The perils of pursuing perfection

Pursuing perfection at the cost of living a life of balance causes an all-or-nothing rollercoaster.

Hot on the heels of Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram post about habits and how to be productive, the response from Ina Garten drew a big round of applause.

If you have zero idea of what I’m talking about, congratulations, you spend less time on the internet than I do and likely you won’t be reading this post either. For those of you that may be curious, I’ve added screenshots of both Reese’s post and the Barefoot Contessa’s response. 

 First, let’s delve into Reese’s caption.

“Start the day with a big glass of water, get in 10 minutes of outdoor light, Spend 30-60 minutes of reading without distraction, in bed by 10 pm.”

FABULOUS advice when life is going well, but what happens when you don’t do it? Maybe you woke up to one of the kiddos being sick? Or when you stay up all night as a caregiver for an elderly relative? What about the days that the only way you can manage “no distraction” is by contemplating which felony would get you maximum solitary confinement at the federal pen? 

We are a culture that over glorifies “perfection”. And, ironically, the book that Reese calls out in the post as inspiring her zest for creating a “productive life”, Atomic Habits, (which is one of the RWFL Book Club books) is written on the basis of creating tiny, achievable habits. None of the ones she listed are “tiny”, and the author of the book never suggested tackling big behavioral or habit changes all at one time.

Does this mean that her list of habits is impossible to achieve? I don’t believe so, okay, maybe that no distractions one is a bit laughable. However, these are all wonderful habits that surely will help in creating space for productivity and feeling better. 

Maybe you are motivated to do the same thing as your shero, Reese. What happens, when you didn’t get a chance to read? Or you forget the glass of water first thing in the morning? If you are like most, you throw in the towel, and the entire list goes out the window while you scroll through TikTok in bed shortly after midnight. 

This then brings us to Ina Garten’s response. 

“Drink more large cosmos, stay up late watching addictive streaming series, stay in bed in the morning playing Sudoku, spend more time with people you love.”

As evident by the “likes” and the responses and even this Thrillist article, folks loved the rebellious response eschewing “perfection” and productivity with decadence and indulgence. 

I mean who doesn’t want to laze around and drink cocktails? Especially if you were supposed to start the day with the productive habits that Reese shared and by 9 am you had already “messed” up all of them.

ABSOLUTELY! We should indulge and give ourselves permission to exist without the need to be productive or perfect.  We should drink the cosmo or for me, it’s always going to be a flute of bubbly, we should have days that we stay in bed blissfully indulgent, lazy mornings, and spend time with our loved ones. 

And therein, lies the problem. 

I see it every day working with clients that have the all-or-nothing approach to diets, exercise, work habits, productivity, wellness. Either all of the things are perfectly checked off or nothing is worth pursuing. We have become so programmed to feel that if we can’t do it perfectly that we shouldn’t do it at all, that we continue pursuing this cycle of extremes. 

This cycle leads to feeling intense emotions of shame, despair, frustration, anger, not to mention the long-term consequences to our health with yo-yo-dieting, starvation diets, excessive workout regimens, overeating, staying sedentary, isolating. 

So my wish for you, my friend, is to enjoy the sunshine, drink the water when you remember it, try to send yourself to bed early or maybe indulge in a nap, but also drink the cosmo, read a book, and scroll through TikTok. 

Find joy in pursuing balance and progress and learn to love the journey of being the best version of yourself in whatever that looks like for the day. Sometimes, it may be sleeping in till noon, and other times it may be a long run and nutritious meals, with family and friends.

Tired of the all-or-nothing rollercoaster, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to discuss how to navigate the journey to living a balanced life.

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