Flying Lessons: Learning to Love the Pilot’s Seat

July 19th, 2013

Photograph of a pilot's controlsThe first time I sat in the left seat—the pilot’s seat—of my flight instructor’s little Cessna 152, I was shocked to realize that absolutely nothing felt familiar. Not the view out the window, even though it was the same one I had seen from the right seat of my husband’s Cessna. Not the array of gauges, even though they were the same gauges in the plane that was familiar to me. The seat didn’t feel right. I hated the color and the smell—which I figured was the smell of the sweat from all the other students who had felt uncomfortable in this same seat. I wanted out.

Clio, my flight instructor, broke the news to me that I’d be in this seat for every lesson. In fact in a way, every lesson we’d have would be about getting me comfortable in the pilot’s seat.

To me, that sounds like life.

Just as I would have preferred that Clio just fly me around and explain things, might you have a part of you that would rather be the passenger? After all, we live in turbulent times. Our childhoods were almost all far from perfect. We don’t feel ready for the challenges ahead. Wouldn’t it be great to be….carried through the journey?

Only apparently, this isn’t the experiment we signed on for. Instead we have to strap ourselves in, take a deep breath, taxi out, and take off. As if we were pilots.

Of course the key to this metaphor is the flight instructor. No one wants to be one of those heroines who had to land an airplane with no training. The benefit of a place like Mirasol is that the flight instructors have experience with all the reasons that flying feels terrifying, overwhelming, and perhaps impossible. And they’re also experienced in teaching people to fly.

Clio was smart about giving me just enough challenge to create adrenaline, along with the opportunity to substitute a new action for the old temptation to freeze in my tracks. Could I learn to taxi, in spite of the shame I felt weaving all over the tarmac like a bad drunk? Once I learned that much control, could I keep the plane on the centerline as we were taking off?

When I tell these stories about Clio, many women respond with, “I wish I had a Clio.”

Instructors, coaches, therapists and healing practitioners are all potential Clios, who help us move from the passenger seat to the pilot’s seat. They give us a step by step process for becoming comfortable in that pilot’s seat. And then they ask us to expand our powers in that seat until we are pilots of life.

Now I hesitate to say these “Clios” help us become our “larger selves,” knowing that words like “large” and “big” are not positives for people who worry about their size. But let’s think about the energetic Self within, rather than the physical body.

When I meet a client, I often ask her about the life force inside her, which she might picture as a flame deep within. “How big is that flame?” I want to know. For some it’s a torch, but for people whose strength and sense of worth and embodied self is injured, that flame may be a flickering pilot light.

Then I know what my job is. It’s to help that person fan that flame, blow her breath on it, encourage it, build the heat in it. It’s her job to leave her small self for her large one. To leave her small life for her larger one. To leave that small, mean mind, and to decide not to believe everything it thinks. Her opportunity is to believe the larger knowing inside her that says she is precious, worthy, a sacred being on a sacred journey.

Like Clio, I know that the way for my client and the way for you to remember who you really are, is to sit in the pilot’s seat. At a place like Mirasol, you’ve got a Clio or two who can help you adjust to it, then get comfortable with it, then get competent in it, then forgive yourself for the mistakes you make in it, and then fly in it.

The comforting thing about the process of learning to be a pilot of life is that you have lots of company. We’re all in that process, at different stages. We all have stories, reasons why it’s hard, ways in which we suffer. And you also have courage, desire, hope, love, patience and intelligence within you.

“You have it within you to be a pilot,” Clio would say to me. And just as I had trouble believing that then, you may have trouble believing it now. So until you do, just try hopping into that left seat and begin.


~Pamela Hale Trachta (Guest Blogger)

Author of: Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life

Flying Lesson # 3: Taking the Pilot’s Seat

June 2nd, 2013

Navigating Turbulent Conditions, Flying Lesson # 3: Taking the Pilot’s Seat for your Healing Journey

By the time I began taking flying lessons, I was a mature woman and thought I was already pretty good at flying, having sat at the passenger seat controls for eight years in my husband’s plane. So when my flight instructor, Clio, put me in the left seat for the first lesson, I was shocked at how scary and different that experience was.

