I sometimes use writing prompts for blog posts. One of them that really spoke to me recently was the question “Do you feel pressured to be perfect?” My immediate answer was a very soft and tired “yes”.
As a pro Health at Every Size, Down-With-Diet-Culture fat woman I feel pressured to be perfect in my body acceptance. Man, do I fail there. While number of times I look in a mirror and feel nothing but hate is less than it used to be, it still happens. It’s ok that it happens. Self-hatred is not a great feeling and if it becomes a habit it’s very self-destructive. But if I’m going to accept and love myself I must give myself room for this hatred. If I feel it, I shouldn’t shame myself for feeling it. I should lean into it and experience it…and then let it go and move on with my life. Expecting every moment of every day to be full of body loving Fat Acceptance might be a goal but I bet it will never be a reality. On the opposite end of this, I still feel the pressure for body perfection from society. I can choose to ignore that pressure and seek to change society’s message but I still feel it. And sometimes it’s really hurtful. When it still comes from doctor’s who want to concentrate on old fashion notions of skinny=healthy and you should lose some weight it’s hard to do the work I know I need to do to be healthy and happy. When I get messages from society every day that my weight is a burden on society and that my state of health is some sort of national crises that gives everyone the right to have a say in my body it’s really hard to continue on the path I know is the right path for me. For a very excellent article on “But what about your health little fat girl?” mentality check out this awesome article.
Happily, in the actual act of riding, I feel almost no pressure to be perfect although I certainly felt that as a new rider. Especially when I was on a bike that wouldn’t perform like everyone else’s when it was carrying my weight up a hill with a sidecar hanging off the side of it. I got left behind a lot. The more I fell behind the more anxious and fearful I became…and the further I fell behind. I felt I would never be the rider that Mr. Man and Union Jack were. I sometimes felt (in a quiet little mouse voice) that I should just stop riding. All the while I was traveling cross-country and planning big group riding trips. The trips weren’t killing me….the road was. Once I got on a bike with a larger displacement engine and was suddenly able to keep up with everyone I realized it was never me. It was the bike. Now if I got back on my old bike it wouldn’t bother me. Of course I won’t go as fast. The bike isn’t as fast. Everyone else should slow down a little. In fact, getting onto the 1150GS was one of the best riding moves I ever made. My anxiety has disappeared. I still get left behind a little in right-hand curves because of the nature of the sidecar but I catch back up quickly. So the pressure of perfection isn’t something I really feel when I’m actually engaged in riding. In fact, riding is one of the most blissfully pressure free activities I’ve ever done.
I’m not just a rider though. I’m the road captain and primary cat herder for our riding group. Here is where I really feel the pressure for perfection in my life. I’m in charge to some degree of the wellbeing and enjoyment of often eight other riders. If I make a mistake in planning, if I pick a bad hotel, if I choose a road that is inappropriate for our bikes, if I plan days that are too long it’s not just me that suffers. While it’s true that none of those mistakes are life threatening and it’s true that we can re-route, we can suck it up, we can all learn together… it’s my job to plan this. It’s partly my job because no one else wants to do it and it’s partly my job because I’m good at it and I enjoy it. When Diva and I did our first trip down Route 66 we discovered that my Hotel Fu was mighty. I had this ability to suss out the best hotel to meet our needs at the time. It was my gift and I rarely fail at it. So I have a lot of self-pressure to maintain my reputation. A lot of my self-esteem centers around being able to pay attention to detail when planning a trip and finding little touches to make a trip special. I need to be perfect, I need to be exact, I need to be Pepper Potts. I’m working on being ok with falling on my face every once in a while but it’s a work in progress. I tell myself that my basic worth as a human being is not tied to my ability to execute a flawless plan but I often don’t believe that. Even as I typed that sentence, I didn’t believe it. I’ve let my pride in my ability to plan a trip to become part of what defines my worth. And that’s not ok.
Right now, we are close to leaving for a big trip and I really feel that perfection monster raising its ugly head. For now, I’m just going to try to let the perfection go. I’ve planned the plan. The reservations are made. The route is done. I can’t do anything else. Now it’s time to close my metaphoric eyes and ride. I have to trust my riders to bring good energy to this trip so that we can overcome any wobble of planning with good humor. After all, I’m only human. And no one is perfect. Unless, of course you happen to be Mary Poppins.