Putting In a Solid C- Effort

A New Approach

For most of the last month, I’ve been reading Reclaiming Body Trust: A Path to Healing and Liberation, by Hilary Kinavey and Dana Sturtevant and it’s been awesome. In fact, I can’t recommend it enough. But when I first picked up this book, I hadn’t imagined that I would find a new take on healing from perfectionism that could be expanded beyond body liberation. I’ve written about perfectionism before but in more of a reflective way.

Inspired by this book, I now wondered what I could do practically to make a dent in a decades-long perfectionism hang-up?

The book describes an approach to body attunement where we let go of the idea of changing our relationship with our body perfectly but instead focus on getting by: gentle, uncomplicated effort that undulates with the conditions of daily life; sometimes our efforts hit the spot and other times they don’t. We just do our best.

I challenged myself to dig deep to figure out some areas where this “C- practice” could be extrapolate, in an effort to let go of toxic perfectionism.

Looking Backwards

But first, a little history. In elementary, and for most of my high school, I was a solid C- student. Truly. English came easy to me but I struggled mightily in math, just barely scraping by (some might say I was pushed through). I struggled to retain history, sucked at science and got an E in metalwork (balanced out to a passing grade by my A in sewing). I am also a former French Immersion student who can barely maintain a conversation in French. And now, knowing what I do know now, I’m not surprised by how poorly I was doing: I was just a traumatized, neurodivergent kid, doing her best to survive.

So, when I first read about the C- principle, I got a little triggered. Why would I want to return to my previous era of underachievement? Why go back there when I had discovered a pathway out? Later in high school I found my first therapist (which improved many of my grades, and much of my life dramatically) and in university, psychology, which gave me focus, purpose and reward. I literally had a eureka moment, when I realized I’d found my thing! I’d never been so interested in a topic in my life, and I applied myself with fervour and dedication. And the effort was paying off.

And Forwards

Fast forward, way forward. Why would I want to go back to C- in some areas? I identified:

  • I want to cultivate more compassion for myself
  • I want to work more gently and less intensely
  • I want to rest more and engage in more restorative activities
  • I want to free up time for other interests and relationships
  • I want to reduce my mental load, including the intricate mental machinations that I often put myself through
  • I want to live “below the neck”, feeling more human and more “in my body”
  • I want to focus on sustaining efforts, disrupting “boom and bust” perfectionism-inaction cycles
  • I want to distinguish between intense interest and perfectionistic tendencies – they are not necessarily the same thing!
  • To take things down a notch in recognition of the fact that being perfectionistic in multiple areas is very hard, if not impossible!

I write this list and I re-read it and it feels good.

It also dawns on me that a big part of my C- practice will be managing my expectations, including perfectionistic standards and views of myself.

I also reflect on what areas of my life would I want to apply this C- principle to?

Really, opportunities abound! In the spirit of C-, I decide to keep it flexible. Also, life is always changing so I don’t want to put myself in a rigid box, which could lead to…perfectionism.

In the present moment, ideas include bringing some C- to:

  • My relationship with food and intuitive eating
  • My relationship with my physiotherapy exercises
  • Managing my neurodivergent brain
  • My meditation practice
  • Getting to bed early
  • Taking my vitamins
  • My willingness to drive (not the safety aspect of it!)
  • Sourdough bread making, dessert making and cooking in general
  • Knitting
  • My approach to housework, including pairing socks
  • My writing expectations

There will be more C- targets as conditions change in my life, and some will fade away. And as I experiment with this practice between the time I started reading the book, writing this article, and now, I notice that the less pressure I put on myself, the more I want to willingly do things. When I started out, I suspected that this could be the case, but experiencing this is very different. So, in other words, shooting for a C- doesn’t mean that we’re getting C- grades, but if we do, we’re on target!

I’m thinking I’d like to write more about this topic at some point in the future: what has worked, what hasn’t, and whether I have been able to change my relationship with my perfectionism? Also, have I been able make more space for things that are deeply important to me, rather than prioritizing interloping perfection pursuits? I’ve had a few promising developments on the vitamin and driving fronts and, in the spirit of letting go, I’m going to end this article here—for now!