I lived the majority of my earlier years believing I was a “type B.” I was arrogant in this belief, and even made jokes about “type A’s.” (Sorry folks!) That was until an individual who knows me extremely well, one that I trust dearly, who also happens to know a lot about human behavior, informed me that I was really a type A, and had been masquerading as a type B. My gig was over. I think it’s hilarious now, but at the time I was blown away…and mortified…and flabbergasted… I was in complete disbelief. Silly, I know…
My reasoning for believing I was a type B was that I was frequently late to social functions, and I don’t get upset about a lot of things. (Very insightful, eh?) I am typically able to roll with the punches of life. Didn’t that make me a type B?? Type B’s seemed so much more chill to me at the time. For some reason, I had a belief that all type A’s dressed like conservative school librarians…
As I shared this little nugget of news with those closest to me, they all gave me the same look, and they also laughed. Just to clarify- not with me, but at me. They were shocked it took me so long to figure it out…or maybe admit it… Apparently it was obvious to everyone but myself.
The reality is that I am extremely focused, driven, and motivated. Within this, I had also become, over time, quite a perfectionist. (Yet somehow this didn’t include punctuality to social functions- still can’t figure that one out…) I tried for years to make “perfect” decisions, to do the “correct” thing, to give the “right” answer, etc. If I couldn’t figure out what they were, I became stuck and anxious. It was all very black or white- with little grey area or wiggle room. Wasn’t there a right or a wrong, a good or a bad, a pass or a fail? Life would be so much simpler if there were.
Nope…the reality is that there is a very small right or wrong area, and an enormous grey area. Yet, so many of us insist on doing things perfectly. Or, I should say, trying to do things perfectly. But what happens when we aim for perfection, and come up short?
How does this relate to our health? How many times have you tried to adapt a healthy behavior, only to “fail” at it in a few days, weeks, months, or maybe even minutes? So many of us strive for perfection- “I will work out three times a week for at least 45 minutes,” and when we miss a few days, we quit. We lose motivation, begin to feel badly about ourselves, and give up. We create goals for ourselves with the best of intentions, and when we don’t accomplish them exactly as we planned to, we lose steam.
I only started to be able to accomplish health goals when I began to be more flexible and compassionate towards myself. I finally recognized that anything is better than nothing. Little steps add up to big milestones. All or nothing doesn’t work for me. So, when I started juicing a few months ago, and wanted to make sure I incorporated it into my life regularly- instead of doing the usual “I will juice every day,” I decided to set a “loose goal” of juicing at least five days a week.
I refer to it as a “loose goal” because life is busy and complicated, and I need flexibility or I won’t be able to maintain the goal. So, I aim to juice five days a week- if I come up a day or two short, so be it. There is no “juicing police” who will ticket me. I still juiced a few days and my body benefited from that. If I am able to juice every day in a week, then I get an added bonus towards my health. Once I stopped harping on the need to do it perfectly, I was able to keep up with it. Same goes with exercise for me.
My belief is that when we let go of trying to be perfect, and find compassion for ourselves, we are able to achieve far more. And, it’s actually enjoyable. Who wants to do something that they beat themselves up about over, and over, and over again? Of course you’re going to give up when you’re shaming yourself because you missed a couple of workouts, or ate a pint of hagen dazs (I shall remain nameless….oops…too late…).
But, if you find compassion for yourself, realize you are simply trying to be the best person you can be, and acknowledge there is no way things are going to be perfect, you’re able to push through a few lapses, or maybe even many lapses. There may be times you are better able to keep up with your goals, and other times they start to lapse a bit. That’s okay. Even if you aren’t doing whatever it is as frequently as you’d prefer, you’re still benefiting from it, and there isn’t any benefit to quitting it completely.
Please- don’t forget- any improvement is better than no improvement. Small steps do add up to big milestones, and of course, good health is contagious- pass it on!