In 2016, we at Worthy proudly introduced our first Women’s Professional Scholarship Program to support deserving women desiring to further their professional studies.
In conjunction with our current “Let It Glow” campaign dedicated to health and wellness, over the next few weeks we will be highlighting three of our favorite essays submitted during our last contest under the well-being category.
As Worthy’s Lifestyle Editor and one of the judges in last year’s competition, I feel privileged to have read so many accounts from women who are redefining what wellness means to them and paving the way for others to do the same. Though not every essayist received a scholarship due to the volume of submissions, many deserved recognition by having their voices heard. You will hear one of those voices today.
The first essay, published below, was submitted by Veronica Porterfield, a 41-year-old nutrition professional enrolled at the time in a physician’s assistant program. Veronica’s piece focuses on an issue that is relatable to any woman who has ever struggled with being her best self, and that is perfectionism. As you will read, Veronica skillfully and artfully describes how hard women can find it to exercise what she calls self-compassion while trying to fulfill a specific goal, one that women start out erroneously believing will alone bring them happiness. Here is her story.
For several years, I have worked as a nutrition coach to groups of 150+ women seeking better health and body transformation in a year-long, habit-based program. Often, the goal women identify at the outset (usually weight loss or body change) ultimately gives way to more meaningful objectives that resonate more deeply with their core values. Put differently, many women discover that what they think will make them happy is not actually fulfilling as a goal in and of itself. As I’ve walked alongside clients on this journey back to themselves, I’ve noticed a few keys to well-being, and also some obstacles. For purposes of this essay, I’m going to focus on one of each – in each case, this is a factor that is both significant and often overlooked.
Let’s start with the obstacle. Without a doubt, perfectionism in one of its many forms is a common impediment to mental, emotional and physical well-being. And while its symptoms may look different for everyone, its side-effects can include anxiety, low self-worth, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness, among other things. Remarkably, those who deny being perfectionists often manifest one of its symptoms: all-or-nothing thinking, a fixed mindset, soul-sucking comparisons with others, a bad case of the ‘shoulds,’, an external locus of authority, a lack of resilience, or highly critical self-talk, to name just a few. Alone or in combination, the symptoms of perfectionism can leave people permanently feeling like they’re not enough – not lovable or worthy – just as they are, and the progress that is motivated by perfectionism is almost always characterized by anxiety, a striving to do and be more in the hopes of being acceptable. This is the opposite of thriving.
On the other hand, we have the key to well-being, which, interestingly, also happens to be the antidote to perfectionism: self-compassion. Self-compassion is the term used to capture the idea of being our own best friend. It’s not code for leniency, but it does involve exhibiting empathy and kindness to ourselves, supporting (instead of berating) ourselves when we’re struggling, and noticing and encouraging our efforts to grow and learn, even when we do so clumsily and imperfectly. I have found that women who put self-compassion at the center of their process tend to be more resilient, flexible, positive, and persistent, and the changes they make come from a place of self-care rather than from punishment or self-loathing. If I were to recommend one thing to focus on for a greater sense of well-being, it would be the development and regular practice of self-compassion.
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