Perfectionism: My Brains Ultimate Defence Mechanism

How do I become perfect? What does it take to be the best at everything?

It takes everything you’ve got, and more. Perfection is UNACHIEVABLE. As difficult as it may be to hear you can never be perfect, never be the best at everything all the time, someone out there will always one up you in something but that’s okay.

I’ve struggled with juggling my intense neurodiverse tendencies with my crippling need to be the best at everything all the time forever and ever and ever and… You get the point. But I’ve realised through the help of the INCREDIBLE First Steps team that perfect isn’t possible.

The fact that you’re getting through each day, waking up every morning (or afternoon if you’re like me), and even just having a glass of water, looking out the window and trying to think “today will be a good day, I will have a good day” is enough for me and it should be enough for you.

As an anorexic teen the worst thing I can do to myself, already struggling with so many COMPLEX issues is to add the adamant desire to overachieve. Its just not realistic. The stress and the pressure and the aching yearn for validation through the form of perfection is not only exhausting, but also so damaging.

Does perfectionism link with my eating disorder though? Oh my gosh absolutely it does. If I’m not eating then I must be the BEST at not eating, eating the least, getting the least units of energy for the most food. If I am eating then I have to be the best at that too, the best at recovery, if I’m going to recover I’m going to do it the fastest, gain the weight the best. But neither of these things actually even consider or acknowledge the fact that I’m a human being with a MENTAL HEALTH, not just a vessel for weight loss and gain regardless of the mental side effects.

Try as I might to completely ignore the turmoil my conflicting brain is undergoing, it frequently rears its ugly head to remind me its there. Such a delightful visitor. Although the fact that my mental health is suffering is not good in the slightest, the reminder that it needs attention and can’t just be silenced by my attempts to please everyone around me does give me the opportunity to address it.

Its so easy in recovery to forget that eating disorders are mental illness’ not physical ones. Whilst everyone seems to focus on the number on the scales and the amount of food you’re consuming it’s important to remember the real culprit behind the illness in the first place. Your own mind.

Give yourself a little bit of compassion once in a while. It’s so important to look after your brain as well as your body. Believe me, self care will be SHOVED DOWN YOUR THROAT, but for good reason. A little bit of your time amongst the chaos can provide the much needed snapshots of bliss that can make life just a little bit easier. Find something that lets you escape, for me it’s poetry, but it can be anything. Lego is great (expensive but great), reading, drawing, crochet. Try something new, experiment with your experiences, find something that truly makes you happy.

By discovering a passion, a real passion, it feels like the world becomes a little lighter, burdens become a little less mountainous. If you acknowledge when you are struggling and relieve the pressure of perfectionism then I guarantee life will feel a little less nauseating.

Contributed by Tilly (they/them),
First Steps ED Community Blog

Check out Tilly’s poems here: Dear Anorexia pt. 1 and Dear Anorexia pt. 2