A pilot's view of a field (sepia toned).The seat didn’t feel right. The view out the window didn’t look right. Even the gauges didn’t seem familiar. I had to admit that the problem was, I had never really assumed the responsibility of the pilot’s seat.

In the passenger seat, we assume the pilot is the one in command; we’re really just along for the ride. And so even when we take the controls for awhile, we know the pilot will rescue us if we do anything irresponsible or dangerous. Probably, this is the reason Clio had me sit in the left seat starting with the first lesson.

In my Flying Lessons for Life system, Lesson #3 is “Take the Pilot’s Seat.” The challenge associated with this lesson is trusting ourselves. In the chakra system related to energy medicine, this is the third chakra at the solar plexus. This energy is related to our sense of Self.

When we put our “Self” in the pilot’s seat, which part of us is that? We all know that we have a crowd of inner characters, whose voices range from encouraging to downright cruel. And they all scramble and compete for the seat at the controls.

Everyone has a healthy Self who is older and wiser than the other voices within. Some of those are younger, wounded, afraid. My clients usually want me to do an exorcism of some sort on those!

When I was afraid I’d never learn to trust myself behind the controls of an airplane, those scared, young, doubting inner critics all tried to wrestle the controls away from me. (I’m sure you know what I mean.) Clio knew it was her job to train me to feel in control and confident in that left seat, so that there would be no room for my doubts, fears and old habits to lead us into disaster.

Spiritual and therapeutic practices of any kind—meditation, deep journaling, deep dialogue, body work…are all meant to strengthen that Self—the one who is already healed, already older, wiser and confident enough to take mistakes in stride.

The Self is not perfectionistic. After all, when I was learning to fly, making mistakes made up the whole agenda for each lesson! And when I despaired at my imperfections, Clio would say, “Leave your mistakes behind you like the landscape.” When you’re flying a plane, there’s no room for worrying about what happened “back there.” And in our complex lives, we have plenty to worry about just being in the present.

The core fear associated with this lesson is not being good enough. I find that fear to be epidemic, and not just among those suffering from eating disorders. We all need “training” to correct the messages we’ve received from other wounded people who didn’t feel they were good enough. It’s contagious, but fortunately, it’s curable.

“You have it in you to be a pilot! I know it beyond a doubt!” Clio would say to me. How wonderful that I had someone to give me that message in a fierce tone that told me she would never give up on me.

Who is the “flight instructor” who can help you strengthen that Self, that soul-Self who can pilot you through uncharted territory ahead? For you are on a wondrous, sacred and exciting journey. Don’t give up the controls when you have the chance to be the heroine of your own life.

~Pamela Hale Trachta (Guest Blogger)

Author of: Flying Lessons: How to Be the Pilot of Your Own Life

Vegetarian Recovery: An Intention of Healing

January 1st, 2013

As I was preparing to cover the theme of vegetarianism and eating disorders recovery, I knew I needed to brace myself for some criticism. By including veganism in the equation, I figured I was probably asking for it, to be challenged that is. And I was challenged! By giving voice to this controversial discussion with the first blog, it has forced me to further investigate my own motivations for adopting a, mostly, vegan lifestyle. So, for the last two weeks, I have further assimilated both disdain and blessings into my perspective.

I have answered questions from my employer, treatment team, and social circle. After internalizing some doubts that others held, I experienced several moments of wondering if it was appropriate for me to start this charged discussion in the first place – and whether I was living out a healthy, pro-recovery choice. I found giving attention to these very good questions actually strengthened my resolve. Eating a plant-based diet can contribute to recovery, when approached mindfully. I do not think I would enjoy food as much as I do today if I had not followed my intuition with taking this path, a path that started as a very young child, a path that was ridiculed for years, the path that has been part of my once hopeless and now very hopeful healing process.

