How Trying To Be Perfect is Sabotaging Your Fitness Goals! Let God Set You Free

Today, I’m diving into a topic that resonates deeply with many of us on a fitness journey: perfectionism. Let’s start by acknowledging that expectations are not inherently bad. They can motivate us and give us a sense of direction. But when these expectations morph into an unattainable standard of perfection, they can become a heavy burden.

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A Personal Reflection

Today’s discussion is personal. I’m sharing deep thoughts, prayers, and revelations from my journal on this topic. This past Sunday, I opened my Bible to Psalm 116:6-8 (NKJV):

“I was brought low, and He saved me. Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling.”

Friend, do you ever feel like you’re failing? Are you hard on yourself? Do you want to stop the constant feeling of falling short? Did you know that trying to be perfect is setting yourself up for failure?

The Perfectionism Cycle

After reading that Scripture, I grabbed my journal and wrote down three words: expectations, perfectionism, and failure. Under these words, I added more:

  • Perfectionism: Pressure, feeling guilt, being hard on yourself, worldly trap.
  • Failure: Self-doubt, second-guessing, anxiety, inner conflict.

Anne Wilson Schaef once said, "Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order." Let me put this in fitness terms:

  • Expectation: Your expectation is to look like an Instagram influencer. You think, "If I do the work, I can look like that." You expect to lose 20 pounds in 3 months.
  • Perfection: Your goal is to eat perfectly and work out 6 days a week. You put pressure on yourself.
  • Failure: A month in, your body isn’t responding the way it should. You start doubting, second-guessing, and searching your mind for what you’re doing wrong. This awful feeling of failure overtakes you, and you quit.

Can you see the cycle? You have expectations that cause you to try to do things perfectly, which inevitably causes feelings of failure.

The Roots of Perfectionism

I asked God an important question: where did this come from? If I’m being honest, I don’t want to live feeling like I’m failing. Do you? This was emotionally vulnerable for me. God showed me that this came from my childhood. More on that later…

But please start thinking and praying: Lord, are there things in my childhood or in my past that are causing me to put pressure on myself to be perfect and to set unrealistic expectations to prove people wrong or to come across like I’ve got it all together?

Understanding Perfectionism from a Christian Perspective

Codie Newcome from Biblical Counseling shares that "perfectionism traps and enslaves you. The laws the perfectionist creates for themselves can never be satisfied. Consequently, they turn inward and their focus becomes self-obsessed as they constantly seek to find their failures and be better next time. There is an insidious pride that lurks in the heart of the perfectionist. They rely on their own works, they craft their own standards to be measured by, and ultimately they believe the lie that their performance can justify them (Galatians 2:16). The Bible gives the perfectionist the antidote for this pride, which is to put on humility (Colossians 3:12; James 4:16; 1 Peter 5:5)." Source

The Psychology of Perfectionism

According to Psychology Today, perfection is an impossibility in reality. When taken too far, striving for perfection can lead to negative outcomes like procrastination, a tendency to avoid challenges, rigid all-or-nothing thinking, toxic comparisons, and a lack of creativity. Maladaptive perfectionism is often driven by fear of failure, feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, and adverse childhood experiences. It is frequently accompanied by depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and even suicidal impulses. Source

The Three Types of Perfectionism

In 1991, Paul Hewitt and Gordon Flett published a model of three types of perfectionism that helps us understand how perfectionism impacts us individually and in our relationships: Source

  1. Self-Oriented Perfectionism:

    • Self-imposed, very high standards that allow no room for mistakes.
    • Related to self-criticism, self-blame, very high standards for achievement, and depression.
    • Helpful Tip: Identify and challenge "all-or-nothing thinking." This thinking error leads to the belief that anything short of perfection is a failure.
  2. Other-Oriented Perfectionism:

    • Rigidly evaluates and criticizes the behavior of others.
    • Tends to push others away and harm relationships.
    • Helpful Tip: Recognize that how you relate to others is as important as the outcome you are trying to achieve.
  3. Socially Prescribed Perfectionism:

    • Tries to live up to very high standards believed to be placed by others.
    • Lives in a routine state of anxiety and insecurity.

Helpful Tip: Socially prescribed perfectionists need to practice identifying when they are using a thinking error called “mind reading.” They need to practice identifying when they are “in other people’s heads” and to stop basing their self-worth on their beliefs about what other people may think of them. 

Moving Forward

Next week on episode #216, I’ll be sharing steps we can take to break free from this cycle. If this message spoke to your heart, I encourage you to share it with a friend who might need the same reminder. Let's continue to lift each other up and walk in the freedom that Christ offers.

Remember, you are loved, and enough because of Jesus!

Yes, You are Strong. Confident. His!

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