Eating Disorder Recovery Is Not About Perfection

March 23, 2023 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

I have a long history with perfectionism. In fact, I cannot recall a time in my life when this fixation wasn't driving my performance and achievements. I suspect this is one reason I have always been drawn to activities or pursuits that measure excellence in visible, quantifiable terms. In school, I only accepted straight As. In athletics, I gravitated to sports like archery, where I could aim for the center of a literal bullseye. And in my career, I have turned to writing—a skill based on technical precision. But as I continue to heal my thoughts and behaviors from the residue of anorexia, I am learning to appreciate that eating disorder recovery is not about perfection.

Eating Disorder Recovery and Perfectionism Cannot Coexist

When I began the treatment process for anorexia over 10 years ago, I initially launched into an enthusiastic (almost frenetic) burst of momentum, which my therapist called "the flight into health." While I had once been consumed with maintaining a perfect body, in an ironic turn of events, I started to become just as consumed with attaining a perfect recovery. I wanted to show both the clinicians and the other patients that I could harness my meticulous, perfectionistic tendencies to excel in any area—healing would obviously be no different.

It took about 72 hours of inpatient care for the undeniable truth to crash in around me. Eating disorder recovery is not about perfection because this elusive milestone I had been chasing for a lifetime quite simply didn't exist. The more I strove to be the model version of a rehabilitated former anorexic, the more I began to relapse into those same familiar behaviors I was trying to leave behind. The healing process is not linear or formulaic. It's clumsy and turbulent—full of unexpected challenges and some wild revelations. Therefore, I ultimately had to realize that my precise (or, let's be honest, rigid) approach to living cannot work in eating disorder recovery.

Releasing the Need for Perfection in Eating Disorder Recovery

I am still learning how to release perfectionism, even after all these years of treatment in my rearview mirror. I crave a sense of orderly accomplishment. My natural flinch is to run from messy imperfection. In order to achieve wholeness, however, I cannot deny the broken fragments inside of me. I have to confront them, accept them, and restore them. Sometimes I think this will be a lifelong endeavor. Sometimes I fear it will lead me in uncomfortable, painful directions. I know there will be stumbles and shortcomings. But I also can see just how much progress I've made. Maybe it's alright to feel both compassion for the setbacks and celebration for the triumphs. Eating disorder recovery is not about perfection—but I must admit, it's a journey worth taking.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2023, March 23). Eating Disorder Recovery Is Not About Perfection, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 23 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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