I have perfectionism in my blood, but it’s that frustrating, mostly self-directed type. It is much easier for me to be patient and loving towards others who make a mistake than it is to give the same courtesy towards myself. I can imagine the head nods and looks of understanding even as I write this. I know I am not alone in this characteristic, and my gut tells me that this may be more common among us women than our male counterparts (correct me if you think I’m wrong, guys!). While I can channel this into good work and other industrious outcomes, I have learned that trying to be perfect while pursuing a healthier, happier life is extremely counter-productive.
If we decide to be healthy only if we can ‘do it the right way’ or ‘go all the way’ and be like those always-snack-on-veggies do-yoga-every-day make-their-own-yogurt people, we are probably never going to make any real steps in the right direction (if any of that describes you, by the way, kudos on making great life choices – even if it does make the rest of us jealous, lol). Our lifestyle habits are just like all other aspects of our story: we are all in different places in our journeys, and our destinations need not be the same. And while this may be frustrating when we’re not where we would like to be, the variety in our different paths makes life interesting and beautiful.
When my husband and I decided to create a healthier life, I was easily overwhelmed by all the changes we wanted to make and by figuring out where to start. My thoughts went something like this: ‘We need to add more produce in our diets…but we might as well start switching to some affordable organic produce…which means we’ll have to change our meat, eggs, and milk…and speaking of healthier drinks, what kind of water filter is best?…Do we need to filter our shower water?!’ Maybe you can relate. With so much information to obtain and so many changes to implement (not to mention my perfectionist tendencies), how did we ever start at all? By taking one small step at a time.
The following is my advice for others who, like me, find their heads spinning at the daunting task of creating healthier habits:
- Start where you are most passionate and/or concerned. For me, high fructose corn syrup was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After hearing about its dangers here and there, I finally decided to do some research and then chose to buy products without it. This led to an interest in label-reading and understanding exactly what we were eating. By following our passions and interests, we automatically have more energy and ‘oomph’ to put into the task.
- Surround yourself with support. I think that accomplishing any goal is easier when you have encouraging support to lean up against. I am fortunate to have a spouse who is on board with making healthier choices. If you live alone, reach out to friends or family who may want to join you in making certain changes. If you live with others who are less than supportive, find encouragement from another community you are a part of, including any online!
- Set realistic goals. When I first dabbled in more natural and safer hygiene products, I grated a recommended bar of soap to make our own body wash. It took forever (are my arms that weak?!), and the result was just so-so. I remember feeling so discouraged; we couldn’t afford a ton of fancy, better for you products, but I didn’t have the time (or desire!) to be grating soap every couple of weeks. Fortunately, we came to a great compromise – we’d buy the affordable bars and use that instead of body wash (it lathers up great with a loofah, anyways). I had to accept that it just wasn’t worth it to keep making the body wash. My perfect little image of me making our own soap in no way fits into our reality. I now try to always keep that in mind before getting wrapped up in a project that is not realistic for our lives.
What were the first steps you took towards a big life change?