Recovering from Perfectionism

by Elizabeth on March 21, 2013

I realize this was a pretty heavy week post wise so the next few days will include light hearted stuff with lots of dessert pictures :-) I do want to share with you something I’ve been thinking about lately which is how I used to struggle a great deal with perfectionism.

If you find yourself in this category of tending to want things to be perfect, there is absolutely no shame in it at all. Honestly, when people used to call me a perfectionist or told me I had those tendencies I felt proud. My mind heard, “You are being close to perfect.” How sadly flawed this logic was. I now know that living with a perfectionistic mindset can be really damaging to yourself and those around you. What I realized about myself is that really, I don’t want to be perfect. What I value is excellence (very different than perfection.) I value hard work, dedication, and a job well done. It becomes problematic when I take it to the extreme.

When you set perfectionistic standards for yourself in different parts of your life, whether it’s school, running, work, parenting, etc., you subconsciously project the same standards on to those around you. Anything less from others isn’t tolerable because it’s not tolerable within yourself. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want people around me to feel like I expect them to be perfect (most importantly Noah) so I feel like it was really important to develop a different mindset around all of this that I could model for him. When I want things to be flawless I’m setting myself up for failure and disappointment. Everything in life has flaws. I’m also sending a message to those around me (i.e. Noah) that anything less than that isn’t acceptable, which simply is not true. I WANT Noah to see me make mistakes so he knows it’s ok for him to do the same. I want him to see Joe and I argue respectfully, that way he has a model for healthy confrontation. If we don’t model that for him, who will?

I’m not Buddhist, but there’s a principle they try to live by called “right effort” that I really like. Basically, it talks about working smart, rather than hard. Doing what you can and leaving the rest alone. When I think back to times in my life when I was really struggling with perfectionistic thinking, I can honestly say my performance suffered. In school I studied like a crazy person (and pretty much was a crazy person) and at points when I was striving my hardest, I really wasn’t doing that great. When I think about my life now, I know that in addition to valuing excellence, I also value my own well being, my family, learning, and spirituality to name a few. Using the blog as an example, sometimes at night while I’m writing a post, I know I could put a few more paragraphs, pictures, jokes, etc in, and I have to let it go. I value spending time with Joe and Noah so I give it 60% instead of 100%. On nights I’m alone and Noah’s in bed, I can take an extra hour or so to make it as detailed as I want. My point is in whatever you’re doing, put forth the right effort for that time in your life.

When I have more balance and put the right effort into different areas of my life, I’m shocked at how much better things actually turn out than when I was striving and striving and striving. Again, I’m going to use the blog as my example. It sort of started as something for myself. I had no idea if people would read it, like it, love it, hate it, or what kind of feedback I would get. I feel like I enjoy the time I spend writing and the amount of effort I put into it, and I also have a very separate life apart from it. There’s a good balance. The responses I have gotten from people so far have been really positive! People tell me how much they can relate or how it’s helping them. I don’t feel like I’m striving and striving I just feel like I’m being honest and letting God work through me in whatever way he wants.

On to a few lighter things?. I want to show you Noah’s favorite shirt these days. It has a dog and a ball on it so he gets really excited to put it on.


I have been pretty boring when it comes to food this week but last night we had these meatballs in our pasta and I loved them! The nilgai Joe shot on his hunt last month arrived yesterday so we might be having nilgai (it’s an exotic cow) steaks tonight. I’m only slightly nervous. Anyone out there ever tried it?

Pasta with alfredo and turkey meatballs. Yum.


It’s the last day to enter the giveaway! The winner will be announced tomorrow morning!


1. Do you consider yourself to be a perfectionist in anything?

2. Tell me something lighthearted!

3. What’s your favorite kind of pasta???

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie March 21, 2013 at 6:20 am

Noah is SO SO cute!!!

I tend to be a perfectionist in some aspects of my life, but I don’t let it drive me mad! I think trying to want everything perfect is unrealistic!

Happy Thursday girl!!


2 Nelly March 21, 2013 at 6:24 am

YES those turkey meatballs are my go to for pastas! So easy and great nutritional stats!
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3 aine lunney @ainesadventuresabroad March 21, 2013 at 6:27 am

I can struggle with perfectionism at times and it’s so easy to fall into those habits.

