Living With

Perfectionism and a Life with Diabetes are Incompatible.

Amylia Grace Yeaman Health Guide June 09, 2010
  • Admit it. You've had enough. We've all been there.

     

    You've spent days, years, decades with your diabetes or that of a loved one. You've gathered enough information. You've taken in enough medical advice. You've perused the ever-expanding online community. You subscribe to blogs. You've bought all the books. You've had your share of doctors and specialists and nurses. You can repeat guidelines ad infinitum. You've gotten all the background information and inspiration you can get.

     

    At some point (might I suggest n-o-w), it's time to just do it. Whatever the "it" is that you're putting off-writing down your bloodsugars, tweaking your basal rates, starting to walk daily, joining the gym, searching out a new Endo, limiting your carbs-it is time now to begin, however imperfectly.

     

    When I'm writing, I turn off the TV, disconnect the internet and focus on what is before me. I spend time with only myself and my creative impulses (or lack thereof) and let what arises be enough. When I create an article or blog post like this one, I remove myself from my Google Alerts, mounting inbox and giant pile of books to read and I focus on getting the work done. There is no real way to know in advance what is going to happen; if what I write is going to be the next great thing or a commentless post. I don't know if what I'm saying will resonate with others or fall on deaf ears. No amount of incoming information is going to answer that mystery. No amount of trying to inhale one more shred of information or inspiration is going to help.

     

    But I know this much is true:  If you spend all your time planning and researching, you'll never really have to act and you'll never really know what could happen as a result.

     

    Diabetes is tricky. I get stuck in ruts. I get used to my routine. I was highly upset when the test strips I use ten times a day got all hologrammy on me. It bothered my sensibilities. I liked what I knew. I was comfortable with it. When I lost my glucometer, I was bereft. Not because I couldn't get a new one, but because I liked the old black case and the fingerpricker I'd had for years (with the same lancet for ages). I liked not having to think about it. I liked the comfort of the familiar.

     

    Unfortunately, for those of us with diabetes, being stuck in a rut is not a luxury we can afford for very long without the potential for scary consequences. What I've realized is that a lot of this disease I can and must do on my own. I know what to do. Still, I don't always do it. The trick to success, especially when trying something new, is taking imperfect action. Of course this sounds obvious, but it's important to remember. As I type this, I remind myself why.

    • Taking imperfect action, teaches you there are more chances out there and this is not our one and only chance to "get it right."Taking imperfect action tells the world and yourself that there are always more chances to get it right. What's important is that you begin.
    • When you take imperfect action, you're advocating for yourself, not waiting for someone else first. So many of us are waiting for approval, validation, permission that we don't really need from someone "more important" than we are. Taking imperfect action makes you step up and advocate for yourself. Give yourself permission and trust yourself enough to begin. If it's not quite right, you tweak it. So much of diabetes is about tweaking one's miscalculations or errors. Once you realize that so much depends upon simply taking the next step, you have little need for permission from others.
    • There's no such thing as failure when you take imperfect action. If you do something imperfectly you "fail," then the lesson is to try again, imperfectly, of course. You don't stop at the part where "Well, I tried that once and failed." No siree-you simply get another chance to try again and to do so imperfectly, of course.

    Face it, perfectionism and a life with diabetes are incompatible. You will make yourself miserable if you demand perfection from yourself and your busted up pancreas. Give it up. That ship has sailed. You've gathered all you need to gather. You've inhaled all you need to inhale. You've done none of it perfectly and you never will. Instead of finding it depressing and a reason to stop trying, why not find it liberating? Why not see the freedom in imperfection?

  •  

    Harry Potter mama, JK Rowling, inspires us to keep trying with the fringe benefits of failure. Samuel Beckett encourages us with a piece of wisdom and old advice I hold dear to my heart: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." Cliché as it is to admit, failing to try really is the truest failure.

     

    If you can free yourself from the monster of perfectionism and continue to try again in the spirit of hopeful imperfection, you're destined to a much happier life than the one that exists when clinging to perfection and perfect action as your standard of care. Do your best, act imperfectly, and try again. Life rewards action, however imperfectly we begin.