Perfectionists tend to see in black and white, and extremes. The more extreme we go the more anxiety goes up. The more balance we find the more we alleviate the anxiety we feel.
Enter Dr. Manning:
I was working with an extremely high performing triathlete once. He was concerned with fueling his body just enough to have the amount of energy to be able to perform, but he didn’t want too much fuel, meaning food, because he felt that it would have an impact on his performance. He became so extreme with his dieting that he developed an eating disorder. Any type of addiction or eating disorder comes from being extreme.
This athlete was struggling a great deal with people around him saying to him, “You need to eat more. You just need to gain more weight.”
A perfectionist reacts to this and their anxiety goes way up. He would eat more, then get upset, and then move to the other extreme by eating near to nothing. He was oscillating back and forth from the two extremes with both his health and performance suffering.
The first thing I said to him was, “Yeah, you got to watch what you eat, and you’ve got to eat the right things, but you still have to fuel your body.”
That helped him to relax. To help him alleviate the anxiety he felt from all the pressure put on him to eat more I also told him, “You don’t need to eat more—you just have to eat the right amount. And it needs to be exact and it needs to be very precise to help you perform well.”
What I told him almost immediately took him out of this cycle of interference, and all of his doubts and worry that were impacting his life and performance. To this day he is a very high performing human being. He has learned to be exact and to keep it real.
Keeping It Real
Keeping it real means being very honest. We need to be honest with ourselves. We can’t be too hard on ourselves—that is the biggest thing for perfectionists. We can’t be too hard, but we need to be very exact, and very honest, and very truthful with ourselves. We don’t want our struggles sugar coated and be too soft on ourselves. But for perfectionists that’s not really the issue.
Keeping it real is being more truthful. Be exact. Be honest. Be in the moment. Keep it real. That is the key to helping perfectionists to become healthier, happier, and higher performing.
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