There’s something about health and fitness that makes it a prime target for perfectionism.
This drive for perfection, though, ultimately only leads to feelings of failure and inadequacy.
This is because perfection with health and fitness does not exist, and until we realize this, we’ll be chasing an unattainable goal.
We’ll be working to live up to expectations we can’t possibly meet.
Some of these expectations are those of other people.
Our current culture has for decades created an unrealistic picture of what we all should look like.
Magazine covers, movies, advertisements, and even social media accounts show only the highlight reel of the human body.
Just as unrealistic as the bodies we’re told to have are the efforts we’re told to take to achieve them.
We’re constantly sold quick fixes, tips, and hacks that promise quick results.
These do nothing but leave us wasting time, money, and effort feeling like we’re the ones who are broken when we don’t see the outcomes we’ve been told we’d achieve.
Living up to our own expectations can sometimes be as unreasonable as living up to those of others
We’ve determined that achieving a certain weight, size, or shape will somehow magically make our lives better.
We’ve heard that something has worked for somebody else, so we tell ourselves that if it’s not working for us, there’s something wrong with us.
We walk into rooms thinking everybody is judging how we look or how much we weigh.
We set ourselves impossible standards for success, aiming for 100% or none at ll.
If we’re out to eat and can’t order exactly what we’d like to, we say, “screw it”, and order whatever looks good or convenient.
If we can’t eat every meal in alignment with our goals, we tell ourselves that this is what we always do, and the rest of the week is shot.
We tell ourselves that we’ll start on Monday, so we spending the next few days doing nothing but indulging because we only know “on” and “off”.
These patterns, and countless others, are the result of seeking perfection.
Sure, some strategies are better than others.
What we eat, how we move, and how manage stress, sleep, and our environment matter.
Yet we can never be perfect.
No matter how effective our strategy is and no matter how consistently we’re implementing it, there will always be better – or at least different – ways of doing things.
Even those whose livelihoods depend on optimizing their physical condition – professional athletes, for example – are constantly seeking and finding ways to improve.
Arguably, peak athleticism (physique or otherwise) isn’t even reflective of what one would consider perfection, as these athletes still seek to maximize abilities in a narrow band of skills and traits, and the outcomes their pursuing don’t match our own.
There’s subjectivity involved, and what’s superior or ideal to one person won’t be to another.
Just as the ideal outcome isn’t objectively defined, neither is the ideal approach.
We’re far from having a clear grasp of what’s optimal, even for the mean, much less the individual.
The odds of us actually choosing a strategy that’s “perfect” are dismal.
Even if we were to find some “perfect” strategy, and adhere to it with unwavering consistency, are physical outcomes the only ones we value?
Most, if not all of us, are constantly weighing our often-competing values.
What else do we want to dedicate our time towards?
Time is not the only constraint within which we must work.
What’s our budget?
To what training equipment do we have access?
What food is available?
We’re constantly making trade-offs when we make any decision, and those we make in pursuit of our health and fitness goals are no exception.
Not to mention the myriad factors that are completely outside of our control.
Furthermore, our bodies are constantly adapting.
Although our goals may stay the same, we may need to make adjustments as we moved forward, as we no longer respond to the same stimuli.
At what point does a plan become “imperfect”?
Finally, even if we had unlimited resources at our disposal and a perfectly-planned strategy that accounted for adaptation, are we willing to dedicate every second of every day in pursuit of optimal health, body composition, or performance?
Most of us aren’t, and most of us don’t want to.
Elite competitors may have the ability and desire to do so, but for most of us the effort to move from 90% to even 95% of our potential (most of us aren’t even at that level) isn’t worth the sacrifice.
So, if we we’re not going to come even close to perfect, why are stressing out over different levels of “pretty good” (at best)?
Rather than seek to be perfect, we might instead seek to be deliberate.
We choose a strategy that works pretty well.
We choose a strategy that gets us moving in the right direction.
We choose a strategy that works within the context of our unique needs, preferences, and goals.
This is a challenge in and of itself.
We implement that strategy, acknowledging that sometimes it might change or we may deviate from it.
If we do so deliberately, in the pursuit of other worth goals, this isn’t imperfection.
This is being a resilient, responsive, complex human being.
We set the terms of our own lives, within our own circumstances, and so long as we live by those terms, we’re as close to perfect as we can hope to be.
We own our decisions.
We acknowledge our missteps.
We celebrate our wins.
We make adjustments as necessary.
So long as we’re doing so deliberately, we’ve got nothing to be ashamed for.
We’ve got nobody else to answer to.
Life’s too short to spend it living up to unreasonable or static expectations – from ourselves or from others.
Don’t seek to be perfect.
That’s a failing strategy.
Seek to be deliberate.
Your worth is not defined by anything or anybody but you.
You already are worthy.
As you are.
You always will be.
You’ve got this.