ETR 262: 7 Ways Perfectionism Hinders Body Acceptance (Body Image Series)

SummerBody Image, Eat the Rules, Self-Love, Self-Worth

Podcast on 7 Ways Perfectionism Hinders Body Acceptance
7 Ways Perfectionism Hinders Body Acceptance

In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m  breaking down 7 ways we bring perfectionism into body acceptance work and what to do instead, as part of the Body Image Series.

I also talk about how perfectionism and struggling with body image go hand in hand, and the importance of adjusting your measurements of success.

In This Episode, I Chat About

        • What perfectionism is,
        • What the diet cycle looks like,
        • Why aiming for no bad days and loving your body is an unrealistic expectation,
        • How fear leads people to put off doing this work,
        • The unrealistic standard we all measure ourselves against,
        • The importance of focusing on behaviours instead of outcomes,
        • That this work is not linear,
        • Plus so much more!

        Listen Now (transcript below)

        Watch on YouTube

              Links Mentioned in Episode:

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                This episode of eat the rules is brought to you by you on fire you on fire is the online group coaching program that I run that gives you a step by step way of building up your self worth beyond your appearance. With personalized coaching from me incredible community support and lifetime access to the program so that you can get free from body shame and live life on your own terms. Get details on what’s included and sign up for the next cycle at summer forward slash you on fire, I’d love to have you in that group. This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and confidence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.

