Grace Over Fear: How Perfectionism Can Sabotage Our Pursuit of Optimal Health

By Lis Frey, Bio-Energetic Practitioner 


When it comes to your health, do you treat, prevent, or support your body to adapt?

In a world obsessed with avoiding pain and illness, our approach to health varies from the norm.  Here at Longevity, we believe in creating an environment and lifestyle that supports the nervous and immune systems and develops a healthy personal ecosystem.  Rather than turning to antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle, we recommend immune supporting herbs and therapies, dietary changes, and rest.  We firmly believe that your body is well designed to handle a certain amount of stress, if you provide it with the right tools to optimize your response to that stressor. 

But there is actually even more to that idea. It is well proven that your body actually benefits from a certain amount of stress.  If we completely isolate ourselves and live in a sterile bubble, our immune systems will undoubtedly suffer. 

This process of stress and toxins benefiting your health on a cellular level is called Hormesis.  Wikipedia defines Hormesis as “any process in a cell or organism that exhibits a biphasic response to exposure to increasing amounts of a substance or condition. Within the hormetic zone, there is generally a favorable biological response to low exposures to toxins and other stressors.”

As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent of a species that survives, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” 

We have seen Hormesis clearly play out in the arena of childbirth across history.  Before awareness of germs, mortality rates of both infants and mothers were significantly higher. But after the discovery of germs and implementing sterilization procedures, mortality rates began to decline.  However, it was taken too far.  The childbirth process became overly-sterilized by routinely replacing vaginal births for c-sections, breastfeeding for formula feeding, vigorous baths for skin-to-skin time, and regularly administering antibiotics. Thank God for these medical advancements in times of emergency!  But they are not ideal methods for most healthy mothers and babies. 

Even though the U.S. has one of the most advanced medical systems in the world, the mortality rates in childbirth have steadily risen alongside the level of intervention.  We have since learned all about the immune boosting benefits of exposing an infant to the bacteria in the birth canal, of not bathing a newborn too soon, of skin-to-skin exposure, and of breastfeeding, and yet a lot of these over-zealous interventions that detract from these natural immune-boosting processes remain standard practice.   Even though we have learned so much in the field of immunology and the role of healthy bacteria on our systems, we continue to fear commonplace germs that are helpful. 

Another example of Hormesis is the body’s ability to produce an appropriate fever response.  When exposed to bacterial and viral infections, the body may produce a fever as an immune response.  When the fever stays within a certain range, and as long as the frequency is limited to a few times a year, it is one of the most cleansing and immune-informing things one can experience. Your body has found a way to not only fight the acute infection, but purged other toxins that were burdening it. It has used the stress of an infection to get stronger than it was before.  In addition, your immune system has gained information about how to fight future bacteria and viruses.  Some of favorite detox therapies at Longevity are based on this concept of hyperthermia, or raising of body temperature.

While we strongly encourage our patients to limit their exposure to toxic stressors, especially those of a synthetic nature such as chemicals from cleaning agents, xenoestrogens from personal care products, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and herbicides from inorganic foods, we also strongly encourage them to fight against the temptation of perfectionism.  Aside from being a complete exercise in futility (perfect health simply does not exist), it will actually work against you in a number of ways.  Not only will it directly weaken you physiologically if you attempt to avoid all physical stressors, but the psychological effect will end up working against you as well.  In order for anabolic processes such as tissue repair, optimal digestion, and nutritional metabolization to take place, your nervous system must be in a parasympathetic state.  

When one puts impossible standards on their body and its systems, it can actually cause a fight or flight response, a state in which the body prioritizes survival over healing. We must strive to avoid this way of thinking. We understand that this can be an easy thing to say, but much more difficult thing to do, especially during a season of a worldwide pandemic.  

Many of you have become our patients because you have had a health trauma. You felt like your bodies were betraying you, you couldn’t find the answers you needed, and you wondered if you would ever be able to regain health and function like you used to.  This sort of trauma can make it tempting to try to avoid every stressful thing for your body, resulting in health perfectionism, and ultimately, defeat.  Although we love when our patients are committed to their health and making good choices for themselves, we want it to be done from a place of loving self-acceptance and respect, and not fear.   As Brené Brown writes In her book The Gifts of Imperfection:

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

This is why, although we love clearing out past toxins bogging down the body, we also do a lot to support the body’s ability to adapt to stress, support the liver’s ability to handle environmental toxins, and increase antioxidants to minimize the negative impacts of environmental toxins and metabolic waste on the cells.  Aside from our wonderful herbal, nutritional, and therapeutic support, there is a lot that you can do on your own to increase your ability to adapt and to make that shift away from fear to love and respect, to make the shift from the sympathetic state to parasympathetic state.  

We want our patients (and all people!) to live happy lives, to become the fullest versions of themselves. We desperately want to avoid the pitfall of perfectionism and the fear of contamination and instead cultivate physical, emotional, and spiritual vitality. To quote Brené again, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  

And this is what we, as individuals, need too.  We are looking not to just ward off death (we all die), but to build life, so we can live it to the very fullest.  Nourishing our souls with the things that bring us life is exactly how we will have the reserves we need when hard times come our way.  

 If you are struggling with fear regarding your health, we encourage you to start thinking about the positive, joy-giving things you can incorporate into your life.  What’s one small step you could take to bring more satisfaction and positivity to your day? It could be something simple like doing yoga, listening to worship music, or taking an epsom salt bath. Or it could be a bigger step, such as distancing yourself from a toxic relationship or finding a career path that makes you come alive. 

No matter where you are on your health journey, it would be our great privilege to come alongside you as you pursue wholeness in mind, body, and spirit!