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Losing My Peloton Streak Helped Me Combat My Perfectionism

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When I first considered buying a Peloton, I read a lot of reviews. The one that ultimately convinced me to purchase a bike and join the popular at-home fitness app? A user raved about the blue dots members earn for each completed workout.

As a child who thrived on earning gold stars, was a lifetime Honor Roll member and a fixture on the Perfect Attendance list, receiving a virtual trophy for workouts appealed to my inner competitor and perfectionist. This reward system was meant to motivate users, but I took it to the next step—often breaking into a mild panic if it was nearing midnight and I hadn’t logged a meditation, cycling class or yoga session for the day.

I knew my commitment was unhealthy, but I couldn’t help myself. During a time when so much felt out of my control (the bike arrived in January 2020–right before the pandemic and the start of an arduous IVF journey), Peloton was a sanctuary. It was something I could control.

When my husband and I got a positive pregnancy test in February 2021, I understood my streak would eventually end. Still, I wasn’t ready to admit defeat. I was proud of myself for maintaining my workout regimen throughout pregnancy by cycling and doing prenatal strength and yoga classes with ease.

Once the six-week recovery period began, I was determined to keep my streak going safely. I did a few “guided walks” while roaming stark hospital halls in my patient gown and leopard-print slippers. I even asked my ob/gyn—a fellow Pelotoner and member of the #BlackGirlMagic crew—about the earliest I could return to my bike and classes. She gave me the green light to start postnatal yoga around the four-week mark.

I felt smug and proud in equal measure. This is doable, I thought. Other people aren’t trying hard enough. And then the inevitable happened: I lost my streak on a nondescript Tuesday in November. I was focused on running errands, prepping our daughter for an X-ray to check out her distended belly and dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety. I didn’t even notice I hadn’t logged in for the day.

The realization and ensuing panic came shortly after midnight, and there were definitely tears. All of my hard work was gone. I was devastated. It may seem a bit dramatic, but as someone who has tied my worth to achievements for most of my life, this was a big moment. The loss of my 600+ day streak made me reflect on a lifetime of perfectionism, beginning with all the accolades I racked up in elementary school. In this new body with a new human to care for, I struggled to figure out who I was without my blue dots.

“Perfectionism is often driven by fear, which is a painful place to operate from.” — Tatyana Rameau, LMFT

Ebony Davis, LSW, a licensed social worker based in Chicago, says that all-or-nothing thinking is common among those of us striving for perfection.“There’s this belief that all of their progress is null and void; it means nothing or the progress they’ve made was done in vain if the desired outcome does not align with the results [they] want.”

My therapist once told me my perfectionism is a form of anxiety, and the American Psychological Association defines it as a cocktail of  “excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations.” That resonates: I’ve always set impossibly high standards for myself (and admittedly others), and now that I’m a mom, the urge to do “everything right” has multiplied. What’s more? There’s evidence to suggest those who self-identify as perfectionists are more likely to experience postpartum depression. My blue dot grief was likely rooted in something more than my love of the fitness app.

With the help of journaling and a well-timed therapy session, I eventually came to terms with losing my streak. I realized that despite my best efforts, I’m not perfect. My worth isn’t determined by a row of blue dots.

In truth, I fear losing myself in motherhood, and my streak was one way to maintain control over my identity. Peloton is my workout addiction of choice, but I adore the community, and, in my eyes, the dots made me a woman who could “do it all.” But fixating on an app isn’t an example I want to set for my daughter, and it’s an indication that my mental health could use some TLC.

It hasn’t been easy, but I know that stepping away from perfectionism requires those of us who deal with it to “reframe and be intentional about what we’re telling ourselves and how we’re relating to ourselves during these moments,” Davis says. As such, she recommends people practice radical acceptance as a way to combat fear, perfectionism and shame. “We learn to cope with the emotions that come up for us when we don’t meet that level of perfection. We allow ourselves the opportunity to feel, which later lessens the impact of that perceived failure,” she says.

I’ve missed a few blue dots since then, usually on jam-packed days filled with doctor appointments and nonstop nursing sessions. Instead of getting down on myself, I’m learning to practice radical acceptance. I commit to trying again the next day. I’m essentially following James Clear’s advice in Atomic Habits about “avoiding the second mistake.” He writes: “What separates the elite performers from everyone else? Not perfection, but consistency.” I regularly remind myself that life isn’t about preventing mistakes altogether, but as Clear writes, it’s more about doing my best to make sure my missteps and mistakes don’t turn into patterns.

“Perfectionism is often driven by fear, which is a painful place to operate from,” shares Tatyana Rameau, LMFT, therapist and owner of Soleil and Hearth Therapy. “Working on breaking perfectionism really is about self-compassion, self-love, and accepting our humanness.”

So in that regard, I’m spending more time pursuing progress rather than perfectionism. I honor progress when it comes to drafting my first book without making sure each word is “perfect.” I notice progress when it comes to not stressing if my daughter’s hair isn’t pristine in each picture I post. I’m celebrating progress when it comes to loving this new body that I’m in and letting go of the pressure for it to be how it was before because I’m certainly not the same person I was before giving birth—and dare I say, that’s a good thing.

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