Perfectionism Is A Lie with Dr. Helen Gitlevich
By Kim Dietrich, kimdietrich.ca
In a recent episode of her Creating Abundance with Ease radio show, Dr. Helen Gitlevich related stories from her personal history to illustrate the toxic nature of perfectionism. As her stories show, not only are perfectionism’s impossible standards unattainable, they can wreak havoc on our health, our relationships, and our ability to live with abundance and ease.
Perfectionism and the beauty industry
The dark side of perfectionism is that when we reach for it, we’re essentially telling ourselves we are flawed; because I am not ‘perfect’, there is something wrong with me. Nowhere is this more evident than in the impossible standards of our modern beauty industry. Today’s perfect beauty is a size 0 and excess weight is considered slovenly. Turning to history, Dr. Helen questions the prevailing attitude that we must be skinny to be beautiful. She points out that by historical standards, thinness was attributed to poverty and being overweight signified wealth. The voluptuous models of the impressionist era are the very picture of health and vitality, but would never make the cut in a modern fashion magazine. More recent historical beauties (like 50s sex symbol Marilyn Monroe or Playboy models of the 1970s) would be considered highly overweight by today’s standards. Today we contend with intensely stylized, digitally manipulated photographs of models portraying an impossible standard of ‘perfect’ beauty. If that is how we measure our beauty, we are forever doomed to fall short.
Helen tells of accompanying her daughter to a modelling show. A medical doctor by trade, she was called upon to assist a participant who passed out during the afternoon event. The young model revealed to Dr. Helen that she’d consumed no more than a few sips of coffee to sustain herself that day. Sadly, Dr. Helen points out, such behavior is not uncommon; young women are so obsessed with achieving beauty ‘perfection’ that they are willing to starve themselves in the process. While the modelling industry may be especially extreme, women everywhere endure similar miseries in their quest for beauty perfection. This fruitless search powers a diet industry that generates $70 billion every year. The cost of perfectionism is high.
Perfectionism in our Relationships
Our focus on perfection infects our relationships as well. We set out to change our partners and loved ones, suggesting improvements in their behavior, dress and physical appearance. Focused on arbitrary ideas of perfection, we poke holes in our relationships and take apart what isn’t broken. We fail to recognize that our partner’s true beauty exists in the unique nature of their imperfections. As Dr. Helen points out, even the most valuable diamonds have inclusions. Mother Nature’s vast beauty is asymmetrical, stunning and absolutely imperfect.
Stress and the Pursuit of Perfection
Beyond physical misery and relationship damage, the pursuit of perfection can have devastating health consequences. As our stress levels increase, so does our risk for heart disease. Dr. Helen recalls the intense pressures she endured as a physician. She worked around the clock in a perfectionistic drive to avoid error. To her, failure equated the death of a patient – an unacceptable outcome. Unfortunately, the stresses of her practice were almost her undoing. Her attempts at maintaining impossible standards landed her on an operating table for open heart surgery.
Healing Solutions for our Perfectionistic Tendencies
Helen eventually left the medical profession and turned to other forms of healing. Along the way she worked on unknotting her deep-seated tendencies towards perfection. She came to see that (as with many of us) her perfectionism developed in early life. Her ideas around beauty requiring sacrifice came from warnings heard as a young girl to be careful what she ate: “you don’t want to get fat!”. Time spent in her grandmother’s home – always maintained to a surgical level of cleanliness – ingrained in her that appearances should take precedence over comfort and ease.
Solution-wise, Dr. Helen encourages reframing our thoughts as a way to rethink early learnings. When perfectionistic standards come up, we can encourage an inner shift by mentally labelling them as an ‘interesting point of view’. Alternatively, asking “who does that belong to?” can be a helpful way to guide our minds away from the ideas we unconsciously absorbed during childhood.
Tuning in to the true desires of our bodies can also be a powerful way to shift from our tendency to automatically choose suffering over comfort and ease. We can put aside our impossible standards and choose something new. Helen encourages employing the clearing statements of Access Consciousness (available on her website creatingabundancewithease.com) to destroy and uncreate the perfectionistic standards that drive us mad. Ultimately, her invitation is to choose differently so we can see our imperfections with gratitude, acceptance and allowance. By ending our pursuit of perfection, we open ourselves to the tremendously imperfect joy that life has to offer.
Listen to Dr. Helen Gitlevich’s show here: https://www.inspiredchoicesnetwork.com/media/perfectionism-in-my-life-dr-helen-gitlevich/
Kim Dietrich is a freelance writer specializing in lifestyle, career and business writing for online and print media. Her work has appeared in Toronto Life magazine, East Coast Living and Saturday Night.