Forcing feeding myself meat and dairy was not only unpleasant, it was actually a roadblock to my recovery. When I succumbed to the pressure, I only did so to have available the lowest calorie food options, such as 99% fat-free lunch meat or light, no fat yogurt. In my case, it just led to more diet mentality. I may be speaking out for a minority through this blog, but I feel it is my duty, or dharma, to flip the coin and show that what may work for one may not work for another, and vise versa!

With my case being out of the ordinary, I was left with my own question, “How do I move forward from here?”  My guest posts are sponsored by Mirasol Eating Disorder Recovery Center. I contacted long-term mentor Jeannie Rust, Mirasol CEO/Founder, for counsel. Her words of wisdom were energizing, “Do not back off!!  Ever from your beliefs!!  Your writing is productive and worthwhile — extremely.  This is how we all learn and grow and advance our abilities to heal.” Her insight echoed what I always hope for, the ability to set an intention of healing.

Therefore, I feel a responsibility to once more reiterate that there is validity to the commonplace concerns about whether vegetarian and vegan meal plans work within the context of recovery. For some who embark upon this path when vulnerable in the early stages of recovery, the choice could actually pose new triggers. Even Mirasol, a program highly regarded for their integrative model of recovery, holds some reservations when working with vegetarian and vegan clients, “Although we of course honor veganism initially, we let the client know we will be challenging the restrictive aspects of that choice.”

The Standard American Diet that many of us have been taught relies on the convenience of meat and dairy industries for many essential nutrients. Learning how to obtain these nutrients from plant sources will take an initial investment of time, energy, and focus on food. Many of these nutrients are directly related to the functioning of our central nervous system. Eating disorders are associated with enough co-morbid mental health concerns of their own. If you are a vegetarian, and especially if you are a vegan, you do not want to overlook or restrict these nutrients! Nutrition education is a standard part of comprehensive eating disorders treatment. Please, utilize your treatment team to learn how you can achieve your optimal health, whether omnivore, herbivore, or somewhere in between.

As my friend Peggy-Claude Pierre expressed to me, “Someone is either well or not and some of them choose to be vegetarians…as some of any group of people do.”  If someone is using vegetarianism or veganism as a socially acceptable mask for restricting, truth will surface in their willingness to explore, discover, and include new foods into a balanced meal plan. If weight restoration is a part of your recovery journey, eliminating food groups is not going to help you achieve wellness. Vegetarians and vegans who truly wish to recover do not restrict food groups. We simply make alternative food choices as part of our healing.

I believe there are many keys to recovery, but I especially believe in the power of self-care, honesty, & moderation. It was not until I began yoga lifestyle and teacher training that I felt confident that I had the right to claim my recovery (self-care) within the context of plant-based diet. Even then, I knew it was not a wise choice (honesty) for me to dive into it with an all-or-nothing attitude (moderation). Still today, I take to heart Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to ensure my choices are linked to my all-encompassing intention of healing.

Let’s look at a few of the Yoga Sutras…

Ahimsa (non-harming)

Ahimsa is the practice of non-harming. Most of us are at least familiar with the concept of ahimsa thanks to the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, so it is not an entirely foreign concept to metabolize.

The overwhelming majority of individuals who adopt vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyles out of personal ethics cite their concerns for animal welfare and the environment as decision motivators. Whenever possible, I also aspire to contribute to the greater good, but my plant-based food choices are just one expression of this.

Besides, it is not possible to live life without causing some harm along the way. Even if I were wealthy enough to buy carbon offset credits, I would still be using fuel, creating pollution, and extracting resources from the environment. As far as I know, it is impossible to “do no harm” and live on planet earth. Therefore, I prefer to approach ahimsa as the path of least harm.

