Friend to Friend–> Perfectionism!

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Perfectionism.  Michelle requested a post about this and while it’s much easier to talk about things I’ve overcome in the past, let’s talk about something I still struggle with.  I do know I have made a lot of progress.

I grew up around two incredible parents (an inventor/electrical engineer and the world’s best mom that was also a University math major) and four very successful older siblings.  Valedictorian (my brother) the doctor, a physics major/patent attorney, mechanical engineer/pilot, my sister was a straight A student with a Bachelor’s in psychology and a competition winning pianist, super kind/hilarious/amazing siblings.  <— I am so mad at them all for doing so many great things with their lives (I kid).  I think I was born with some perfectionism but then I also put a lot of pressure on myself to measure up to be like them.  I’ve always joked that all of my parents’ amazing brain DNA was taken up by the time they got to the fifth child!

I think a lot of my eating problems came from my perfectionism.  Food and exercise were something I could actually completely control during a time in my life that felt completely out of control (aka my 1st marriage).  I could ensure I was eating/exercising perfectly (in my brain at the time eating perfectly meant not enough and only “healthy foods”… which is the opposite of healthy in my opinion now) so I went for it and paid for it with my health.  I could make sure that I ate perfectly and it was something that I could chase after each day.  Fast forward a few years of therapy/hard work to getting healthier/getting older/getting pregnant and the perfectionism transferred over into other areas of life and let’s be honest, it probably is still a part of my running.  I find it so satisfying to hit exactly the paces that a coach gives to me or execute a race just the way I dreamed but it also has transferred over to my work, my kitchen, being a mom, my relationships etc.  That’s the problem sometimes with addictions, to get rid of one you sometimes transfer it over to another but at least these are healthier for me and not something that takes over my thoughts like it used to.  PS too bad my perfectionism has never transferred over to my grammar mistakes and other things like that ha:)

I’m constantly trying to find new ways to cope with perfectionism.  It helps a lot to find different ways (and I would love to learn from any of you).

*I have a nephew that has cognitive disabilities but goodness he is so incredibly quick to understand people.  He will come up to me when he can tell I am acting anxious and rushing around trying to do things and he will put his hand on my face and say, ‘Calm, calm, calm.’  Andrew laughs because I’m sure he is thinking the same thing.  When I am by myself and feeling like I’m not measuring up to the standards I have set for myself I actually close my eyes sometimes and picture my nephew telling me to ‘calm, calm, calm.’  For some reason this visualization helps me to stop and readjust.

*I unfollow anyone that sets me off.  Is it their fault they set me off?  Absolutely not.  It’s me.  I’ve learned that certain accounts make me be harder on myself and feel like I’m not doing enough.  When I unfollow then I forget and it feels a lot better.

*Age truly is helping me.  I care a lot less with each year of life what other people think of me and the need to do things perfectly.  Adding more kids to the mix forces me to let go of my perfectionism also because I don’t have the time or energy anymore and I really don’t want to pass this to them.

*I find myself struggling with perfectionism most in my parenting.  I mess up every single day, hundreds of times.  I remember texting my mom about this one day and she told me to think about all of the times that she messed up as a mom.  I couldn’t remember any of them.  I could remember that she played cards with me at the table after school every day, that she always ate dinner with me, that she was at my tennis matches and that she was always there to listen to me.  I told her this and she told me that she made a million mistakes too but kids don’t tend to remember the little things we obsess over… they remember you being there for them and spending time with them which I know that I do even though I make many mistakes.  So even though I forget the dress-up days at school EVERY SINGLE TIME or have no idea how to be crafty for their projects or cry too often… I remind myself that they are going to remember me loving them completely most.

*When I’m not hitting the expectations that I have set for myself I really am trying to train my brain muscle to be kinder to myself.  To let it go and to remember what I say to the kids all of the time, ‘nobody is perfect.’

*I give myself some tough love and when I’m getting frustrated for not doing something right or the way I envisioned it… I remind myself that I’m being selfish. I need to stop thinking about myself so much.  Like usual, thinking about OTHERS and focusing on helping them helps us with so many different problems.

*I think about how I would talk to my best friend/mom/sister and if I’m not talking to myself in that same way, it needs to stop immediately.

*Andrew has really helped me.  It took me a while to truly believe that he loved me regardless of what I could do and for exactly who I am in each moment.  Once I realized that the things I did/did not do perfectly had nothing to do with how he felt about me it felt like a weight was lifted off of my chest.  The same goes for my kids.  I’ve realized that they just adore me for me and that has nothing to do with the things I achieve.  People will not love us more for being perfect, if anything people love you more when you are vulnerable and real about your life.

