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I spent my entire life believing I had to be perfect. The perfect daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother. The perfect dancer, singer, and Army officer. Failure was not an option. Being anything “less than” what I saw as perfect was unacceptable.
My drive to be perfect touched every aspect of my life from the time I was young. I thought being perfect at everything was the answer to making everyone happy… except me. It was my life and I was not happy.
My desire to be perfect reached a new level when I entered middle school.
Struggling to determine where I fit socially, as well as in the dance world, drove me to turn against my body because it wasn’t perfect; therefore, it was the root of all that was wrong in my life. If only I could be thinner, lose the extra weight I was carrying, then all would be right with the world and I would be able to be perfect. I just needed the “perfect” body to get me there.
Slowly, I began limiting food I could eat until the list of food I was allowed to eat was much shorter than the list of food I was not allowed to eat. My sixteen year battle with an eating disorder just started and I was completely unaware. I thought I was doing well; I was reaching my ultimate goal of having the perfect body. In reality, I could not see how much weight I was losing and the drive to be thin took over my life. I still wasn’t perfect.
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My inner battle for perfection stayed with me in high school, college, and my time as a U.S. Army Officer.
I had to be the perfect officer. Being a woman in a male-dominated workforce meant I felt I had to prove myself over and over again. Earning my Airborne wings was not enough. Obtaining a perfect score on the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) was not enough. I needed more.
The one area in which I was lacking was having the perfect military body type. I struggled to meet the weight standard, and when I felt less than perfect because of it, my eating disorder was there to pick me up and help me become perfect through false promises. I continued to struggle with restricting and purging food throughout my time in the military.
Then I became pregnant.
During my pregnancy, I cared less about myself and more about my child, so I ate and did not purge. I gained weight, and at the time, weight gain signified perfection. Until I gained more than the “recommended” amount and I was, again, “less than perfect.” Within weeks of my daughter’s birth, I began my desperate attempts to regain my pre-pregnancy body. After all, the media and society tells us the perfect mother is one who looks like she never had a baby and exercises daily. I fell under the spell and tried desperately to lose the post-pregnancy weight as quickly as possible by resorting to eating disordered behaviors. I had to be the perfect mother.
Trying to become the “perfect” mother with the “perfect” body landed me in treatment for my eating disorder.
It took months, but I learned “perfect” does not exist. Perfection is not reality. While I am still working toward being fully recovered and my body is still learning to trust me again, I have discovered the following:
Life is not 100 percent and neither is recovery; it is a process and it is not perfect. No one else looks like me and no one else gets to be me.
While I may not have the “ideal” body, and I am certainly not the perfect mother, I am perfectly imperfect. I am me. No one else gets to wake up and be the mother of my daughter. No one else has my exact physical features. I am unique in every way possible. I make mistakes, but I also make happy memories. I no longer break myself trying to be perfect for others. My daughter does not want a perfect mother, she wants a real mother.
Just as I do not want perfect recovery, I want real, sustained recovery. Both are messy and both take time, but that is why I say I am free from perfectionism.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.