                This is episode 262. And it’s another installment of the body image series I’m talking about seven ways that we bring perfectionism into body acceptance work and what to do instead, you can find the links mentioned at summer forward slash 262. I want to give a shout out to Chris who left this review. After 51 years of dieting, I finally just couldn’t do it anymore. Summer helped me understand that I was not the reason that diets had not worked in the long term. I don’t know if I read that right. But rather I had been sold so many false promises over the years. More importantly, this podcast has helped me become more body neutral. There are still things I don’t love about my body. There are some things I appreciate more now. But I am starting to realize how there are so many more important things in my life than whether I meet an arbitrary and unrealistic standard of beauty now that I don’t spend every waking waking moment thinking about calories and carbs, I have a lot more energy and life is a lot more interesting. Thank you for this great podcast. Thank you so much. I love hearing this. You know, sometimes people think, Well, I’ve been doing this thing for five decades, or however many decades. I don’t know if it’s going to be possible for me. And it’s always amazing to hear other people’s stories when it is possible for you. I’ve worked with people across the entire age spectrum. And I’ve seen people do this work in their 60s and 70s. And still can make a significant difference in their life never too late. You can leave a review for the show by going to Apple podcasts, search for eat the rules, then click ratings and reviews and click to leave a review. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show, just hit that little button on whatever platform you’re using to listen to this. And if you want some free stuff, get the free 10 Day body confidence makeover at summer forward slash freebies with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. If you’re a professional who works with people who may also have body image struggles, get the free body image coaching roadmap at summer forward slash roadmap. And if you forget any of these links, you can always just go to the body image And everything is there. The last couple of installments of the body image series we talked about how to evaluate your body image, I gave you some examples of body neutrality. I talked about why you might be stuck feeling more accepting of your body. And today I want to talk about seven ways we bring perfectionism into body acceptance and what to do instead, I find most people who struggle with body image struggle with perfectionism, those two things really go hand in hand. And I’ve talked about this before, in Episode 235, which is called believing you are good enough. So you can check that out. If you want to hear about that connection more, although I think today’s episode will shed some additional light on that. And what I find is that when we are wired towards being more of a perfectionist, which is not our fault, it’s not like you were just born that way we become that way as a way to protect ourselves from feeling the emotional discomfort of of living in this culture and of having to, you know, just go about in our culture that puts people on different hierarchies based on their identities and body sizes and things like that. And so it’s not your fault if you have a perfectionist way of thinking. But what I often find is that that mentality can start to creep in when we’re working on accepting our body. And it can show up in several different ways. And that’s what I’m going to break down today. But before I do that, I really briefly just wanted to touch on what perfectionism is. So perfectionism is this belief that quote, if I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of blame, judgment and shame, and that quote comes from Bernie Brown, who’s done a significant amount of research around perfectionism and shame and things like that. I know Britt Brene Brown is not perfect. I know, she struggles with her own anti bias, as well as sometimes promoting messages that are anti fat. So I hesitate to say, like, Brene browns, amazing, but she’s also got this really important body of work that I think that we can still use and reference. So perfectionism and a diet and a desire to diet really go hand in hand, we enter into dieting as a way to avoid the shame and perceived judgment we feel about our bodies. And we know this doesn’t work, right. So the diet cycle looks like this, like I feel shame about my body. And so I enter into the diet cycle, the diet doesn’t work, because 95% of times, diets are not going to work for us. And even that little 5%, where maybe it does work typically is because we’re maintaining disordered habits. And that’s in the research, you can look at the episode with Alexis conocen, the episode number is escaping me at this moment. But if you just Google our names together, you’ll find it. And it’s called with the weight what the research says about weight loss. In any event, diets don’t work. And so therefore, we feel like a failure and we feel a greater source of shame. And through that process, it actually just makes things worse, it makes us fixate on our body more, it increases those levels of shame. And so then we enter into the cycle again, thinking it might fix it, and really it doesn’t, and it just keeps making it worse and worse. And so when we’re engaged in dieting, oftentimes, it’s just hard coding that perfectionist way of thinking into our brain even more, because the diet mentality and a perfectionist way of thinking really go hand in hand, and not looks like you know, looking at things as black and white, like food is either good or bad. Having unrealistic expectations on ourselves, like I should eat perfectly, or my body needs to look a certain way in order to be happy, it looks like having our self worth hinge on success or failure. So that’s why when you know, the diet doesn’t work, we blame ourselves, it looks like us being super critical of ourselves, and being motivated by external outcomes, like the number on the scale or gene size, or quote, unquote, the perfect body or other people’s opinions. And those are all perfectionist ways of thinking. And they sound very similar to the diet mentality. And so maybe we’ve healed the diet mentality, or we’re working on healing the diet mentality, and maybe we’re working on accepting our body. But that perfectionist way of thinking is something that we also have to really be aware of, because that can bleed into body acceptance work, it can bleed into like intuitive eating as well, if you’re working on that. And I noticed this a lot with clients. So I wanted to call out seven different ways that I see this show up and what to do