I think a lot of us struggle with the idea of what it means to be perfect. For me, I don’t necessarily attribute perfection to my physical appearance (okay, who am I kidding), but rather to how I am living my life. Am I exercising everyday? Am I eating well at every meal? Am I doing the work I need to do? Am I social enough? I tend to think that everyone else is doing everything right. Exercising 5 times a week, craving vegetables instead of chocolate, and being social butterflies.
I often measure myself against this image of perfection. When I start consistently exercising 5 times a week, then I will be perfect. Or rather, my life will be as it should. Until then, however, I have a lot to work on. When I go a day without eating chocolate, well then, I am a champion. Until then, every surrender to a chocolate craving, however small my indulgence might be, is a failure.
I’m realizing, however, that while I may have relinquished any sort of obsession with physical perfection, my idea of life perfection is pretty skewed. Because even though I think that everyone else has it right, they don’t.
Yes, we can strive to reach a certain goal. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a week where I consistently exercised! And if that happens, congratulations to me. But no longer do I think that such a feat will have marked a sort of “arrival” into the world of perfection. Because the next week may come and completely turn my routine upside down. Maybe I only exercise twice. But such weeks will no longer be seen as “failures,” or returns to the starting line. I so often think of a healthy lifestyle as a rocky mountain: either you make your way to the top with no slip-ups, or you fall down and have to start all over again.
But that’s not how it works. And I’m finally getting that. Crazy, right? It’s all about handling life as it comes to you. Doing the best you can. I’ve been pretty active the past few days and I’ve been fueling my body well. Fruits, veggies, and curried lentils galore. Minimal chocolate, surprisingly.
But today, I found myself craving chocolate. At lunchtime. So I made a bowl of chocolate peanut butter puppy chow (minus the powdered sugar), and a side bowl of some pineapple and watermelon. Sugary, yes. But delicious. And it wasn’t the start of any sort of binge. I finished lunch and went right back to what I was doing before I got hungry. And I know that at dinner, I’ll definitely be craving some kale. And even if I’m not, I’ll eat kale anyways, because I’ll need to load up on veggies for the day; my meals have been pretty fruit heavy lately. I could easily see my lunch decision as a failure, but I know that thinking that way isn’t going to help me progress in my quest for a healthier lifestyle. Instead, I choose to commend myself on limiting my intake of such foods by only eating them for lunch. I didn’t make them for a dessert and then keep eating them until dinner (has that happened before? uh…).
And while I did exercise today, it wasn’t how I thought it would be. I’m realizing that post-breakfast (after I’ve digested) is my ideal time to workout. Of course, not all of us have that luxury (I know you hate me, 9-5ers). But right now I do, and I’m going to take advantage of it.
This morning, however, I didn’t run out the door at 10 o’clock. I was actually finishing up some artwork that I was really excited about. I figured I would run later. As later in the day came, I wasn’t sure I would actually do it. I told myself it was only a 2-mile run and in my Vibram 5-fingers, which is always a treat for me. That thought made the idea of exercising less scary. And you know what? I did it. After a bunch of procrastinating on the computer, I finally realized that I had nothing left to do on the computer. No more procrastination options. And even though it was excruciatingly hot outside, I swiped on some Body Glide (my inner things are thanking the lord), turned on my iPod (my typical motivation technique), and headed out for two loops around my neighborhood. And when I got back, I hit the ground and beasted out some sit-ups and squats.
I find that once I establish some sort of consistency with exercise, even if I don’t keep up that consistency 100% of the time, I’m more likely to get back on the wagon than fall off for a few weeks. Especially now that I’m loving the side effects of consistent exercise. Weight loss, not really. But just a general feeling of being healthy. Getting your blood pumping. Releasing those endorphins. And working on your mean shorts tan.
I know that I’m living a charmed life over here, it being summer vacation and me working only a few days a week. And perhaps some of you are reading this and rolling your eyes, thinking that I am in no place to give advice because I don’t work a 40+ hour work week or have a family. And perhaps you’re right. But I’m taking my own realizations that I have found emerged from my own lifestyle and urging you to apply such a mentality to your own.
There is no such thing as perfect. Everyone has flaws, even that girl you see outside running everyday on your way home from work. We all have our own problems; they just manifest themselves in different ways. And we’re all just trying to live each day the best we can. And the best way we can do that is by accepting ourselves as we are, and not punishing ourselves for not living up to our image of perfection, whatever it may be.
So today, I have a task for you. Do something nice for yourself. Reward yourself (and I don’t mean by chowing down on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s) for all the effort you make in trying to be your best self. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Listen to some music. Cook your favorite dinner. Buy that shirt you’ve been obsessing over (if it’s on your budget… I’m not advocating shopaholism). Because you’re just trying to get through each day the best you can. That’s not a failure, nor a reason to punish yourself.
I, for one, got a pedicure. It was one of the incentives of my run today. “Go for a run, afterwards you can get a pedicure.” Yes, I’m doing it for myself, but also for the sake of mankind. My feet were/are disgusting. I brought my book, and I enjoyed every minute of that foot/calf massage. And those automatic massage chairs.
And yes, I did shave my legs just for the occasion. I feel so bad for whatever poor soul has to massage my hairy legs. It’s a situation that frequently happens. But no more. Today I was able to sit back and relax without constantly apologizing for my terrible idea of cleanliness.
So go out and have a “Treat Yo’Self Day.” Even if you don’t take an entire day, just try to find a way to do something nice for yourself. Even if it just means taking a moment to thank your body for doing so much for you, or congratulating yourself for something. Bring a little bit of positivity into your world.
Here’s some inspiration.