When teaching yoga, I ask students to make one agreement while we practice together, which is to honor their abilities and limitations in order to prevent injury. This sort of self-care is a vital aspect of ahimsa. Life brings enough challenges that we need not add to them by neglecting our own self-care.  Disordered eating is a form of self-harm. With recovery, take the path of least harm. What this looks like to each person has to be worked through individually. While the meat and dairy industries may be full of animal suffering, disordered eating and self-starvation are obviously creating your very own human suffering as well. I wrote about this in an essay in yoga teacher training almost 2 years ago, “It is a delicate dance for me because I do not trust myself to make the full transition without causing harm to myself. It requires a lot of time, energy, planning, and expense to adopt a vegan diet with enough calories to gain weight. It is something I am negotiating.”

When making decisions about food choices, ask yourself, “Is this the least harmful / best recovery choice right now?” While in training, attempting to transition to 100% vegan WAS NOT congruent with my ideal of ahimsa, so I made smaller changes. Even today, I take things in stride, sometimes consuming animal byproducts when faced with limited choices. For example, if I find myself at a restaurant where the only bread available has been coated with an egg-wash or butter, I would choose eating the bread over starving myself.

Satya (restrain from dishonesty)

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way and not starting,” – Buddha

A picture of fritos and oreosSatya translates to reality, or truth. Eating disorders survive through secrets and thrive off lies. I probably told every lie in the book at some point. If you want to recover, it is time to be honest with yourself. It is time to seek out friends, family, support people, & treatment providers who create a safe space for honesty. Honesty not only refers to truth telling, but also includes voluntarily outing secrets related to your eating disorder.

Whether you wish to maintain, return to, or embark upon a plant-based diet, engage your treatment team in a discussion about the motivations and intentions impacting your desires. These conversations are important with helping you uncover your truths. Feed your recovery through your honesty.

  1. What are my motivations for adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle?
  2. Is right now the best time for me to make major dietary changes?
  3. Is it possible that being a vegetarian is a socially acceptable way for me to maintain restricting behaviors in the presence of others?
  4. Am I willing to include more healthy fats (i.e. nuts, seeds, avocados, oils, etc…) into my meal plan in order to meet my energy needs?
  5. Am I willing to eat treats? (i.e. Oreos, Fritos, and Krispy Kreme fruit pies are vegan!)
  6. Is the additional time, energy, planning, and expense currently congruent with my recovery?
  7. What plans do I have to neutralize any extra challenges this may pose to my recovery?
  8. Is it possible at all that being a vegetarian/vegan helps me hang onto certain aspects of my ED?”
  9. How do I hope for this to contribute to my intention of healing?

These are all WONDERFUL questions worthy of your attention!

Bramacharya (absence of negative imbalance)

As said before, I have adopted a, mostly, vegan lifestyle. With vegetarianism, excluding animal flesh is fairly straight forward. However, as you err closer to veganism, things can get more and more extreme.

Many of us recovering from eating disorders share a tendency to fall into a trap of dichotomous, all-or-nothing thinking. With this black OR white thinking, you exclude all shades of gray.

Because we rely on so many processed foods in our culture, it can be excruciatingly difficult to find prepared foods that do not contain any sort of animal by-products. Marshmallows contain gelatin. Some brands of veggie cheese slices contain casein, a milk protein. The red dye in strawberry syrup might contain crushed beetles for color. Some forms of sugar may be processed with carbon that might contain bone char. Hmm, I use a carbon water filter. Does this mean I should stop filtering my tap water? Which is worse, bottled water or bone char filtered tap water?

How far are you going to take it when these lines are so fuzzy? How far can you afford to take it?

How far can I afford to take it? I make these decisions one by one, day by day. Moderation reminds me it is absolutely acceptable to include a sense of flexibility and reason. For me, ahimsa trumps all not extremism.

