Perfectionism Is a Roadblock to Eating Disorder Recovery

October 14, 2020 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

If I had to wear a name badge in public each day, it would announce to everyone around me: "Hello, my name is Perfectionist." This might seem vain or self-important, but in truth, it's debilitating because perfectionism is a roadblock to eating disorder recovery. The merciless expectations of achievement, the rigorous standards of appearance, and the continuous loop of self-deprecation can form just the right conditions for an eating disorder to take root. Therefore, to heal from an eating disorder, the roadblock of perfectionism must be overcome. This is hard work—but so necessary and worthwhile.  

My Experience with Perfectionism and an Eating Disorder 

When I was hospitalized for an eating disorder back in 2010, my perfectionism had reached an all-time high as well. I was a new freshman in college with an 18-credit hour academic course load, aspirations to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, and a list of extracurricular activities I rarely even had the bandwidth for. Tack on the two hours I spent each night at the university fitness center, and I was spiraling out of control.

So when I found myself in a residential treatment program a few months later, the reality soon became clear. Not only was I there to heal from anorexia—I also had to release the perfectionism that stood as a roadblock to eating disorder recovery. With the guidance of incredible therapists, I learned to accept my own shortcomings.

I realized that perfection is not a benchmark that any human can achieve. I embraced my idiosyncrasies, rather than feeling ashamed, inadequate, or just plain weird. Rather than sacrificing my health on the altar of perfection, I normalized being imperfect and started to love myself in the process.

Combat Perfectionism in Eating Disorder Recovery

I still have perfectionistic tendencies, but these days, I want a name badge that reads: "Hello, my name is Work In Progress," instead. So my approach to eating disorder recovery is about as simple as can be. I extend myself grace, compassion, forgiveness, and patience for the sheer fact that I am human.

My life is a series of attempts, failures, backslides, and victories. I am brilliant in some areas, but I stumble in others. I will never obtain the "perfect" body because that illusion does not exist—nor will I be able to curate a life void of any mistakes. Both are unrealistic, and neither leads to curiosity, exploration, wisdom, or growth. This journey toward healing is messy and flawed, but while perfection is a roadblock to eating disorder recovery, I can guarantee there's freedom in the imperfections.  

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2020, October 14). Perfectionism Is a Roadblock to Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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