Yesterday's holiday stirred up some poignant memories.
When I was 12 years old, I spent hours in a department store with my mom desperately searching every rack for the perfect green shirt to wear to school on St. Patrick's Day. It was the night before and, with empty hands, I quickly spiraled into a state of distress. Without the perfect shirt, I was absolutely convinced my entire holiday would be ruined.
Funny thing is, I can't remember anything about the actual holiday. But my memory of how distraught I felt is crystal clear. At such a young age, I was completely hitching my happiness to external things. Over time, the perfect shirt turned into the perfect hair and, eventually, the perfect body.
In junior high, if my hair didn't look just right, I spent the entire day in a funk. I remember pointing out to friends how awful it looked. It was critical that I acknowledged it first before they had a chance to say anything (the perfect strategy for protecting myself from my own imaginary ideas about what they were thinking!).
My Apple and Candy Bar Diet
My obsession with obtaining the perfect body escalated in high school. The most intense months were after my boyfriend broke up with me. I lived on an apple and candy bar a day. I figured if I was skinnier, he would regret dumping such a hot chick and come crawling back. Being skinny meant I would be more acceptable, desirable, lovable and cool--basically boyfriend-worthy and bulletproof.
My boyfriend did come back, but the size of my jeans didn't stop my heart from being broken again and again.
A 20-Ton Shield
My never-ending quest for perfection is defined so well by Brene Brown, researcher and author of The Gifts of Imperfection:
"Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It's a 20-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it's the thing that's really preventing us from taking flight."
Body Bashing Banned
In recent years, I've been releasing my deeply ingrained beliefs regarding perfectionism, especially when it comes to my body. No longer are my days consumed and ruined by my body bashing. No longer does all my energy and headspace go toward fixing it. Naturally I want a strong, healthy body but I no longer believe I will be more happy and lovable when I fit into my skinny jeans.
I've made peace with my reflection in the mirror. I won't lie; it wasn't easy. Not at first. But I kept at it. Whenever I caught myself going down the path of self-attack, I hit the breaks and turned toward love. As a result, I feel lighter on my feet and in my body, but more importantly, I feel lighter in my heart.
Is your quest for the perfect body, weight, diet, workout regime, relationship, job, or whatever stopping you from taking flight?