A few examples of how this looks in reality…

I frequently travel and have to eat out a lot. To some extent, I ensure I am prepared with shelf-stable protein and calcium-rich foods. I usually have on hand aseptic packs of single-serving almond or coconut milk. An extremist might say the packaging of these foods is wasteful…I’d rather throw away “extra packaging” than restrict my body from nutrition. If I find myself out of hummus packs, ProBars, or nuts and it’s time to go, I take flight on the wings of self-care and accept that I might have to eat something that would not be my first choice. In a worst case scenario, I am definitely going to order a cheese sandwich at the sub shop over no sandwich, even though I don’t like cheese and prefer not to support the dairy industry. When I go to a house party, I’m either going to bring a nice dish to introduce to everyone or I am going to make do with what is available: the fruit and veggie tray, chips and guacamole, and a handful of nuts. It might not look like the perfect meal, but I’m going to live my life WITH people and not allow vegetarianism or veganism to be any sort of hindrance to LIVING LIFE.

If you are on this path, I very much hope the same for you.

All things in moderation!

Santosha (from an attitude of contentment)

My greatest advice is to put your recovery above all else. Practice self-care, honesty, and moderation. Find satisfaction in your intention for healing. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. We are all in this journey of life together. We can each do only our best. Aspire to do YOUR BEST.

Don’t worry about what I’m doing (unless it helps you!). Don’t worry yourself with trying to convince the world to adopt the same eco-consciousness that you find works for you. We all have our paths. They intervene. They weave together. This is the tapestry of life.

If you wish for your friends, family, & treatment team to support you in your recovery choices, be content with the fact that what works for you may be quite different than what works for them. Try to avoid heated debates over morality and ethics, by being content with your own healthy choices. It is one thing to explain your rationale, but it is entirely different to try to convince someone else to live THEIR life YOUR way.

If your actions match your intentions and you are enjoying success, there is little to argue. Your recovery will say it all. If you aren’t enjoying success, be honest. What can you do differently? Rather than being vegan, choosing organic milk or free-range meat may actually be the right choice for you.

Recovery includes many shades of gray. It isn’t about THIS WAY or THAT WAY. It’s about DOING IT!

Actions speak louder than words

To me, the labels of vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, vegan, etc…are just descriptors. These things are less relevant than the reality of whether you are getting better or not.

Actions speak louder than words.

Don’t just make the next best choice; follow it up with action!

Namaste, Heather Purdin, M.Ed., RYT (Guest Blogger)

Living in Gratitude

November 10th, 2012

Have you wondered what real gratitude feels like?

Is it difficult to summon up a feeling of gratitude because life has been so unfair?

Have you ever seen anyone who is full of gratitude?

I have been in recovery for 25 years now. Recovery has been a trip like no other and I’m still on my journey. I found it extremely difficult to achieve lasting recovery. I worked on myself for years, in and out of recovery, in and out of therapy and in and out of 12-step programs. A tough “nut” to crack, if you’ll pardon the expression. Finally I was at the place where I’d do whatever it took to be well and right with my world. I needed to let go of almost everything about me. I felt like a bear in a “build-a-bear” store! Only I was building a “Jeannie.” Because of my personal transformation, gratitude has become a way of life. Being able to feel gratitude for all of the people who helped me still takes my breathe away.

I am continually reminded that life is life, life isn’t fair much of the time, and one of the ways I measure the success of my recovery is by how much gratitude I’m feeling on any given day. I like to think that I ‘m full of gratitude all of the time. Unfortunately some days I struggle with feeling gratitude. Unfortunately I am as human as anyone and being in recovery adds its own challenges.

What is “gratitude?” Webster’s dictionary says that gratitude is appreciation, appreciativeness, gratefulness, thanks and thankfulness. I know that these definitions are all synonyms for gratitude. Wow!

In my mind I link the feeling of gratitude with being in a state of grace. When I’m feeling gratitude, I’m feeling as if I’m one with my world. Everything is in balance and is as it should be. In other words everything in my life is perfect or as perfect as it can ever be.

Gratitude for me is being thankful for the Universe, being thankful for my recovery, being thankful for my family, and being thankful for all of the wonderful people in my life. I appreciate having a roof over my head, warm clothes to wear, and enough food to eat. I’m grateful that my basic needs are filled. Everything else is the gravy! My heart literally feels full.

What does Gratitude feel like?

What kind of feeling do you have when you see a darling baby?

How do you feel when you see pictures of kittens and puppies?

