A topic I identified as being a characteristic trait and personality trait that will consume athletes to being at risk of developing disordered eating and body image issues is, “perfectionism”. What does it take to be a high level athlete? Every elite athlete has the extremes to ensure their lives are completely driven towards one direction, one goal. This is not normal human behaviour in terms of what you will put your body, your mind and your life through. Perfectionism comes into many different factors: how you look, how your training looks, is your body right, is your training right, have you maximised your lifestyle. Therefore this heightens your arousal of ensuring every little aspect of your life in perfect – slightly like an ocd disorder. But is this actually neccesary?
What does perfect mean? Who has the perfect life and or perfect training programme? Having the “perfect” body shape isn’t the be all and end all and I think this is what now needs to be portrayed into the sporting light. I am a 5ft 7 (1.71cm) slightly curvier than other female high jumpers, shorter too and I still managed to jump 16cm over my head height and reach commonwealth games final. Look at Jessica Ennis: 5ft 5 and Jumps 1.95m! So yes physical leanness and good body-weight to strength ratio is key, but you have to look at the overall picture. For example my best jump of the year came in February 2014 when I was 3kg heavier than I was in June 2014. So we need to identify and rationalise our perfection drivers. Not diminish that “perfectionism” isn’t essential towards performance, but use “perfectionism” in a different manner. Use perfectionism to enable the athletes to get the “perfect” athlete/social life/work life/future career balance, use perfectionism to help prepare a pathway for every athlete to have something else is it all goes wrong. I have seen too many athletes get a career threatening injury and there is nothing in place for them to go from full time athlete to getting a job that will propel them forward in the future.
Topic for discussion and a topic to think about. How does perfectionism affect you and or your athletes.