*The Gifts of Imperfection and Present Over Perfect—> Such helpful tools for me.

*Saying no/simplifying, playing with the kids, going outside and being still are all things that help me.

*I loved what Lauren Freshman wrote on her post the other day (I cannot wait for her book).  There are so many negative side-effects from living in perfectionism but all I can do now is be kinder to myself and take what I’ve learned in the past to help me today!

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Do you ever struggle with perfectionism?  What helps you?  Or what helps the people in your life that you know that deal with this?  

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39 comments

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This post is EXACTLY what I needed today!!! and this sentence makes me laugh the most
“I think about how I would talk to my best friend/mom/sister and if I’m not talking to myself in that same way, it needs to stop immediately.”… My friend actually said to me the other day.. you need to stop and listen to yourself when you talk about yourself because if you heard someone else beat themselves up the way you beat yourself up you wouldn’t stand for it. I too feel that I had a Superwoman mom that raised 4 kids by herself (because my dad was a pilot and always travelling) and I don’t remember her losing her cool or stressing out as much as I do as a mom .. and I only have 1 kid.. Great post!!! Great Great post!!!

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Oh thank you so much Melissa! And your little one is going to feel the same way about you when they are grown up! You are doing amazing and please keep in touch!

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Also exactly what I needed to read today – thanks so much for sharing, Janae! I LOVE your nephew’s “calm, calm, calm” – I think it might just be my new everyday-mantra!

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Yes, yes, yes… I hope that his advice helps you too:) . Have a beautiful day Karien and thanks for reading!

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Love love love this post!! Thank you for always being so vulnerable and open with us. So many of us deal with the same struggles. I struggled with disordered eating and my perfectionism/ obsession with running helped fueled those. I’ve since received help and learned ways to stop myself from going down those cycles. But it’s nice to know you aren’t alone!

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I am SO so happy that you were able to get help to learn how to cope! Nope, definitely not alone! Thank you for sharing Caitlin and keep me updated with how you are doing:)

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Thank you for sharing. I am a perfectionist too. I never had an eating disorder but I, like many, have crazy high expectations of myself. I battled breast cancer last year and going through that process changed things for me. It gave me a different perspective I guess you could say. Now, I care a lot less, almost not enough, about what others think. I am still a perfectionist but only about things that matter to me, it’s not for anyone else. We only have one life to live and we need to do that, love yourself, flaws and all. None of us are perfect and honestly if we were, what a boring place we would live in.

Reducing anxiety can really help too because it helps stop our obsessing over the things we love to obsess about. Changing my diet and getting rid of sugar really helped me with this. I didn’t realize how much my anxiety was linked to the foods I was eating, stemming from sugar and refined carbs.

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Stacey, I am so so sorry about what you have been going through this last year. You are incredible for learning so much throughout this process. Interesting about the sugar… I’ve never linked those together! Thank you for opening up Stacey and please keep me updated with how you are doing. Love yourself, flaws and all… love that so much!

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Thank you for sharing your tips and stories, Janae! I have found myself being too hard on myself since having Diana, about being a “perfect” mama and everything going smoothly. Things definitely will never be perfect, but she’ll know that I love her, mucho! I liked your reminder of never remembering the imperfect times with your mom, I agree about mine, too! Love and feeling loved is the most important thing for kiddos and us big kiddos, too!

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Yes, yes and yes. I can completely relate to what you said. Something about being a mom turned me into wanting to do it perfectly because I just want to give them the best life possible. They don’t want perfect, they just want LOVE. I hope you have a wonderful evening Jenny!

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Thank you for this post! I have been told at work by a person I really respect that sometimes my approach is as a perfectionist and sometimes I need to let that go. It was hard for me to hear.

There’s this podcast – mind matters – here’s the link from Spotify. It’s called “overcoming perfectionism” released on 2018 Apr 4.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/5AQBTodFu0V87Cr3UgVW5t?si=scB7QtFpSJOEpOKN-LwrNw

You say that you aren’t like your siblings but I think you probably are and don’t see it!

Thank you for sharing your struggle – Please continue to share resources about this! There are those of us who may not quite have a condition (obsessive compulsive disorder? Or something else?) but we still have struggled with this interfering with our lives. Thank you for talking about this.

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Daily. The struggle with this is constant for me. All of my siblings were very successful in school and work too. I pushed myself and judged myself every day growing up because I didn’t think I was good enough. It caused a lot of problems. But I do so many of the things you mentioned helped you too.

You are so successful in your ways! And nobody is perfect .