Or a beautiful picture of nature? Or when you’re with a dear friend?

When I experience these things, I feel warm and fuzzy. I feel clear in my mind and in my heart. I’m not feeling fear, or feeling judgmental. I’m not feeling suspicious, or angry. I don’t have feelings of superiority, or feel “put upon.” I am just the authentic “me,” feeling so very thankful for all that I have in my life. I know then that I truly am blessed.

How can I get gratitude into my life?

I have a several ways I can change a mood from dreadful to grateful.

1. I wake up in the morning, say a little prayer, asking for help to get through the day, and list five things I’m grateful for today! If I’m feeling fear or anger, or feeling just plain horrible, I “make up” 5 things I’m grateful for. I do it anyway, no matter what. I act “as if” and the feelings will follow. I do this every single morning.

2. I work on keeping the memory green. In 12-step parlance keeping the memory green is to frequently remember what my life used to be like before recovery. I never want to forget what it was like. I never want to forget how ill I was in every way, physically, emotionally, intellectually, nutritionally, sexually, and spiritually. I never want to forget how hard it was to recover, step-by-step.

3. A principle that I live by is “giving it away.” In recovery we learn that if we want to keep something, we need to give it away as well. Quite a paradox! For myself, I want to feel gratitude for myself and I want to teach other people how to feel gratitude and to feel well. Being in a state of gratitude is wonderful, I want to share it with everyone.

4. I’ve evolved spiritually in my recovery. Today I focus on gratitude and on living a life of abundance. I follow the teachings of Abraham. Abraham is rather like a graduate course in The Secret. He tells me that I am meant to have an abundant life. He says I am meant to have everything I want, not only materially, but spiritually and emotionally. I’m meant to have kind loving people around me. I’m meant to be able to have so much gratitude to share with others that my cup indeed runneth over!

–Jeanne Rust, PhD

Perfectionism: Are You Good Enough?

August 18th, 2012

 1989 – Pop quiz, my worst nightmare.

“OK class. Clear your desks,” the teacher announced. “We’re going to have a quiz from last night’s reading, but don’t worry. There are only five questions and there is even a bonus question worth 20 points.”

If only this had been a math quiz…“Only five questions?,” I thought to myself. “What a nightmare. If I miss one, it is automatically a C. I don’t do “C’s”. If I miss one and get the bonus, a 100 out of 120 is still only 83% of the best possible score [the perfect score]”. –To me this was no better than a C.

I bit my lower lip, grasped my pencil with a death grip, and held my breath. And the quiz began…
1. Got it, shew!
2. I don’t remember the answer. What is the answer?
3. Got it, but what is the answer to # 2?
4. Got it. Oh man, but what is # 2?
5. Got it. Crap. I can’t remember the answer to # 2.
6. BONUS. Thank God, but what is # 2. What is it?

A healthy second grader would have turned in the pop quiz with a grin stretched from ear to ear, knowing they were pulling a 100 thanks to that bonus question.

I, on the other hand, was stuck on question # 2. I was so angry with myself for not knowing the correct answer that I “punished” myself by erasing all of the right answers. I gave myself an “F” by only leaving the bonus question answered. Essentially, I failed myself.

At seven years old, I was already a “perfectionist” and it was only the beginning of the impossible pursuit.

By middle school, my father tried to bribe me out of perfectionism by stating he would reward me with a dinner out if I made a B, as if it would be something to celebrate. Point being, this need for perfection was internally driven. It had nothing to do with what others thought, nor was it expected of me. I was competing against myself and I was either perfect or it was a perfect disaster.

Perfectionism Trend

I wanted to write about perfectionism a few months ago, but it has taken me some time to address, namely because I have had to face my own perfectionistic tendencies in order to write this! “If I write about perfectionism, it has to be perfect, right?”

Eating disorders and perfectionism seem to go together like a horse and carriage. The original Eating Disorders Inventory was created in 1984 and had only 8 subscales, one of which was perfectionism. A few revisions, 4 additional subscales, and 30 years later, this highly regarded diagnostic tool still assesses perfectionism. The link between perfectionism and eating disorders has been of striking interest to researchers and clinicians for decades.