instead. So the number one way that and this is not like in order, it’s just number one of the first one that I wrote down. The number one way that perfectionism shows up and body image work is thinking of things in black and white. And this looks like believing that you need to be positive all the time, taking one bad body image day and making it mean that you’re failing at this whole thing. And sometimes this also looks like feeling like change is gonna happen instantly. And that we should just be free of all negative emotions. And that’s really not how this works at all. And the problem with this is it makes us feel like a failure if we have a bad day. And I’ve heard this from people, if they’ve been working on this for a while, and they have a bad day. And they think like something must be wrong, I’m failing at this, and we start to beat ourselves up. And that’s really black and white thinking. And the reality is, is that we’re gonna feel all kinds of emotions. And we’re not aiming to have no bad days, that hashtag no bad days is toxic positivity, we are aiming for balance, we’re looking for a balance of both more negative and I put negative in quotation marks because I don’t like to look at emotions through that sort of binary. But we all know what I’m referring to when I say negative emotions want to have a balance of negative and positive and neutral. And same with our thoughts. And what I find is most people going into this have an imbalance, they have a greater proportion of negative emotions of negative thoughts about their body. And so what we want to do is shift that more back into balance. It’s not about making it positive all the time. Because negative thoughts are never gonna go away completely. They might go away about your body, but we’re always going to have self doubt and bad days, even if it’s not about our body. So I really encourage people to look at the bigger picture, live in the gray and expect that we’re going to have not so good days and really just learn to work through those instead. The second way that perfectionism shows up in body acceptance work is having unrealistic expectation on ourselves in this process. And I find this looks like thinking we’re gonna love how we look like really trying to like like how we look and feel positive all the time, as I mentioned, kind of in the earlier point, a lot of these overlap, by the way, having this expectation that we’re going to love how we look that we’re just going to feel amazing all the time. And the problem with that is, it keeps us focused on our body, it keeps us focused on finding ourselves attractive. And that doesn’t get to the root of the issue, which is finding out where that source of shame really comes from in the first place, which is often tied to our sense of worth. And this idea that how we look and how others perceive us is who we are. And it’s really unrealistic to have this expectation that you’re going to love your body, because we’re all going to age out of beauty standards. And the way we feel about ourselves on a daily basis is not static. So we don’t want to hinge our success on the way we feel in a particular moment. And having that really be tied to our perception of how we look. Instead, we want to really take the pressure off of ourselves, lower the bar, and really try to aim to get to a place where you’re working on accepting, you’re working on moving to a place of neutrality, that doesn’t mean you have to stay there, of course, you can work on feeling more confident, of course, you can work on feeling like you’re cute like but that should not be the expected result on a daily basis, we really want to take that pressure and expectation off. And so this is going to overlap with some of the other ones I’m talking about as well. But we always want to look at what the expectations are that we’re putting on ourselves, and try to bring them back to something that might be more realistic. The third way that perfectionism shows up in body image work is fearing failure. And this looks like not even starting because we’re afraid we’re gonna fail. Or we’re afraid of what’s going to happen, just like every other diet we’ve been on. Right. And I think that that’s where this is coming from, because we failed so many things before. And we think well, why would this be any different? Well, it’s different, because it’s not a diet. And it actually is something that is proven to work, you know, being more compassionate with ourselves challenging beliefs, things like that. And so the way I see this showing up is I find people sometimes procrastinate or put off engaging in this work, because I think we’re afraid of what might happen, we’re afraid that we might still hate our body, we’re afraid that we might, quote unquote, fail. And that’s where again, I would say, like, what are the expectations you have on yourself in this process, because if we stay stuck, like, if we are afraid to even engage in this work, then we’re just gonna stay where we are, right? Which is fine, if that’s like what you want to do. But if we want to have progress, if we want to feel more calm more at peace in our bodies, if we want to feel more free, than we actually have to engage, and we have to say, okay, you know what, I’m going to start working at this. And we can really only fail if we have unrealistic expectations. And one of the other things that I would recommend doing instead, instead, if you feel like you’re afraid of failure is really have a vision of success that feels realistic for you, and is grounded in what you want to practice. For example, if you want to be okay with how you look in photos, then have your measure of success be, am I practicing learning to be more compassionate with photos, so make it more about the action versus the outcome. And I get to talk about that again later. But having that pathway of success, and that’s what I help people with when I first start working with them is let’s create that vision and that pathway of success and how that’s going to look for you. And that’s going to alleviate this pressure that you have to like get it right, that there’s like a certain way that you have to get an A plus, because none of that is true. The fourth way that perfectionism shows up in body acceptance work is being extra hard on ourselves if we’re having a bad day. And I see this when people beat themselves up for beating themselves up. So they double down on shame. You know, they say to themselves, like, I shouldn’t speak to myself this way. I shouldn’t feel this way I know better by now. And that, again, is expecting ourselves to be perfect. And we’re not going to be that way. So we have to, again, look at our expectations, and instead expect that we’re going to have bad days. Be really kind and gentle with ourselves when we do have a bad