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Perfectionism vs. Healthy Striving: What's the Difference?


Perfectionism tends to dominate the wellness and nutrition world. It doesn't help that we are bombarded with posts on social media of influencers or people we know only posting the highlights of their health and fitness journeys. Individuals feel if they don't do everything absolutely perfectly, it means they need to throw in the towel and give up on any goal they may have. It can also prevent individuals from seeking support or working to improve behaviors at all.



Brene Brown sums up perfectionism with the following: "Perfectionism at its core is about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports.) Somewhe


re along the way they adopted this dangerous debilitating belief system: 'I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.'


Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle." When it comes to our nutrition and eating habits, perfectionism is a defense mechanism and does not equate to healthy growth. In fact, it sets us up for shame and self blame. According to Brown, "if we want freedom from perfectionism we have to make the long journey from 'what will other people think?' to 'I am enough.'"

Describing this as a long journey is right, but that does not mean it cannot be done or is not worth the trip. There is beauty and freedom in being real, owning our imperfect natures and embracing ourselves with self compassion. Working towards this is one concept I work with others to learn in counseling. This

doesn't always need to be a massive event. It can also look like the following: "I remind myself, 'Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.'

A twenty minute walk that I do is better than the four mile run that I don't do.

The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.

The dinner party take-out food is better than the elegant dinner I never host.'"

-Gretchen Rubin

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