You make me soooo jealous with your TJ’s purchases, it’s one of the big things I miss (that and Target, how silly is that?!)

I love pasta with spinach and feta or vodka sauce, soooo good !
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4 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries March 21, 2013 at 6:38 am

I feel you on the perfectionism thing! I still find myself being perfectionistic about certain things, but I’ve come a LONG way in the past couple years. I have my husband to thank for that! He’s helped me a lot in overcoming it and life is SO much more enjoyable!
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5 Mandy March 21, 2013 at 6:58 am

I seriously have issues with perfectionism and I’m extremely hard on myself and I think that I do project that to others at times. For example right now with my wedding planning and crafts etc., I have not asked for any help because I’m afraid if I give someone a job to do they aren’t going to do It right or to my standards. Now that I put that into words I feel terrible! I make it sound like my friends aren’t good enough. Thankfully, Nathan is completly opposite of me and slowly but surely I’m making some changes. Changing the way ou have been thinking for years is not easy! I love your blog and I find it extremely relatable and inspirational! It has pushed me to analyze myself and helped me get back into running with the same passion I used to have. In a way it
has brought me back to my roots. P.S. I’m training for a 10 miler and possibles a half next and I live in Willia now *hint *hint I would love a coach lol ; )


6 Sarah @PickyRunner March 21, 2013 at 7:12 am

I’m a perfectionist too. It’s hard for me to accept that I can’t be and I definitely give people the vibe that everything has to be perfect all of the time.That isn’t the case at all. I think it’s the idea that I’m afraid to screw up. It’s hard to hear that people feel like I’m judging them because that’s not it at all. This post really hit home for me.
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7 Kate March 21, 2013 at 7:27 am

I love this post and have been enjoying your blog. I have a tendency to be all or nothing – and just the other night I thought that my blog is less important than my time with my husband and one year old son. So, I didn’t edit my photos or write a blog post, but instead spent time outdoors with them. I’m glad I did. Blogs are great, but living life is so much greater! Thanks for a reminder that it’s “okay” to do that :)
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8 Emily @ Maple Miles March 21, 2013 at 8:26 am

I definitely am a perfectionist and I am working on realizing that I can’t always do things just so! My favorite pasta is Olive Gardens Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno! I googled the copy cat recipe and make it all the time! It is cheaper that way and actually really easy to make!
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9 Stacey S. March 21, 2013 at 8:27 am

It’s amazing how children can teach us so many lessons about who we are and what we want to be and model for them! I have similar strugles with perfectionism and have called myself a recovering perfectionist for the last few years ;) some days I do well and others. . . . . not so well, but I keep trying because I definitely do not want my children to grow up thinking that perfect = good!


10 kendra @ March 21, 2013 at 8:36 am

it sounds like you are doing such a great job raising your sweet little boy. he’ll see how much you love and care about him and that’s what’s important.

i’ve never tried nilgai (never heard of it) that i know of. but we have had those trader joes meatballs:)

i am definitely not a perfectionist. i kind of do things as best i can and call it good. my husband on the other hand….:D
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11 Sarah @ OurPersonalRecords March 21, 2013 at 8:37 am

I am absolutely a perfectionist in the same way. I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect in my studies and now to be perfect at work. The worst part is, when you have that as your standard, you’re a) bound to fail and b) when you do fail, it is devastating. I don’t want to live that way anymore, so I am trying hard to work on doing my best rather than being perfect.

Something lighthearted… today is Thursday! That means tomorrow is Friday! Also, spring has officially arrived!

My favorite pasta is either my grandma’s homemade lasagna (all from scratch) or my uncle’s homemade gnocchi or ravioli. Now I’m getting hungry!
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12 Candice March 21, 2013 at 9:16 am

I’m the same way! I was more of a perfectionist before I had the twins and once they were born all things cleaned and organized went to pot. Ha! Worth it in every aspect. If I keep up with laundry, and the dishes AND them I’m happy. If it nothing gets done, but my kids are happy then that is just fine too.