day. And I would even like do we have to label it a bad day? Can we just say what’s there so I’m just feeling a lot of sadness today or I’m feeling a lot of shame today or I’m feeling myself hyper fixating on my body today and just look at it non judgmentally for what it is And in those moments, we can actually see them as an opportunity to learn and to show up for ourselves. How can I put my tools to practice? How can I show up for myself in this moment to build resiliency, there are opportunities, I don’t want to say that because sometimes they really just do feel bad to say, just think of them as opportunities. But the reality is, is that they are really chances for us to build up a greater sense of resiliency. The fifth way that perfectionism shows up in body acceptance work is being overly critical of our progress. This looks like focusing on where we’re not enough. And this comes from the way that we’ve been conditioned to look at where we don’t measure up, we’ve been conditioned to measure ourselves up against this unrealistic standard, whether that’s a standard of beauty, or just a standard of, you know, sort of, quote, unquote, female perfection archetype, perfect female archetype, whatever you want to call it. And so when we do that, we often apply that to this work, right, we look at, we’re constantly sort of looking at where we’re not doing enough, or where things are still going wrong, versus how far we’ve come. So for example, we might fixate on the fact that we still feel sad when we see an older picture of ourselves, versus looking at all the ways that we have improved. And it doesn’t have to be an either, or it could be an end. But one thing that I really encourage people to do is to focus on how far you’ve come because every tiny bit of progress counts. And that’s why I do that body image assessment quiz that I gave you in Episode 259, you can get a copy of that if you want in the show notes for that episode, summer, forward slash 259. And that’s why that’s so important, because we need to be looking at our progress and celebrating that. Now, if you have not improved, there are totally things that we can do together. And that’s where getting support is going to be super helpful. But if you are doing this work, and you’re still focusing on where you’re not measuring up and things like that, then we can get support in those areas. And it’s super important to look at how far you’ve come as well. The sixth way that perfectionism shows up in body acceptance work is being extrinsically Motivated versus being intrinsically motivated. And I alluded to this on in an earlier point. But that really looks like focusing on outcomes, versus focusing on our behaviors. And so focusing on an outcome would look like, I want to feel confident in my bikini at the beach. So the outcome is really like this feeling of being confident in your bikini at the beach. And that’s cool, that’s a great thing to want. But if we are measuring ourselves based on whether or not that happens, that’s gonna be tricky, right, because we don’t just automatically feel confident in our bikini at the beach, it takes steps and practice to build up to that, it takes us learning to step outside of our comfort zone, learning how to manage that voice of fear, learning how to be more compassionate with ourselves. And until we start to do those things, then we’re not going to have that outcome. And so it’s harder for us to really acknowledge our progress, if we’re so hyper focused on the outcomes that we want, what I’d rather us do is focus on the behaviors that are gonna get us there and focus on building those actions building, you know, challenging beliefs and etc, etc, that are going to help us to get to the outcome that we want, so that we can really celebrate like, Hey, I worked through this fear, and I wore a bikini to the beach, maybe I didn’t feel confident, but I’m working towards that. And that’s what we want to be doing and focusing on like, what we actually have control over versus the outcome, which we don’t often have control over. The last way that perfectionism shows up in body acceptance work is when we expect change to be linear. Or we expect to like, do this and get an A plus. And you know, this looks like feeling like we should always be getting in better, better always be getting better and better. Feeling like, you know, I’ve been doing this for three months right now for now why? Like, why haven’t things been changing? I had a bad week, like what’s wrong with me, and really beating yourself up for those things and almost like valuing yourself based on your progress, and that is going to lead us to then again, feel like a failure or feel like we’re doing something wrong, feel shame about ourselves. And the process is not linear at all. It’s there’s going to be ups and downs. It’s like oftentimes two steps forward, one step back, sometimes eight steps back sometimes 10 steps forward, like it’s all over the place. And so again, we want to Lower the bar, we want to expect ups and downs. And we want to think of those lower moments as opportunities to get support to practice tools to shut another layer. And to remove any timeline for from ourselves. Now obviously again, if you’re like I’ve been doing this for a year and like I’m, you know, still really struggling, then there’s definitely support that you can receive that will help you like working with a coach like myself. And but we don’t want to be like holding ourselves to these really high standards like you’re not in school, you’re not going to get an A plus. I think it’s in the reclaiming Body Trust book by Hilary Canady and Dana Sturt. Vaughan, they talk about approaching this work with like a C mindset like, you’re not we’re not going for a pluses, we’re going for C’s. And I love that, that metaphor for this. So those are the seven reasons I wanted to talk about today, the seven ways that perfectionism shows up in body acceptance work, I’d love to know if any of those resonate with you. And of course, if you do feel stuck, then I always suggest getting extra support, check out my you ON FIRE program. For me. I am a member of a parenting course membership. I’m a member of a business, like a group that has programs and coaching and things like that. I get support and I have a therapist, I get support in every area of my life because I know that it makes such a huge difference. And so yeah, if you feel like you’re needing support with that, then reach out and I’d love to help you. So that is it. For today’s episode, you can find all the links and resources mentioned at summer forward slash 262 Thank you so much for being here today. Rock on.

                I’m Summer Innanen. And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on.

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