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“Unfollow anyone that sets me off” Yes, yes, and yes. I recently took a month off from facebook. When I came back, I unfollowed a lot of people and now my experience is way more enjoyable on that site. Social media shouldn’t make you unhappy! Also, I’m happy I grew up without social media and wish it would go away before my kids become of age for it. Wishful thinking.

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Oh man, this hits close to home! Honestly, I try my best to “not care” about other people’s perception of me (except for things like at work or my friends, of course) but I think social media sometimes feeds into this idea that we have to be perfect. People modify/manipulate their Instagram pictures to the point where they don’t even look human – NOBODY has perfectly poreless skin!! It definitely can be that way in the fitness/running community on social media as well.
Thank you so much for sharing – and for being real! I try to read your blog every day, and I appreciate that you share your highs and your lows. :)

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Perfectionism is really tough. As both someone who struggles with this and someone training to be a licensed mental health counselor, I realize how important it is to try to be kind to ourselves. It goes back to the image you posted a few weeks ago that our bodies are eavesdropping on our thoughts!

One thing you may have learned from your counselor that I find particularly helpful for myself and with clients is focusing on changing to more realistic thoughts. Especially with ED we can have suppppper negative thoughts that make us think we are doing the worst possible thing (i.e. I can’t believe I just did that, I’m such a failure!!). Rather than changing it to be super positive and something that our brain won’t really believe, we can work to have more “realistic” thoughts that are kinder to us (i.e. I made a mistake, I am not perfect, and that is ok). It is helpful to consciously change these thoughts every time they come up rather than saying oh well I did that but I’m still awesome;)..which is TRUE of course, but harder for our brains to believe and less likely that we will continue to change our thoughts.

It hits close to home that addiction has to shift to another area. With eating disorders, you’re in remission for life, never really fully recovered (although I do 100% believe God can heal us from anything). So, sometimes we have to take our ED behaviors and change them to something positive. I think that’s why we see so many runners with EDs, not because running causes it but because people with ED tend to find running as a way to control their perfectionism and deal with their negative thoughts. It has really helped me to find running, but when the ED thoughts creep in I have to be careful to combat them especially while exercising a lot!! Also, last cycle I had a coach and so she would assign me runs every week and I was the same as you mentioned–>trying to hit every workout perfectly and every pace perfectly. The problem is, that can also lead to injury (as it did with me) if we don’t listen to our bodies and realize hey, I can skip a day and still be ok cause that’s what my body needs. I really see you working on this and doing so well, and it’s something I need to work on as well.

Thank you so much for sharing this and being so real. You are helping so many women realize they are not alone/not crazy/not *insert mean thing about ourselves here*. :)

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Some good things in this post. I too have lots of perfectionism in me. I too have a very successful family, so much that I used to never notice my own successes (it’s just different than theirs). The part I loved most about this post, and needed to read, was about Moms making mistakes and the kids not remembering those moments. Only the love they have received. The little trivial hiccups are not remembered. Mistakes and failures are how we learn, and I like to teach my daughter that. I just don’t think I personally do it. Need to let those go and let tomorrow be a new day. I think we are our hardest critics. I also unfollow anyone with any unnecessary negativity in anyway. Just don’t need that. Perfectionism is an illusion, I try to strive for just better than yesterday.

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oh my goodness, Janae, you made my day with this post. I almost burst into tears when you spoke about making mistakes as a mother. I have been feeling woefully inadequate as a mother lately. i’ve been super cranky at the end of the day because of work and feeling like a total failure with my kids. I know I make countless mistakes as a parent. But you are so right that what matters is showing your love. I know my kids feel love every day, even though I screw up with them regularly. I do hope that is enough…
Thank you thank you, you are so inspiring and your words are brilliant. I think you’ve inherited SOO Much intelligence! You have brilliant social and emotional intelligence. Don’t forget that!
Have an amazing day!
Mary

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This is such an interesting post! And what you said about Andrew resonated with me.
I was never an “official” perfectionist (meaning I’m pretty messy and don’t always care that much about my work, ahem) but I realised I am SUCH a perfectionist in my relationships. I feel like I need to be a perfect friend or spouse all the time! It took me years to understand and accept that my partner (and now husband) doesn’t need or even want perfect, he needs me to be real and to be there.
I’m still working on it :) All the best to you and thanks for those great posts!!!

