How to Let Go of Perfectionism: Gentle is the New Perfect - Real Food Whole Life

How to Let Go of Perfectionism: Gentle is the New Perfect

May 10, 2016 (Updated on July 31, 2021)

Are you a perfectionist?

I feel like these days we know perfectionism isn’t necessarily a positive trait, yet we still embrace it.

It’s one of those things you can cleverly cite at a job interview under “weaknesses.” As in, “I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist. I like to make sure my work is done, and that it’s done well.”

See? Not entirely negative.

Until recently I’ve worn my perfectionism comfortably in my back pocket, unaware of its effect on every decision I make, my general mindset, and ultimately my overall happiness.

I would have told you I wasn’t actually a perfectionist at all. Sworn up and down to the contrary. Pointed to the fact that I’ve let so many things go in recent years, let failure creep into my life and been okay with the mess.

If pressed though, I will admit to hating not knowing how to do something well. To having a deep fear of looking stupid, of doing things wrong. Of not living up to expectations.

 Photo by KLiK Concepts Photo by KLiK Concepts

So call me a perfectionist and I’d deny it. But call me out on a fear of failing, or messing up, or not living up to some extremely attractive yet unattainable bar, and I’d say you hit the nail right on the head.

And in the end, there’s not much difference between the two.

But unlike the job interview, perfectionism in real life isn’t scoring me any points. Perfectionism in real life can look like trying to eat “perfectly,” and then feeling discouraged when inevitable splurges or bad days happen. Or a barrage of negative self-talk when jeans that fit last year don’t fit now.

When it comes to eating, though, I’m no longer striving for perfection.

Because there is no perfect way of eating. There’s only the way that makes you feel best.

And maybe the way that makes you feel best makes you perfectly skinny. And maybe it doesn’t.

Because whole body health is about so many things. It’s about the health of your physical body and of your mind and spirit.

So while I’m fairly certain sugar is not a great choice most of the time, I know that beating yourself up for overindulging is probably not nourishing your mind or your spirit.

I’m also fairly certain that constantly berating yourself because you haven’t lost those last 10 (or 50) pounds after having your baby isn’t either.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with this internal battle myself. I catch myself wincing at an unflattering photo or pinching the fat around my belly and thinking downright mean thoughts about myself.

Recently, though, I’ve noticed just how damaging and counter to my own values of living a whole, healthy life this mental battle is.

So now when I find myself thinking this way or striving for some unattainable version of perfection–whether it’s related to eating, body image, or something else in my life–I try to repeat this simple mantra: be gentle.

Be Gentle.

What does this mean? Gentle means: having or showing a kind and quiet nature; not harsh, stern or violent. 

Sounds about right to me.

Being gentle doesn’t mean never thinking the self-critical thoughts or giving up goals.

It just means responding differently.

If you eat one too many donuts or still can’t kick your diet soda habit or gained some weight back or skipped a workout.

Be Gentle.

Show yourself kindness and quietness and grace.

Will being gentle mean that you completely give up striving for perfection?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I do think it’s a step in the right direction. A step toward whole health, in body and in mind and spirit. A step that I want to take. And one that I invite you to take it with me.


If this conversation resonates with you, please share it with someone you think needs to hear it. As always, I love hearing from you through comments here, or via email, Facebook and Instagram. Knowing your perspective helps so much in moving this series forward.

Sending you light and gratitude.



I’d like to thank my very wise and dear friend, Ms. Megan Hurley, owner of the barre3 Fayettville, AR, for coining the phrase “gentle is the new perfect,” and then graciously loaning it to all of us. Do yourself a favor if you’re ever in Arkansas and go say hi to Megan–you won’t regret it! 

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0 comments to " How to Let Go of Perfectionism: Gentle is the New Perfect "

  • Allie Jensen

    I live in Arkansas & get to take classes with Megan frequently! She is the best! I was just telling her last week how much I enjoy your recipes! I have everyone addicted now to your Vanilla Sea Salt energy bites! Allie

    • Robyn Downs

      Allie, how fun! I agree, Megan is the best. So happy you’re enjoying the recipes. Those energy bites really are addictive! xxoo

  • Elizabeth

    This is such a wonderful post and a lovely reminder to be "gentle." Thank you for sharing!

  • Meggan Carrigg Davidson

    Thank you 🙂 This does resonate with me 🙂 I love it and needed the reminder – today and everyday 🙂

  • Jaime

    This is a great post, Robyn! Thank you for sharing! Lately I’ve been trying to treat myself like I would a friend. I would never berate a friend if she overindulged at a meal or skipped working out for a few days or whatever else, so why should I act that way towards myself? I find it helpful to stop myself when I begin having those kinds of thoughts (whether around food, work, or anything!) and instead say, "What would you say to a friend if she did this or was feeling this way?" It instantly changes my tone and my message to myself to one that is more compassionate and gentle.

    • Robyn Downs

      So glad you connected with this post, Jaime! I love the idea of talking to yourself as a friend. Such a simple way to steer the conversation towards the positive. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Casey Roark

    Robyn, I am a member at Barre 3 Fayetteville. As I was reading this earlier today I thought this sounds like words that would come out of Megan’s mouth… Then I see what you write at the end. Megan shared your blog with me several weeks ago… And of course like everything she has ever shared with me to try- amazing and life changing! Thanks for making eating healthy creative and fun. Also keep writing and Inspiring us and come to Fayetteville! We would all love to meet you in person!
    Casey Roark

    • Robyn Downs

      Casey, so glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, that Megan is one wise lady. Sounds like your Fayetteville community is really vibrant–I would love to visit some day. So glad we connected and thanks for following along! xxoo

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