Something light hearted? Get this, it was snowing and dark this morning and I hit a skunk… I freal skunk! My entire car reeks. OK that is not super light hearted but I hope you laughed knowing that I am going to smell that damn thing all day long.
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13 Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm

You POOR thing!!!! I did laugh but not in a mean way :-)


14 Amanda @ .running with spoons. March 21, 2013 at 10:01 am

I’m definitely no stranger to perfectionism. It’s something that I struggled with s lot in the past, and even though it’s gotten better, there are still times where it rears it’s ugly head. And its funny because the times I let myself be less than perfect are the time sthat I get the best response. Now to remember that when I’m sitting there trying to give it 110%…


15 Amy March 21, 2013 at 10:03 am

I am totally perfectist. Its hard since I I work in a Type A place as well. Oh well.

We used to eat nigali all the time growing up. The steaks are great and use like normal. If you did not mix it would beef when you processed you might add 1/4 lean beef when you make burger. It will help them stick together. On the tougher cuts, flank steak rump roast ect. The crockpot will be your friend. You use the nigali like you would beef. Its so yummy. And heathly. We only get deer now but I still like it.

Last note, When I was a kids we would make chicken friend steak with round steak of the nigali. Pound the round steak thin, dredge in flour w/salt and pepper. Fry in about 1/2 inch oil. I use package flour.
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16 Ashley @ OurPersonalRecords March 21, 2013 at 10:11 am

I am definitely a perfectionist. I notice it in a number of areas, but mostly surround food I cook (I know, it’s obscure). If I make something that doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, I have a difficult time enjoying it. Then I look across the table at my boyfriend chowing it down and realize I’m being hard on myself.

Something light: I had a new appreciation for always carrying a water bottle with me yesterday. I ran out of windshield wiper fluid and, of course, my windshield was covered in salt — nothing a few splashes of water couldn’t fix.

I basically love all macaroni.
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17 Jade March 21, 2013 at 10:13 am

I think I used to be more of a perfectionist but my husband has taught me how to relax and enjoy life. While he is an extremely hard worker, he kind of naturally does the do what you can and leave the rest thing. You are right, there are more important things in life!
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18 Mallory @ ifgravityhappens March 21, 2013 at 11:42 am

Totally my personality too!!! It’s so good to know another perspective! especially with a little one who looks up to you…you are such a great mom and i absolutely love these deep posts!!!!!! You always have such a unique and positive perspective on things!!
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19 Amy @ Fun With Family and Fitness March 21, 2013 at 11:45 am

I can relate to you about being a perfectionist. Up until recently, I used to schedule the SAME EXACT CHORES every week……week in, week out, just so the house would always look “perfect”, but there was no time for anything else during the day. I really was burning myself out! After reading a post on a site that I visit frequently, I realized that I don’t need to have such a strict routine. I can clean when things need to be cleaned, not when the day of the week says they do. I feel much less stressed because of it!
My favorite pasta is spaghetti with lemon and olive oil! It’s a recipe from a site called Smitten Kitchen. :)
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20 Elizabeth @ March 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

I too struggle with trying to be perfect. I want to eat all the right things, cook the perfect meal every night, workout as much as possible, have a no arm jiggle and perfect abs. I want my house to be 100% when my parents/in-laws come over because I want them to think I am the perfect wife. I want my carpet to be freshly vacuumed every time someone comes to visit because I want them to think I have it all together. I always give the dogs a bath before company because I want them to be fresh and clean. I don’t want to have stinky dogs. I think for me it is so much wanting to be perfect in the eyes of other people that I just wear myself out and don’t enjoy life. I have been really working on letting things go this year. I have left the bed unmade in the morning, I didn’t vacuum the rug last time I had people over, and my dogs haven’t had baths in two weeks. Wow…I feel better getting all of that out.

Happy thought…I took my 5lb dog on a two mile run last night. Best runny buddy ever.
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21 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom March 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I am a perfectionist, no doubt, but since my ex and I broke up six months ago, I’ve become a lot more easy-going. His throwing a major wrench in my plans for our lives together was the wake up call I needed to show me that not everything goes according to the way I have planned it. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a really, really long time.

Today, I spent the morning getting paid to throw cheez-balls into the mouths of my high schoolers to see how many they could fit without chewing, swallowing, or choking.

My favorite kind of pasta is bow-tie pasta or spaghetti.

P.S. I’m kind of nervous about your cow steaks…so I might skip over the review of that one ;)
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22 Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm

LOL totally laughed at the cow steak sentence! No offense taken they scare me too!


