Letting Go of Perfectionism

  “I’m just all-or-nothing”. 

“I’m either really on it with exercise and nutrition or I’ve smashed the fuck it button”. 

Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re struggling with a bad case of perfectionism. 


The origins of perfectionism are deeply rooted in a fear of not being good enough. Most perfectionists have had a lot of practice quitting things as this fear leads them to believe that only what is perfect is good enough, and anything less is not worth anybody’s time. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll jack something in if it’s not going to be done right, or you’ll sabotage yourself so you have an excuse: “I didn’t even try”. 

I noticed this in myself and my brother through our exams. We’d save ourselves from the sting of failure by not revising. If we got a good grade then we were smart, but if we didn’t we could say it was because we didn’t try so it didn’t matter, right? 

Having this attitude when it comes to your health and fitness can be cause a rollercoaster of dieting, exercising and not feeling good enough that many of us have been on. 

Unfortunately, the diet industry preys on perfectionists with its unsustainable programs and inevitable gaslighting. 

“Oh, you didn’t get results? It’s because you didn’t do it right.”  

You need to count better, fast longer, try harder, paleo harder!!” 

Because the diet industry demands you track every calorie, or eat only clean food, or fast for a precise amount of time, or follow the perfect meal plan, it instils in you this very trait of perfectionism that no-one can maintain. 

And all this does is create an environment where if you do not eat, exercise and exist like society has dictated, you are failing. If you are not perfect, you are not worthwhile.  

“I blew it, I might as well start again on Monday”. 

The unsustainable nature of dieting within the toxic fitness industry creates and enhances the perfectionist mindset AND blames you when you can’t stick to it. 

It’s a neat and nasty trick, eh?  

Where does perfectionism come from?

It’s hard to tell, and I’m no therapist so I can’t analyse your past… 

But for me, it came from the combination of wanting praise as a teenager and then the toxic messages portrayed in fitness magazines and fitness media. 

The rewards and praise you get when you get a good grade, or the part in your school play, or another notch down on your belt… 

These reinforce toxic messages, preying on your mindset and teaching you that to be loved, to feel worthy, to feel enough, you must be perfect and achieve all your goals. 

It’s why we’re in a horrific capitalist and image-focused society. A society insisting that if you 

try harder, manifest more, get up earlier, and just be awesome, you’ll have all the success, abs and money in the world… 

And you’ll finally be happy, right? 


We’re setting ourselves up for a giant slap in the face from contingent self-esteem.  

We’re taught to look outside ourselves for our trust in food, fitness and for our happiness. 

But what happens when we reject the notions above and look inside? 

Something magical, that’s what. 

What if you were already enough?

What would you do differently? 

What would you change? 

What would you do on a day-to-day basis purely for pleasure, enjoyment and self-care? 

These are the big questions to ask yourself. 

Because then, rather than setting lofty goals with food, body, fitness and career, you think of yourself as someone who deserves self-care and a nourishing life, one like you believe your best friend deserves. 

Rather than looking outside for approval, you’re free to ask “what actions match my values and the person I want to be?” 

And now you’re starting to look at sustainable actions that actually fit into your life. 

Not gruelling fitness plans and unsustainable diets you fit your life around. 

Flexibility and self-compassion

Self-compassion and Practising Flexibility 

You’re not a robot. 

(Or are you? Damn AI is scary…) 

But for real, you’re human. 

Robots are perfect objects devoid of failure. 


Humans are messy. 

AND so much of life is outside of our control. 

This makes trying to be “perfect” a recipe for disordered eating and failure. 

Not fun. Not motivating. 

So, what’s the alternative? 

Self-compassion gets a bad rap sometimes, but it’s basically treating yourself as you would treat your best mate or partner. You’d show them grace when they mess up. You wouldn’t expect perfection. You would hold them accountable to look after themselves sustainably and you’d help them through their obstacles by offering grace and alternative solutions. 

Flexibility means adopting a “there’s always something” approach. Rather than being focused on one way or no way, you adopt flexibility to adapt when needed. 

IF you can’t get to the gym, you do 20 minutes of weight training at home. 

IF you don’t have time for an hour run, you go for 10 minutes. 

IF you forgot to go to the store for your ingredients, you buy a ready meal for dinner. 

There’s no perfectionism, just action steps inside of your control that match your values. No fear of “blowing it” or “falling off the wagon”. Just actions that help you feel healthier and fitter, that fit into your life, and scale up or down based on your mental and physical bandwidth. And then you slowly but surely become your fittest, healthiest and most confident self. 

Because health and fitness is an infinite game, not a 90-day transformation. 

You feel me?


Jonny Landels

Male Body Image and Strength Coach

Next Step Nutrition

Edited by: Francesca Lehrell

Our socials

© 2022 | All content copyright Been There | Been There is a registered charity no. 1191044 | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Community Guidelines | FAQs

Website by Jane Rosie & Moordigital

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.