Bulik et al. (2003) studied the relationship between perfectionism and several mental health concerns, including eating disorders, utilizing items from the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. I came across this study only after starting this blog and recalling my first memory of pop quiz queasiness. The research data lead to the following conclusion, “Confirming and extending previous clinically based knowledge, we found that elevated scores on a perfectionism scale—especially the aspect of perfectionism captured by the subscale for concern over mistakes—were significantly associated with the presence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. This subscale measures negative reactions to mistakes and the tendency to interpret mistakes as failures” (Bulik et al., 2003, Discussion section, para. 1).

Mistakes as failures…just like that pop quiz from second grade…

Bulik et al. (2003) also noted a trend of lingering perfectionism, even after individuals with eating disorders recovered. I suppose I am not going to be the exception to this trend.

Is there such a thing as an adaptive perfectionist?

The thing that is totally hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

Roedell (1984) once wrote, “In a positive form, perfectionism can provide the driving energy which leads to great achievement. The meticulous attention to detail, necessary for scientific investigation, the commitment which pushes composers to keep working until the music realizes the glorious sounds playing in the imagination, and the persistence which keeps great artists at their easels until their creation matches their conception all result from perfectionism.”

Adaptive perfectionism makes space for perseverance in the face of obstacles and lacks the self-criticism and low self-esteem that is associated with unhealthy perfectionism. It is the type of drive that allows people to keep trying when met with disappointments.

Some of the most successful people endured supposed “failures” along their way.

Did you know Michael Jordon was cut from his high school basketball team? That is a far cry from his days on the Olympic Dream Team! Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper for claims he lacked imagination and creative originality. Even Oprah Winfrey was demoted from a position as an anchorwoman for being “unfit” for television. Of course she now has her own television network!

Here are some ideas for working with perfectionism so it does not become a paralyzing trap. I applied some of these myself to approach this very blog!

Escaping the trap of perfectionism

1. Introduce “good enough” to your vocabulary: “Instead of deciding that you aren’t good enough because you’re having a hard time, recognize that you’re doing the best you can, and that’s enough.” – Vanessa Schon, Eating Disorder Survivor.
2. Acknowledge your humanness: This gives you permission to make mistakes. We are ALL imperfectly perfect. To strive for anything else is to aim for misery!
3. Remember that success takes practice: Errors and mistakes are learning platforms. Remember Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and Walt Disney did not let setbacks take them down. They returned to the goal at hand and adapted with persistence.
4. Squash out the “black or white” / “all or nothing” thinking: Whether you prefer shades of gray or colors of the rainbow, try to think in terms of sliding scales rather than either/ or. There are many numbers between 1 and 10.
5. Focus on the big picture: I purposely inserted an incomplete sentence in this blog. Did that take away from the overall impact? Not really. ?
6. Take a Cost Benefit Analysis: Does perfectionism really allow you to be your best? Are you at your best when you are beating yourself up for making a mistake? I am not an editor. I would never get anything done if I expected myself to have perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation, and so forth. I am able to enjoy writing when I do not expect myself to be great at these things, but I’m good enough to make it meaningful.
7. Break it down: Large goals and projects are met by taking small, achievable steps. As an added bonus, this will help combat the tendency to procrastinate. Avoidance and procrastination only increase the anxiety associated with perfectionism!

Now, go and make one of your mistakes and appreciate your humanness! You are good enough!

Heather Purdin, M.Ed., RYT (Guest Blogger)


Bulik, C. M., Tozzi, F., Anderson, C., Mazzeo, S. E., Aggen, S., & Sullivan, P. F., (2003). The relation
between eating disorders and components of perfectionism. The American Journal of Psychiatry,
160, 366-368. Retrieved from:

Roedell, W. C. (1984). Vulnerabilities of highly gifted children. Roeper Review 6 (3): 127–130.