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I am definitely going to have to practice finding my calm calm calm! I love that your nephew is no in-tuned to others! Sounds like an amazing kiddo!
Every single day I struggle with parenting and on those days that there are no tantrums, sibling battles, hard negotiations etc I feel I’ve finally got it down! Only to have a night, like last night, where the boys could not pull themselves together … I struggle with blaming myself for not being able to be present every second of every day but I know I would be lacking in self care if 100% of myself went to them. I need to shower, cook, sit for a sec etc but it seems to be during those times is when the struggle bus comes for my boys and then I run around like a mad woman between cooking, breaking up arguments, consoling a crier etc. I’ve succumbed to the thought I just need to be comfortable with my decisions and stop comparing myself to others and stop trying to be perfect all the time.
Perfection has no lessons in it. Practice, patience, growth, allowing to be humbled … that’s where the lessons are. I can only hope I’m able to model enough of the good stuff to my kids and they forget the times I’m an emotional basket case!
Thank you for the helpful tips on how to cope!!!
Have a great day!

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Yes…all this! The struggle is real for sure! I had a realization a little while ago as far as my perfectionism with parenting. My mom and I were reminiscing and a memory for her that involved guilt and shame was one of my absolute favorite memories. So your mom is right…you don’t remember the mistakes your parents make ..but you also may be giving your kiddos a blessing! Thank you for bringing this topic to light. I too often think our society believes perfectionism is a good thing…SO not true!

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Thank you for this post. I think with the rise of social media it amplifies those perfectionist tendencies in people who struggle with it. I love the unfollow people advice, this has helped me so much.
A mantra that really helped me is “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. If I couldn’t do something “perfectly” (healthy eating, recycling, whatever!) I would almost give up and not want to do it at all. Now I remind myself nobody is perfect and I can be “good” or “good enough” for myself and my family with the resources and effort that I have.

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I can’t even tell you how much this struck a chord with me. I’m drowning in perfectionism and I’m just learning to take a breathe and step back. I started reading Rachel Cruze’s book ‘Love Your Life Not Theirs’ and it’s been helping a lot! Comparison is truly the thief of joy and I’ve just decided I’m done with it. I’m working on loving myself and my circumstances and to stop sweating the small stuff. I will NEVER be perfect and trying to be is exhausting. It’s so nice to hear/read/see we’re all the same. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and strength.

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I really loved this post, Janae! What hit home was your realization that those who matter will love you for YOU versus your achievements. As a runner coming from a very high-achieving family as well, I’ve always felt like I’ve had something to prove. Over the weekend I ran my 6th marathon and my mantra during the tough miles was “I am enough…”. Understanding that doing nothing/just being you is enough is something I am working on myself. Thank you for this post!

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Oh, Your friend to friend posts are my FAVORITES! Thanks for posting this, I needed this today.

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I have a sticky note in my desk drawer with the word TRIGGER written on it. I actually listed a couple of names on the note of people who “trigger” a negative thought pattern or response in me. I have a specific customer’s name on the note and a couple of my employees. HaHa. I am reminded to take a deep breath and listen first; then respond.
I agree with you. The older I get, the more I focus on what is important to me and my family (with God’s grace). I realized years ago, that most people are too worried about their own lives to really think about how you’re handling your life. Thanks for posting on this subject. Instead of perfectionism, I now strive for excellence.

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Being a perfect mom includes your kids witnessing the honesty of being human.
Thank you for a beautifully honest post.

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Wow, what a great post! Your nephew sounds like he has a special gift and I will be thinking of his “calm, calm, calm” now too! And I really love what your Mom said and think that’s so helpful for parents to be reminded of. It’s so so true, when I think of my Mom all I remember is the love and support she gave, the silliness, the fun we had. I’m sure there were plenty of times she felt like a failure, but her warmth and love is what really mattered.

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This was a wonderful post. Especially in light of all the social media we take in. I am always feeling like I need to buy another new thing, or run faster or beat myself up for working out of the house full time but really we just need to remember to do “us” and that we are enough.

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I totally feel you on a lot of this, and oddly, perfectionism can backfire on us – once you aren’t “perfect” anymore, why bother at all? Like doing a race, you aren’t meeting your goal, so, why even try? Just jog it in. But that’s silly, you could still have a great race/place in your age group/feel better later/who even knows.

Definitely giving up on caring about what other people think is huge. I’m so over that game.

Another thing that helps me is thinking about how 20% of the effort gets you 80% of the results. Sometimes we really want to make the investment to get closer to 100% (training for a big goal race, huge project at work). Other times, the 80% is a-ok (Wednesday night dinner, newsletter for kids’ soccer team). Invest your time and effort wisely.

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Wow! I really needed to read this post today. I had a great race on Saturday and came in 4/57 in my age group and I was pretty excited about this. Then I saw a photo of myself running and felt that I looked so fat that I couldn’t see the fierceness that got me there. So what if I’m a little heavier? It’s so hard to accept our bodies and to appreciate them for what they do—which is actually pretty amazing.

