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!

Further Reading

The book links on this page are Amazon Associate links; if you choose to make a purchase through them, I may earn a small commission which I use to fund my low-cost counselling resource lists. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed For You by Jenera Nerenberg (2021)

This neurodivergent author turns her attention to neurodivergence in women, who have traditionally been ignored in neurodiversity research and practice. A great resource for women who suspect that they might be neurodivergent, as the book presents information about a number of neuro-variances that readers can learn more about or reflect on personally.