Imperfection is Better than Good Enough was the title of my Daily Burst of Energy email that greeted me as I opened my computer this morning. As contemplated that with my cup of coffee it got me thinking of Pete Egoscue's classic line "Anything That's Worth Doing is Worth Doing Poorly".
In a nutshell, the main part of my job is helping people get out of chronic muscle and joint pain without medication, manipulation or surgery. Corrective Exercise programming works a high percentage of time! But I'd be a liar if I said it works all the time for every single person [See What I Do. Hybrid Fitness]
Sometimes I get clients who have tried posture alignment therapy on their own using the only the book Pain Free as their guide, or have partnered with other therapists and are frustrated as to why they are not achieving the type of success that so many others have found.
Posture Alignment Therapy is indeed a powerful form of corrective exercise and according to Egoscue.com reports a 94% success rate. But what about the 6%? When this occurrs, I feel that it's important to try and explore some of the reasons why this can happen.
In my professional experience, some of the clients who fall into the 6% category are bound up in perfectionism. So bound up in fact, that the inability to entertain the idea of being less than perfect impedes their ability to truly achieve success with their postural therapy (Egoscue Method) or other corrective exercise modalities.
One of my job roles as a chronic pain relief professional is to help clients like this change their minds on perfection and learn that less than perfect brings the elusive results. And that is precisely what I loved about the Daily Burst's blog post which said:
"Sometimes we try too much. We want everything to be A-plus, perfect. And then when it’s not, we feel bad about it. But what if we just accepted that everything cannot be perfect all the time? That’s a lesson learned by “recovering perfectionist” Christine Carter, PhD, sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, who found that it’s OK to let some “details slide.” And you know what—being a little less “perfect” can help you live longer, say psychologists at Trinity Western University in Canada who found that perfectionists had a 51% increased risk for death compared with those who were not perfectionists."
I agree completely. Along with reducing the risk of death (wow, what a statistic!) a little less than "perfect" is a better mindset to bring to the table when starting any corrective exercise program.
Now to be VERY CLEAR, setting up and performing your postural therapy exercises is important. It's an integral part of helping people overcome chronic musculoskeletal pain. Proper form and technique are indeed key factors in maximizing the success.
However, what we're talking about in this blog is entirely different. Perfectionism and corrective exercise like are like oil and water.
Less Than Perfect Can Bring Results with Posture Alignment Therapy
I've had some clients who firmly believe that perfection of the exercises and their ability to be perfect are the keys to becoming Pain Free. In my opinion and experience, this couldn't be more far from the truth. A conversation with a perfectionist client usually goes something like this:
"Once I do my corrective exercises PERFECTLY THEN I'll be better!"
Sigh. This behavioral characteristic and negative thought pattern is so strong I find it can completely impede a persons kinesthetic sense and ability to truly conquer pain. I have to get in there and coach to help bring about a new mindset on the ability to heal because with this mindset, a person never quite arrives.
Mind Full or Mindful?
Another way of saying it is, they are mind full versus mindful.
What happens is that stress and anxiety over wanting to be perfect basically blocks their ability to listen to their internal body language. Posture Alignment Therapy using The Egoscue Method in my opinion, works best when a client allows the stimulus and demand of the exercise menu to create the desired changes. This requires giving up control which is challenging for a perfectionist. It's the difference between simply allowing oneself to be mindful of what the body is communicating in the menu versus the bull in a china shop approach of forcing our way through it without stopping to listen to what the body is saying/experiencing.
I try to coach my clients to allow for some "grace" in their menus because in my opinion, you can't possibly do your e-cises perfectly on your own without expert coaching, nor is trying harder or doing more the best way to make oneself Pain-Free.
Emotions link our body and our mind! Perfectionism creates tension and inner-stress which can induce physical pain. So doing a menu designed to eliminate chronic pain from a mindset of inner tension due to perfectionism basically guarantees limited to no success.
Characteristics of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is hard on your health! Clients of mine who suffer from this tend to have the following personality characteristics:
- Overly responsible
- Very thorough
- Highly conscientious
Problems with Perfectionism and Posture Alignment Therapy
As a result the Perfection Oriented Client goes into their pain relief postural therapy menu with tremendous inner tension due to:
- Chronic worry
- Self-conscious and motivated by fear
- Always trying to please others
- Trying to control everything
- Self worth is determined by accomplishment
- Straining and striving without ever arriving because the goal is impossible
Perfectionist personality traits predispose a person to chronic pain and in my opinion, you can't solve a musculoskeletal pain problem motivated by tension, stress, control and a fear of failure into your pain relief menu!
Doing your exercises knowing that you set them up as best as is available to you, and performed with a relaxed and calm state of mind, body and spirit is in my opinion completely different than trying to do a menu from a perfectionism point of view.
The way I coach my clients who have perfectionism characteristics is to focus on progress and the pursuit of excellence.
There's a famous quote by Albert A. Montepert which says "Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress".
Perfectionists are driven by fear, self doubt, insecurity and low self esteem. Healthy achievers recognize their strengths, are comfortable with their weaknesses, and maintain a healthy balance between goals and achievements.
Posture alignment therapy and corrective exercise are highly successful at resolving chronic musculo-skeletal pain. If you are a perfectionist by nature, frustrated by your lack of success and know that here at Pain Free Posture MN we're here to help coach and guide you to embracing the truth that ometimes "less than perfect brings results".
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Head Photo Credit: Ruby and Roxy Photography
Deb Preachuk is a Chronic Pain Pain Relief, Posture Restoration and Athletic Performance Enhancement pro specializing in corrective exercise, applied biomechanics, STOTT Pilates and functional movement patterns.
Founder of Pain Free Posture MN, Deb helps real people transform real-world chronic pain challenges into achievable results. Deb infuses her teaching with an honest, open and down-to-earth mix of chronic pain relief therapeutic modalities training techniques to make the concepts of pain relief and body/mind transformation accessible and achievable!