Perfectionism: When Being Your Best Is Detrimental To Your Body Transformation Goals

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We all have the desire to be our best. When we go into any endeavor, whether it comes to career, education, and even our fitness goals, we want to come out on top, be the best we can be, and do what we have to do to make our goals a reality.

There are some of us who proudly call ourselves perfectionists, and we want everything we do to be at 100% – and beyond if possible! When it comes to how we approach our diet and training, as perfectionists we prefer to have our meals perfectly on point. No cheating, no slip ups, no mistakes. We make it to every single workout, and train with the goal of being better than we ever have been before. These are all great qualities to have, indeed. But, what if I told you that placing too high of an expectation on yourself can actually hinder your goals?

Before we get into the meat of this topic, I want to point out that I’m not telling you to underachieve when it comes to your fitness goals, or to not truly work to be your best. What I want you to keep in mind is discovering for yourself what true balance means in your body transformation journey.

Perfectionism, The Double Edged Sword

As a long time personal trainer and online coach, I have witnessed clients driving themselves almost completely crazy because they set the bar too high. I’m always one to fully advocate for the 90% Rule. If you are consistent with your plan about 90% of the time, the 10% that you might slip up becomes a drop in the bucket. Meaning – don’t fret the small stuff!

Oftentimes, what I witness from clients is their growing desire to truly see their goals become a reality “this time”, or “this time around” for them to do all they can to effect physical change. These same clients always tell me that they plan on being at 100%. Diet 100%, training 100%, EVERYTHING 100%. And to be honest… It kind of makes me cringe! Because from a professional standpoint, I know and understand how time and again having the goal of 100% is unattainable. Life happens, things come up, you slip off plan with a bite of something small, or maybe even have a full on cheat meal – it happens and it’s normal. The clients that insist on 100% compliance are often the ones who nearly fall apart when things don’t go according to plan. On the other hand, the clients that adhere to the 90% Rule can successfully maneuver around these unplanned mishaps, and often see success over the longterm.

In Constant Pursuit For The Perfect Body

It’s one thing to have an ideal of what you want to aim for when it comes to how you wish to look by the end of your transformation process; but, it’s another thing to put yourself down throughout the entire process simply because you aren’t “there” yet. This is another thing that I think we all fall prey to, and it’s a very slippery slope to travel down.

There’s a saying that I often find myself reciting to clients: “It’s important to embrace your body in this present moment, all while working diligently towards the future when it comes to your goals”. And how true does that ring when it comes to having the right MINDSET for long-lasting change?

I had a client who had been working with me for about a year, and the progress she saw in that time was absolutely incredible. She was a competitor, and at the time was relatively new to the competition/fitness scene having only done one show under the guidance of another coach. She knew and acknowledged the strides she’d made physically, and was overall pleased with how far she had come. We had started to prep her for her show, and the body that was emerging was absolutely stunning. In fact, by the end of her prep, she went on to win her class in one show, and then swept another show winning her class in both novice and open figure – then winning the overall in both categories as well. Despite the fact that I, as her coach, had no doubt in her ability to do extremely well on stage, she had some doubts. And those doubts came from her wanting to be PERFECT. From her shape, to her size, to the amount of muscle she had, her conditioning and how lean she was, everything had to be exactly as she saw it in her minds-eye. This grandiose expectation she placed on herself started to cause a lot of anxiety for her. In fact, she called me crying from backstage concerned about how she stacked up against the other girls. She held that anxiety for weeks leading into the show, and on show day, it all came to a head. At the end of the day she already was perfect, and as perfect as she needed/could have been in that very moment – for which she was rewarded well.

But imagine for a second what her experience could have been without the unrealistic expectations. How often do you find yourself in a similar situation? It’s pretty common to see where you want to be, to visualize the body you are working so hard to have, and to not be fully content when the reality hits you as your eyes gaze upon your own reflection. But to that, I say that you need to be happy in your own skin, to know that you are already fighting for yourself, and that one day that vision WILL BE your reality. When you get into the mindset of putting yourself down because you’re not where you want to be, or where you think you should be, you’ve already lost at this game. There are too many people in this world willing and ready to rain on your parade, why do it to yourself?

A smarter approach is to allow yourself to celebrate small triumphs along the way. The loss of 1-2 pounds, your jeans fitting better, you feeling more and more confident each day as you witness your body taking on a new shape, these are all things to be proud of. To realize that with each of these milestones, your dream body is well on its way – no matter how long it takes! It’s when you’re able to take that kind of approach, and embrace these small moments along the way, that you can finally begin to free yourself of the perfectionist trap.

To conclude, it’s ok to be a high achiever, and sometimes even an overachiever. But the most important thing to always remember is that absolute perfection doesn’t exist. So to hold yourself to such a standard can be counterproductive on many levels. Instead, having a more grounded and realistic stance when it comes to your physical goals (as well as your approach to your diet and training) can lead you directly down the path to long lasting success, and the lifestyle to maintain it in the long-term.

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