the whole concept of believing it that makes it real. I know for me, I hope it's one of those things that will eventually click or that I'll stop listening to that inner critic voice of myself and realize that being who I am, just the way I am, is okay. That I don't need to compare or be something society thinks I should be.

It's hard. I think even for those of us who are perfectionists, it's like a both a blessing and a curse. It can get you to where you are but it also means sacrificing a bit of yourself too when we can't let it go.

I hope you will get to a point of allowing yourself to "just be" and realize that that is okay.

KC Elaine said...

I hear you on the perfectionism part...and screw whoever says certain foods are bad

carrie said...

Thank you all kindly for your support. I really do appreciate it. I'm taking it all in, "crunching on it" as my former therapist would say.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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