23 [email protected] March 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I love alfredo pasta with cajun spices and chicken!
Lighthearted ~ I am seeing all kinds of birds outside and hearing them while I run!! Spring might be arriving at last!
Not sure when it happened… but I realized that I wasn’t perfect, had never been perfect, and would never be perfect. Striving to do my best (I like your term “excellence”) is important, but I know that’s all it is and I’m ok with that.
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24 Cori @ olivetorun March 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I personally love your deep posts and really appreciate you letting us in.

As for something lighthearted- Since I started reading your blog I see CAKE POPS/BALLS EVERYWHERE! :)
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25 Elizabeth March 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I’m making more tomorrow… GET EXCITED!


26 Debbie @ Deb Runs... March 21, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I tend to be a perfectionist on some thing and probably miss out on a lot that I should be enjoying!

Something light: My hubby and I are on our way to pick up Chipotle for dinner!!!!!
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27 Jackie March 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I am definitely a perfectionist in different aspects of my life and it translates into instensity. My hubs has really helped me to “stop and smell the roses” and try to enjoy the little things. Like for example when I get home and know I have to get x,y, and z accomplished before the day is over and he wants a hug, not rushing those moments with him.

And by the way I really do enjoy reading your blog. I appreciate your honesty and really enjoy reading. Whether you think some posts are better than others, I commend you for putting your life out there and for doing it everyday, so thank you again : )


28 Nicole @ Curly Mommy March 21, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I love that you are striving for “excellence.” :) It’s such an encouraging phrase, where you can show your children what happens with hard work and dedication. Excellence is always attainable if you try, and I really hope to put forth this kind of mindset to my children. Great post Elizabeth!
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29 Chelsea March 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I love the idea of being mindful to your effort based on the time allowed! I feel like maybe part of my personal philosophy stems from this kind of “a watched pot never boils” mentality – those things we spend or time obsessing over never actually come to pass, and all the while we’re missing out on all the great stuff happening in the background. As you can tell, I’m working on being a bit of a perfectionist myself! My lighthearted fact? Donald Duck was banned from airing in Thailand in the 80s because he doesn’t wear pants :)

My pasta votes have to go to bow-tie and angel hair!
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30 Alyssa @ See This Girl Run March 21, 2013 at 11:00 pm

I have a hard time not been perceived as successful. I feel the need to be so smart or make so much money or have a certain job or whatever so that others will look at me and think I’m all cool. I try to be a perfectionist in reaching this image. I’m learning, however, that these things are not important and I’m find things that I love and am passionate about is what I really should be pursuing. It’s a process.

Light-hearted: my coworker based her march madness bracket last year on her favorite animal: the cow. So she put Wisconsin to win because with all that cheese they must have lots of cows. Her bracket didn’t do too well hahaha

Can’t I say I have a pasta that isn’t my favorite :)
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31 Melissa @ Freeing Imperfections March 22, 2013 at 6:00 am

This post really speaks to me, as I am absolutely a perfectionist. My whole blog and title is inspired by the fact that I am trying to recover from perfectionism every day!

I couldn’t agree more that there is a huge difference between excellence and perfection. One of my favorite perfection-y quotes says not to confuse the two because they’re so different. And it is true that the standards you hold yourself to are often projected onto others. Perfectionism is a tricky road, but I’ve realized (and still realize) that perfection is God’s business, not ours. It’s hard to let go of. One step at a time, though.

And those meatballs are the BEST!
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32 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats March 22, 2013 at 6:02 am

Gnocchi is my favorite pasta. Tortellini is a close second. I have never even heard of that animal but I’m interested in seeing how it tastes! I am 100% a perfectionist when it comes to writing. I used to go nuts on research papers in college. I would make a gazillion last minute changes. I have gotten much better lately but I CRINGE when I go back and read old blog posts and notice something that I should have changed.
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33 Danica @ It's Progression March 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I love this post, and yes, I can relate SO much! I’m a perfectionist when it comes to a lot of things. Sometimes, that’s a great thing, and sometimes it’s definitely not. I’m continually trying to find that balance of when it’s great to “be a perfectionist” and when I have to just relax, go with the flow, and be okay with that.


34 [email protected] March 22, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Wow all that perfectionist stuff really hit home! Great post (again)! Favorite pasta… Allllll of them :)
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