Love our Bodies, Love Ourselves:  Perfect is Boring! Part 1

The Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness (PEDAW) campaign is a BC Province wide effort to raise awareness around prevention and early intervention of eating disorders as well as media literacy, resiliency, building healthy body image and self-esteem.  The initiative is led by Jessie’s Legacy Eating Disorders Prevention Program at Family Services of the North Shore in collaboration with Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, Looking Glass Foundation, St. Paul’s Specialized Adult Eating Disorder Program, BC Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Program, and Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses. 

Visit the Love our Bodies, Love Ourselves page on Facebook:

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“Just remember to save a little of all the love you give out for yourself.  You deserve it.”

A close friend said this to me after listening to a talk I did about my struggles with disordered eating and depression. This phrase has been burning in my head ever since.  You know why?  For the first time in my 25 years, I believe it.

I know that for all the love and respect I give to my family, friends, acquaintances, community, clients, class participants and strangers, I truly deserve to give myself the same love and respect from head to toe, inside to outside.  There was a time when this was not the case.

Growing up I knew I was strong.  Gymnastics gave me the strength and endurance to adapt to most athletic endeavours quite easily. I loved that I could run fast, jump high, twirl, flip with one leg, with one arm, backwards, upside down, you name it. I loved that at recess I could play soccer and keep up (or run even FASTER) than all the boys or older kids.  I loved having muscle definition and an understanding of my body’s physiology.

There were some things I did not love.  I did not always understand directions right away.  I forgot really important things in Social Studies; yet, within the first hour of meeting them, I could remember and identify every single person’s name in the room, what they ate for breakfast and where they grew up. I did not like that I sometimes fell asleep in class, or when I scored a lower mark than someone else.

As I grew older, especially in high school, my sense of pride and love for myself faded as negative self-talk and new pressures moved in.  To deal with this, I thought that if I could appear the best at everything, I would be happy and everything would be perfect.  The title of Courtney E. Martin’s book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, describes this stage of my life.

I was striving to be the “Perfect Girl,” the perfect daughter, best friend, star student pretty girlfriend, first place athlete, Miss Congeniality.  This meant good grades, tons of friends, first place ribbons, staying healthy and no room for mistakes.  My Perfect Girl used bulimia, self-harm and negative self-image as a way to push me forward.

I was also the “Starving Daughter.” I was embarrassed and mad for not always reaching these unrealistic levels of perfection and ashamed of the destructive methods I used to cope.  I hated that my body was physically changing and becoming more womanly as I grew older. And I hated being honest or talking about my feelings.

I have changed from that girl to the person I am now.  My mental and physical health is not worth being threatened to get to this imaginary podium. Life is too short, and to be honest, perfect is boring!

Natalie Willson is a personal trainer and teaches cardiac rehab classes. Thanks to her sister Amy Willson for the image used here. Natalie lives in Vancouver, BC.