Balance Perfectionism

I participated in a group discussion recently regarding perfectionism. We were given a list of types of perfectionism – physical, achievement, perceived, emotional, self-esteem, relationship, etcetera. With so much talk about wellness and balance, I think sometimes I fall into balance perfectionism. Maybe some of that comes from the notion of being able to have it all – or even having to do my wellness "perfectly".

Orthorexia was mentioned on this blog back in May – an extreme need to eat perfectly healthily. Balance perfection, for me, goes beyond that. When in treatment, I put pressure on myself to do the meal plan perfectly – put in lots of variety, can't have the same thing twice, have to challenge myself with "scary" foods. That's helpful to an extent, but not if I have to spend hours deciding what to eat because my meals have to be "perfect". It comes with exercise, too – having the perfect balance – cardio, muscle building, yoga, so many times a week.

Then there's my need to have social balance – how many friends have I talked to today? Have I had any calls? Any e-mails? Am I being too withdrawn?

And then I need to make sure I have a certain amount of time to myself per day, quiet time – have I scheduled a certain part of my day for that? I must journal, reflect. It's beautiful out today, I mustn't be inside, I need to be out for some fresh air. But not too long, if it's too hot – that's not healthy. And heaven forbid I forget my sunscreen. Oh, and I must read the paper – keep up with what's going on around me. And read a book – one that's won some sort of prize or will make me a better person for reading it. Oh, and I haven't been to a movie in a while – what's that one that the critics are raving about? But, I must get a certain amount of sleep – can't stay up late to watch that movie – must be in bed by 11 and wake up by 7 – that's healthy.

The thing that saves me from all these "musts" is mindfulness – and, no, that doesn't mean ensuring that I take a scheduled 10 minutes out of my day to meditate (though that might work for some). I have to say "Wait a minute, I'm feeling stressed, this can't be good for my wellness." Sometimes I just have to go with the flow – what do I need right now? Alone time? Time with a friend? A walk in the park? A nap? Something sweet? Writing a blog that I've been putting off for weeks?

Sometimes, I need to balance my balance.

Karen Cox is a social worker, health educator, and peer supporter in Toronto. She is also "in recovery".