snowman ornament, tetya bella, nyc

Every Monday features a tip, activity, inspiring quote or some other tidbit that helps boost your body image, whether directly or indirectly — and hopefully kick-starts the week on a positive note!

Got a tip for improving body image? Email me at mtartakovsky at gmail dot com, and I’ll be happy to feature it. I’d love to hear from you!

For many of us, our perfectionism tends to blossom or peak around the holidays. We want our houses to be perfect. We want our presents to be perfect. And we want ourselves to be perfect: the perfect hostess with the perfect makeup and outfit.

Illustrator and writer Elizabeth Patch wrote a beautiful post yesterday about wanting to have the perfect holiday. She could relate to the struggle for perfection. Just a year ago, she had a meltdown over buying the perfect gifts — something so many of us can relate to.

(By the way, be sure to check out the rest of her website. She’s amazing.)

In yesterday’s post, she talks about how the pursuit for perfection is punitive and easily sucks the fun out of our lives.

I can’t possibly go to a party
unless I slim down!
I can’t possibly have friends over
until my house is spotless!

Everything must be just right
before I will give myself permission to enjoy.

How many times have you said something similar to yourself during the holidays? During the year?

I can’t have my favorite pasta dish because I’m still shy of my weight-loss goal. I can’t go to that party because I look terrible. I don’t deserve to take care of myself because I’m too big or too small. I can’t step foot into a gym until I’m a lot more muscular. I’m not worthy because of my looks.

I’m not worthy because I can’t stop eating. I just need to fix X about my body, and I’ll go out. Or buy or wear nice clothes. Or appreciate my body again.

I have to wait to do what I want until I look just right. I have to wait to be happy. 

Perfectionism is exhausting and painful. And it tears us away from what’s important.

So instead Elizabeth calls for a focus on joy, which is energizing. She writes:

Joy doesn’t need much work to be achieved.
Joy simply finds it’s way into life when you let go of the need to be perfect.
Joy happens when you can laugh instead of apologize,
accept instead of reject,
show compassion instead of criticism.
This doesn’t mean that things cannot be improved!
Of course they can.
Making positive changes and positive choices to improve your life can also be a source of joy.
But instead of waiting for some magical future when everything is already perfect:
Remember that right this very minute
you can enjoy (have joy! feel joy! share joy!)
with whatever already is.

I think when it comes to our bodies, joy happens when we’re being compassionate with ourselves. When we listen to our bodies. When we let go of expectations around size, shape and weight. When we accept our bodies and stop trying to force them into some unrealistic mold.

When we smile. When we don’t mind having our picture taken because we want to treasure a great moment (when usually we’d say no because we just know that we’d look bad in the shot). When we attend a party, even if we don’t like how we look.

When we tell ourselves we’re beautiful anyway. When we take the time to take care of ourselves. When we avoid bashing our bodies and, if others start, we try to steer the conversation toward more positive, meaningful things.

Ultimately, joy is when we focus on living and enjoying life. When we focus on what the holidays are really about: love, kindness, compassion and deep spiritual truths (and, of course, for those of us who are religious, the deeper meanings surrounding our respective holidays).

And it’s when we take that spirit, soul and magic of the holidays into the rest of the year.

How will you focus on joy this holiday season? And year-round?