One of my Psychology of Eating classmates has just completed a 10-Day Sugar Detox, and I am in awe of how consciously she’s going through the process. If you haven’t seen it, I particularly recommend watching her daily videos.
To me, the most amazing thing about her detox is the boundaries she’s put on her intention. She is removing processed sugar from her diet for 10 days in an attempt to see how she falls back on sugar to cope emotionally with her life. She’s interested to see how she’s using sugar as a symbolic substitute for abundance, and belonging, and anti-restriction.
I have given up sugar before. And coffee. And gluten. And grains. And solid food. I used to go on detoxes all the time. I loved them, and when I was sick and starting to explore the impact food and emotions had on my physical body, it was very useful to try and remove certain triggers and give my body and mind a chance to regulate itself.
(you knew there was going to be a “but,” right?)
Sometimes I find myself with a secret endgame to these sorts of detoxes. Sure I want to explore my attachment and addiction, sure I want to do a little cleanse, but the subtext is actually, “I want to be perfect.”
My true goal is to be perfect, and this is the vehicle that’s going to catapult me there. This obsession, this fixation, this goal, this intention, at its core, it’s me trying to be perfect.
(And if you forgot what it means to be perfect, let me have you sit for a while with Bitch Boss. She’ll explain everything.)
I don’t want to give the impression that I have low self-esteem or that I think I’m bad in some way, I just think that perfection is seductive. I think it’s easy to get sucked in to a goal and pursue it mindlessly, ignoring your soul and your sense of yourself as a person.
That’s why I get frustrated sometimes with articles that harp on self-acceptance and self-love. That’s important, but it’s not that simple.
It’s hard to live in the paradox of accepting yourself just as you are and wanting to be different. We fear that if we accept things as they are, we’ll never be able to change.
Until we get comfortable with the paradox, I think sometimes we latch on to one certainty, and then just hop from one “sure thing” to the next, like that hot lava game you used to play as a kid. If I fall into the abyss, I’ll burn up and die. I’m here and yeah yeah it’s fine, but I gotta get over THERE. First jump: cut sugar. Next jump: lose 20 pounds. After that: get a husband. Then: perfect wedding. We plan our lives out with one ideal after another, desperately trying to stave off uncertainty. We convince ourselves that this one thing is the key to happiness and ease forever and always.
If you’re that desperate to get from one ideal to another, you retreat from life.
Obsession is always a fixation – a freezing-over of the personality so that it becomes not a living being but something fixed, like a piece of sculpture, locked into a complex…. Almost inevitably a woman addicted to perfection will view herself as a work of art, and her real terror is that the work of art, being so absolutely precious, may in one instant be destroyed. She has to treat herself as a rare piece of Ming porcelain or what Keats described as a “still unravished bride of quietness,” a “foster-child of silence and slow time.” …To move towards perfection is to move out of life, or what is worse, never to enter it.
– Marion Woodman
My favorite way to think of perfection is by recognizing that its patron goddess is Medusa. The legend goes that Medusa was once a beautiful woman, but she offended the goddess Athena and, in an act of revenge, Athena turned Medusa’s hair into snakes and made her face so hideous that all who looked upon her were turned to stone. Medusa’s “snaky locks twist and writhe in constant agitation, reaching, reaching, reaching, wanting more and more and more.” When Perseus (armed with a mirror shield, a helmet that makes him invisible, and a curved sword) kills Medusa by lobbing off her head, “Pegasus, the winged horse of creativity, is released along with Chrysaor, he of the golden sword.” [Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection]
Whereas Medusa wants everything permanent and perfect, engraved in stone, Sophia wants things moving, breathing, creating.
So that’s what I marvel at when I watch Arielle’s videos, how she’s using her addiction to sugar as a vehicle to explore herself and her relationship with life. Because that’s what’s necessary when we start to wish for change: a conscious inquiry about what we desire, who we are, how we’re relating both to ourselves and to the outside world.
It’s a very vulnerable place.
We can’t make it as simplistic as Being Perfect, even if that’s the desire. What does it mean? What will be different once you’ve changed this thing? What are you afraid of? Who is this for? What are you defending against?
In the same way the woman who is virgin, one-in-herself, does what she does – not because of any desire to please, not to be liked, or to be approved, even by herself; not because of any desire to gain power over another, to catch his interest or love, but because what she does is true.
Esther Harding, Woman’s Mysteries
So that’s what I’m contemplating this week, my friends. This idea of staying in relationship with instinct and desire, using consciousness and questioning to evolve, rather than looking at change as a savior that will bring me to perfection and ease and happily ever after. Tell me your thoughts.