Runners and Perfectionism and tragedy.

I ran 8 miles this morning around the neighborhood. It felt really easy and the overall pace was around 9:45. When I finished I looked at Mr. 620, (my Garmin) and it said, 1:18:16, not bad for an easy run, but I wasn’t happy with it. Truthfully, I haven’t been happy with the last 3 or 4 runs. I use all kinds of tools to help me become the best runner that I can be and I think I’m putting too much thought into the heart rate training. I know the reason that my VO2 Max varies but I put way too much pressure on myself to get it higher and higher.

Dr. Who

If I am guilty of anything in life, it’s trying to be perfect. Now, I’m sure there are some people who may be reading this right now and thinking, ‘what the hell is she talking about, she is far from perfect’, and they’re right. I’m not perfect nor have I ever been but it doesn’t stop me from striving to be because I am a perfectionist. Couple that with my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I’m a recipe for disaster at best.

Are you a perfectionist

Over the years, I have learned how to deal with my perfectionism although there are times, like today, when I get very stressed over certain things or situations. Fortunately I can identify that this is happening and I have learned how to cope with it.

I suspect quite a few of the runners that I have met over the years are also perfectionists. I know a lot of them suffer from OCD as do I. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to be more common among the running community.

Perfectionists live in a world of self-criticism and ridiculously high expectations of themselves and others, but we are actually less productive. I may joke about my perfectionism and my OCD quite frequently, but the truth is it isn’t really funny.

You may think I’m writing this because I felt like my last run or last three runs were not perfect but that’s not why I’m writing this post at all. It’s because of her.

M. Holleran

Madison Holleran was beautiful and she was smart and very athletic. According to Madison’s father, she was also a perfectionist. No one realized how stressed out she was or how depressed she had become until she jumped from the roof of a parking garage and killed herself. This should never have happened. She was bright and beautiful and talented and my heart aches for her family and friends.

But it did happen.

This tragedy struck a chord in me. I didn’t know Madison and I don’t know what she was going through, but I do know what it feels like to constantly strive for perfection and it’s crippling. Unfortunately perfectionists are pretty good at hiding the stress from those around us and that’s why tragedies like this occur. If you suffer from depression or stress as a result of perfectionism, please consider seeing a therapist. You can learn to cope with it and I promise you, life will be a lot less stressful and a lot more fun.

If you’re worried that you may be a perfectionist but aren’t sure, you can take this quiz.

And here is a good article to help you control perfectionism but if the feelings are overwhelming and seem severe, please see a therapist.

Are you a perfectionist? How has it impacted your life?

18 thoughts on “Runners and Perfectionism and tragedy.

  1. I saw this sad news the other day. While I can’t say exactly what drove her to do what she did, I can speculate that perfectionism may have played a part. As a former collegiate runner myself, running with the so called “best” was an honor, but it was also extremely stressful at times and to be honest felt like a roller coaster of emotions most of the time. When I was “high” I was on top of the world running PRs race after race, but the “lows” were the other extreme and I know it was due to all of the pressure. Fortunately, I’ve learned that at the end of the day running is just running and try to remember the many other things I am blessed with, but I had to have someone tell me that. I know some people are scared or ashamed of asking for help or expressing their feelings, and I was too but sometimes we all just need a little perspective. So tragic that such a beautiful young girl wasn’t able to find that out in time.

    • I am so glad you had someone there for you. It was such a tragedy that she felt there was no other way out…Running is just running but we do tend to get wrapped up in the idea of being the best and unfortunately it is sometimes to our own detriment. Thanks for posting Hailey, I’m glad you have a healthy perspective. (You’re also an awesome runner) 🙂

  2. That is so sad. My heart aches for all who suffer from silent illnesses.
    I’m not sure if I’m a perfectionist but I do know that I’m too critic of myself. I can be a perfectionist when it comes to party planning and things like that. I’m learning to listen to my body when running or exercising and not my mind. My high standards can get me into trouble..aka injury. Great post! Something to definitely be away of. Raising awareness is a great first step in helping to prevent tragic losses from happening.

    • Thanks Fawn. I always thought I was an overachiever, turns out I was a perfectionist all along. The first step in recovery is to recognize the problem so I was lucky….unfortunately not everyone is.

  3. I agree with you, when depressed one should see a therapist. And yet most people don’t. I think one of the biggest obstacles is how to find a good therapist. When you’re depressed, even the smallest action seems like climbing a mountain. And then there’s the idealized version of a therapist and the more often than not real version. The idealized version is comforting, supportive, and kind. In real life, many therapists make you feel like depression is a choice for the lazy. Then there’s getting the wait time. If you pay out of pocket, then sure you can see a therapist quickly. But if it’s assisted, then you could be waiting for months…or more. In addition there’s the general stigma of seeing a therapist. That it’s only for crazy people. I wish the mental health system were more accessible, more easily accessible for all people who suffer from stress or depression.

    • Kayan, I could not have said that bettter myself. Thank you for posting. If we all would advocate for better mental health, then maybe the system would improve..I hope it does anyway, so many people could be helped and tragedies avoided….

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