There once was a time when I was relentless in my pursuit of perfection. A sparkling and stain free stove, a crumbless kitchen counter, clean bathroom mirrors, and bare floors that left no dust or particles on the foots’ bottom.
Impeccability on this level was too much to maintain, but it took me years to learn what and who was really important. The approach was stupid, and I am still trying to determine why “perfection” was such a priority for me.
I have felt for many years that in high school, I underachieved at everything I did. I was an okay teenager but never really pushed myself hard at anything. For most of my life, I blamed the adults (teachers, coaches, and advisors) for not seeing something in me that I did not see in myself. They should have pushed me, but they did not. I blended in a predominately white school with only two black teachers, neither of which I had as a teacher.
My guidance counselor never hid her lack of interest in my academic progress or achievement. I’m confident that Mrs. C. had distorted views about the potential of most of the students who looked like me. How do I know? We talked. Like an over-copied handout, the sentiments were regularly used, and the similarities in stories align perfectly.
My parents got a free pass. Mother, one of 13 was dirt poor. She and other siblings quit school to work. During my high school years, she returned to school to obtain her GED. Watching her study was motivating. She encouraged me to do my best and to finish school.
“Get your diploma because you won’t be able to get a decent job without it.”
My dad came here on a boat from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although he never earned his diploma, he was a teacher of hard work. “Doing my best” was excellent advice but I needed a more detailed narrative on what it looked like and how to do this…especially when my teachers had little expectations from me.
In my early 20’s when I thought that immediately after high school, I should have gone to college and believed that I should be further along in my career. When I was overlooked for a promotion because I did not have a college degree, I felt inadequate.
Perhaps the idea of perfection as an adult offset my underperformance as a teenager. Every task that I completed would be perfect or as close to perfection as possible. I was always the model employee. I was the front desk clerk who never had a drawer shortage. The VIP Agent who never messed up a customers’ accommodations. At home, the linen was correctly folded and stacked. The list goes on.
Today, I’m the happy imperfect vegan.
Yesterday (Sunday) we celebrated a milestone birthday of my cousin. We enjoyed brunch at The Cheesecake Factory. Hmm mmm.
The night before brunch, my final thoughts before going to sleep was The Cheesecake Factory’s menu!! Now ain’t that some ish? I didn’t toss and turn. I wasn’t stressing or anything. Ahem… I was planning!
Well, peeps, all the planning didn’t make a difference.
I read through the menu. I contemplated an old favorite.
Without guilt or shame, I ordered a Cajun Shrimp and pasta dish. It was delicious!!!
I came to terms with ordering and eating the fantastic dish with this thinking:
I am not a perfect Vegan.
Life is short, don’t deny myself of a dish that I really want.
This is my second cheat and the world has not stopped revolving.
I am a human being.
Why does eating shrimp & pasta have to be a falter?
Change takes time.
I am a Vegan student.
Only eight months have passed.
I need the protein.
Looking at the plate made me grin. My face should’ve cracked! I was doing the right thing.
I live authentically.
My experience may help others.
The study of health behavior includes research on numerous behavioral change theories. Some of the contributing factors to successful changes in our behavior include our environment, community, family, work, knowledge, support, and finances.
Even if you have all the factors aligned, change occurs in stages, and it takes time. Change is hard, but you should keep trying.
Your goal may be to quit smoking, to learn to meditate, lose weight, start exercising or like me become Vegan, regardless the change in our behavior will not happen overnight. Having an understanding of this process can alleviate some of the stress. James Prochaska’s Readiness for Change Model is used widely in the field of wellness. His concept may help you to achieve goals related to modifying your behavior. Below are the stages:
Six Readiness for Change Stages.
- Pre-contemplation – Lack of awareness; unconcerned; a person has no thought of changing. Ex: A cigarette smokes who has no desire to quit.
- Contemplation – The Person, begins to consider change; ambivalence. Ex: Cigarette smoker thinks about quitting but has not taken any action.
- Preparation – Person begins to explore change possibilities. We get ready for a change by gathering information about the subject and gathering resources. Ex: Cigarette smoker talks to their doctor about methods to quit smoking, talks and seeks support from family and friends or obtains medical assistance such as a patch.
- Action – Person takes action. Ex: The day the person chooses not to smoke a cigarette
- Maintenance – Person works at maintaining change. This is me. Lapse and relapse occur at this stage. Ex: Smoker experiences a relapse and takes a few puffs or smokes an entire cigarette.
- Termination – The new behavior is now part of your life. My goal! We engage in the new practice with little effort and without much thought. In other words, the new behavior occurs naturally.
If you are in the process of some type of behavioral change, can you identify which stage you are in? Being aware of your current stage may help you to understand your actions. Working with a wellness coach will help you to move through and complete the steps.
My point here is to support you in the change(s) you are trying to make in your life. I relapsed and wanted to share this with you. You might also relapse, and I don’t want you to beat yourself up about it.
Continue to surround yourself with people who encourage you; that’s why I’m here. Stay on your wellness train, it may be hard but please don’t give up. If you’d like to talk, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org