Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Permission to Not Be Perfect

One of my favorite podcasters, Colleen Shannon of Being Boss, once said something to the effect of, “I’m not going to do my best, because my best might kill me.”

Hearing her words was one of those beautiful aha moments where I literally said out loud “YES! YESS!!” So often, my striving for “my personal best” is overkill. And I bet that if you’ve come across my radar, it’s the same for you too.

I am a worker bee. I can’t help it. It’s literally built into my DNA, just like my freckles and dark hair. But with a bit more age and life experience (both things I hope to have lots, lots more of!), I’ve begun to appreciate what kind of hard work feeds my soul and enlarges my life and what doesn’t. And here’s what I know for sure.

When my primary motivation behind a choice
is to prove my worth, appear better than another person,
or protect myself from difficult feelings through perfectionism,
I find myself depleted and worn out.

When my primary motivation behind a choice
is to connect to my values of authenticity, connection,
and healing my efforts enlarge my soul and energize me.

The incredible thing is that these concepts not only apply to work, they apply to all aspects of living – especially food and body image. Perfectionism is an understandable but completely ineffective attempt to shield ourselves from rejection. And in our body-obsessed culture, food and exercise become the perfect and very concrete vehicle to prove to the world just how great we really are…until our attempts at attaining perfection become unsustainable, distract us from our values, and leave us feeling like failures.

So I’d like to extend an invitation to shoot for good enough. Now don’t get me wrong – you can still accomplish great things so try to steer clear of the idea that you have two options – total amazingness or total crap. That’s just not true. I’ll offer you a little 3-step process to help you let go of perfectionism that I try to practice too:

  1. Assess your intention and motivation. Get honest with yourself about what drives you. Right now I’m recording new videos for the 2.0 version of my online training. It’s a crazy amount of work but I am eager to provide a newer version with updated branding, updated research, and a vastly improved system for organizing and sharing content. My intentions are totally in alignment with my values.
  2. Decide on what you can let go of and what you can keep in order to feel “good enough.” Recording these videos takes hours and if I refused to put out a video that contained a stumble or an “uh,” these videos wouldn’t see the light of day. So while the end product will be beautifully polished and professional, you’ll still here me trip over a word or two. No biggie!
  3. Bask in opting out. As you practice accepting your “good enoughness,” you can celebrate the freed up space that is tied up in the impossible game of perfection. This is literal found time, headspace, and energy. Wahoo!

I’d like to close with a food-related challenge to practice a “good enough” way of living. The challenge is to create a back-up plan of “3 Good Enough Meals” to ALWAYS have on hand. The idea is that you always keep these ingredients for a reasonably balanced meal that is far from perfect but definitely good enough, especially in a pinch. No room for perfection here. While I might not be thrilled to eat these meals every night, mixing them in to my routine keeps me from burnout.

My “3 Good Enough Meals” include:

  1. Bean and Cheese Quesadillas – the ultimate in quick, shelf-stable ingredients.
  2. Scrambled Eggs and an English Muffin – throw in some fruit if you have it.
  3. A frozen Trader Joe’s (any brand will do) meal plus some frozen veggies.

I’d love to hear about your “good enough” go to meals. You can share in the comments below. It’s the perfect avenue for practicing living a life that isn’t perfect, but is certainly much more manageable and joyful to live.

If you are interested in finding greater joy and satisfaction in your relationship to food, I hope you’ll consider joining Sarah Patten in her upcoming Meal Support Series. It’s the perfect opportunity for developing greater confidence and skills to create a healthier relationship to food.