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Wow I just did the ugly cry. I can relate not because of having an amazing family growing up but the opposite. No one went to college. We didn’t eat dinner together. It was chaotic. And now that I’m a parent, I want that perfect life and it did encourage me to graduate with a degree and instill the push for my kids to higher education. (Not a bad thing) But I get super frustrated when the demands of it all to be it all and do it all come to fruition and I know that demand comes from within. It’s hard. Parenting is extremely humble and hard and having 3 kids I can’t control is hard. But teaching them self control in a crazy world of excess is important but hard. But I LOVE your saying, we can do hard things. I need to learn to say no more to outside things. Not be a people pleaser. Being present is another goal of mine and stop planning so much. Thank you for this reminder and post. I sometimes think the reason why I have such amazing good friends is because I am not perfect. People can be real and relax when we are too.

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Oh my goodness the timing of this is perfect! You are amazing and have such a positive influence in the way you write.
Age has been huge for me-the old you get the more you realize everything doesn’t have to perfect. AND YES to just loving our kids. It isn’t what they are wearing, it is those memories that we have to live for.
Thank you thank you for this!!

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I love your nephew’s amazing ability to recognize and address your emotions. “Calm, calm, calm”. So sweet and what a gift!

I’ve struggled with this too, and still do (though less severely than I used to). I think my drive to be perfect came from a core belief that I wasn’t worth loving (i. e. there was something wrong with me), so I had to constantly be better to be loveable. I realized I held that belief when my marriage was falling apart, and though it didn’t change the outcome (divorce) I’ve grown SO much since that realization. Many books, therapy sessions, anti-anxiety meds, etc. later, I finally realized that I just had to decide that I was good enough, right now, exactly as I am. For whatever reason (all of the above growth…) that makes sense and feels true to me now, and I feel less compelled to have to change or prove myself to be loveable. I just am. We all are. So, I guess this is a long winded way of saying, I think letting go of perfectionism is a journey and it sounds like you’re on your way :)

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Ah thank u thank u thank u for today’s post. I suffer with mom guilt some of the time! It’s impossible to not drop the ball sometimes and feel like you failed the people you love the most. I love your moms answer that’s very very true and encouraging. Thanks for sharing!

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This actually came up at work today. At some point, extreme perfectionism in a team environment causes problems. Being humble and staying curious solves more problems than ego and perfectionism . “Have the courage to be imperfect”.

I love this post. Thank you!

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This was such a wonderful, vulnerable post that I think is needed. Especially on social media, where people mostly show the “perfect” moments. It makes things even harder for us perfectionists who feel like they are never good enough or that no one else feels the same way. Thanks for opening up and being real Janae! X

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I can totally relate- compared to my super successful sister, I’ve felt like I need to be a perfectionist to prove myself. I suffered from an eating disorder as well, which was the perfect way to feel in control and channel my perfectionism. I have recovered as well, and now my perfectionism is focused in running. Although I’m still hard on myself I agree that as we age, our priorities change and perfectionism is not as important. You are an inspiration and so many of your readers (me!) love you and your story. Stay true to you and keep being the best runner mom and wife you can be!

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Thank you for talking about this–I think this is something you see in a lot of runners, because perfectionists want to push themselves. I’ve been working on this a lot over the last maybe 5 years, and the most helpful thing I’ve started doing is to ask myself when perfectionism is a good thing for me, and when it’s not. Or, in other words: When is it helping and when is it hindering?

I think wanting to be your best and do your best can be great, because it helps us achieve great things. I write, and sometimes spending lots of time on just a few words can allow me to write something great–but sometimes it just means I’m hunched over my computer for way too long and not giving myself a break when I need one or accepting that sometimes “good enough” really IS good enough. I try to listen to my stress cues and just take a break when I notice I really need one. This is the same with running–I want to run so many miles a week, but sometimes my body needs to NOT run one day, and I need to be okay with not pushing it so I don’t injure myself or push too far. And then be okay with not hitting my exact running goal. I’m still working on this, but I’ve gotten much better at knowing when perfectionism is helping and when it is hurting.

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THANK YOU for being so vulnerable and honest. love this post, J! and so many of use can relate in one way or another. all of you, ALL OF YOU ROCK! i really like the coping mechanisms, too, especially the nephew one :) i’m going to think of that one for sure. i find with age i certainly care a lot less, but perfectionism for me is a continuous, daily battle when it comes to exercise. baby steps.

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