Will P90x Perfectionism Cause You to Fail?

The other day I figured out why my house is always so messy: it’s because I’m a perfectionist. Yep, you read me right! I’ve been training myself to clean just a little bit at a time, but to be honest that doesn’t come naturally. My historical pattern usually goes as follows:

1) Wait until house is a disaster and neighbors are considering calling CPS

2) Beat myself up for not being better about it, and wonder what’s wrong with me

3) Spend a marathon day making the house perfect.

Rinse, repeat!

As you can imagine, this process is not fun, so over the past year or so I’ve been training myself to do what you neat freaks already do – clean up after myself as I go (amazing, right?), and do it in smaller increments. While this may be a no-duh for a lot of you, for some of us, these are new concepts! LOL

I bet you’ve figured out where I’m going with this, huh? For a lot of us perfectionists, things that don’t come naturally to us (housework, eating right, exercise) are an all-or-nothing proposition. Either our house is magazine-perfect, or CPS is banging down our door. Either we are healthy eaters who never have a bite of cake, or we are unhealthy slobs. Either we get up every day to exercise without fail, or we sleep in and never do it. Either we do the exercises exactly how Tony does them, or we sit the whole thing out.

The interesting thing about this, when it comes to P90x, is that I think P90x is a magnet to black-and-white thinkers. Many of us who are drawn to the idea of changing our bodies in 90 days are the same people who are having trouble with the lifelong, steady, incremental road toward healthiness – we are looking for a 90 day crash course. I know that this isn’t everyone, but I also know it applies to some of you because this is exactly how my hubby and I thought when he was starting P90x. “I can do anything for 90 days!” he told me. And that was true, but it also meant that when he didn’t get up to exercise on day 14, he almost quit.

This black and white thinking is a sign of perfectionism in one of its worst forms, because it refuses to acknowledge our humanity. Even the most disciplined person you know probably has a day where they eat some birthday cake, or are too busy to exercise, or they don’t do their dishes immediately. It’s LIFE.

So this is something IMPORTANT that you need to acknowledge before you start P90x: You are human. You may have some cake, and it does NOT mean that you have fallen off the P90x nutrition bandwagon. You may forget to set your alarm and not get up to do your exercises one day. SO WHAT???!! Keep going the next day without pause. You may have an injury or extra weight that makes it hard for you to do all of the exercises perfectly. Ever wonder why Tony makes such a point of saying “Do your best and forget the rest?” He’s talking to the perfectionist in you – the person who has tried other diets or exercise programs and stopped because you didn’t do them perfectly.

On Day 14, I had to kick my hubby’s perfectionist out. I basically told him to shut up and move on. I said it to him and I’ll say it to you now: Do you really think that you are going to do hour-long exercises for 89 days and it’s not going to change your body for the better?! Do you think you are going to eat 89 days of healthy food and it’s not going to make any difference? If you can do only 45 minutes of the hour because of your weight or your injury, do you really think 45 minutes of exercise daily for 90 days will make no difference whatsoever? OF COURSE NOT! So the scale hasn’t changed yet, SUCK IT UP!! Stop listening to that perfectionistic voice in your head, and remind yourself what you are doing this for. This is for a healthier you! This is so you can be around longer for your kids! This is 90 days of hard work, but not only is it going to change your body now, it’s going to teach you how to cook and how to eat and how to push yourself! IT’S GOING TO WORK. So show the perfectionist to the door – he or she is not welcome anymore!!!

Was I just a little too mean to you guys? Sorry, but I’m saying this to you because I care about you, and being a perfectionist myself, I’m talking to myself too. KEEP GOING. DO YOUR BEST, AND FORGET THE REST. This isn’t a wagon you can get on and off of, this is your life. P90x is kick-starting an ongoing, steady change that is going to set your life in a new direction! You can do it!

Ebooking it…
– CJ =)


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  1. Lars

    I’ve also noticed from being a life long perfectionist, that it’s more of a curse than a blessing; and by curse I mean neurosis…

    I often skip doing the dishes, even though I have the idea of “Oh if I do them immediately, then I’ll be pleased later”. So when I skip doing them for whatever reason – laziness, procrastination etc. – I then look at them and go “Oh dammit… Well… guess I failed that plan”, and then go for 3 or 4 days with the dishes piling up.

    This mindset haunts me in many areas of my life:
    First: “I gotta do X; it would be so great if I just did it – it’s pretty easy to get X out of the way!”
    Then: “Dammit I didn’t do X, well I suck… and I’m now discouraged… I’ll do it later…”

    Who taught me this retarded neurosis? 🙂

    Greetings from Denmark

    1. CJ =)

      Hey Lars –
      I’m totally the same way. The critical thing is that we identify that negative self talk and don’t listen to it. That negative internal script will stop us from winning if we let it, whether it’s with laundry or dishes, or P90x!
      – CJ =)

  2. Hunnie

    OMG! I so needed to read this! Not just the working out part but the cleaning part too…I thought I was the only person that was that bad.I spend to much time trying to perfect the little things that I lose sight of the bigger picture. This is why I went from being the smallest person in my family to the biggest. It’s also why I can’t seem to keep my house clean. I’m going to stop beating myself up about what I’m not and just do what I can. I can’t tell you thanks enough.

    1. CJ =)

      I’m so glad that this is helpful to you, Hunnie! It’s so weird that a form of perfectionism can actually stop you from doing things well enough, right?! Really this is a matter of loving yourself enough to jump in and start where you are, regardless of whether it will make things perfect or not. Just remember that housework, even if done incorrectly, still blesses your family. In the same way, P90x, even if done incorrectly, still blesses your body!!
      – CJ =)

  3. Leigh

    Thank you for posting that, CJ. I needed it!!

  4. Lori

    I just came across your blog and appreciate you for pulling all of this information together. I found this article very inspiring and true for us too. We are trying once again to get through Phase 1. We took the rest week a little early (in week 2). 🙂 We’ve tried following the P90X nutrition plan before but it is a lot of work. Just downloaded your menu plan and will start again with that. We both know and understand how important nutrition and exercise is to our lives, it’s just trying to get it to stick and block the exterior persuasions (dining out, sleeping in).

    I came across a quote I like to read often to remind myself that changes happen and it’s OK. I don’t know the author but would like to share because I feel it appropriately fits here too.

    “When sailing, one chooses a destination, and then charts a course. If the winds or currents change, the navigator must chart a new course. You don’t have tot change your destination, but if you don’t adapt to the changing winds and currents, you will not get there. And you just might sink.” -Unknown

    1. zach

      @lori love the quote!

    2. CJ =)

      Great quote, Lori! Thanks so much for sharing.
      – CJ =)

    3. Tim

      I love that quote too!

  5. Caroline

    CJ, thank you for posting this. I’m almost 38 and a mother of 6 kids ages 11 down to 7 months and my hubby and I are staring P90X on Monday. I’m freaking out about it all. I’m not a morning person at all and the only time we can work out together, which is more for my benefit than his, is 5:15am…woo hoo! Gotta love that! Anyway, thank you for this blog. Reading through some of your posts and the comments from other people have been very encouraging and I hope that this is the beginning of a better me…and hubs…that will last for a lifetime. Have a fantastic day!

    1. CJ =)

      You can do it, Caroline!!
      Check out this amazing New York Times article about habit, which I’m going to post about soon. Ignore the stuff about Target’s scariness and study the part about how HABITS affect us and our exercise and weight loss. Figure out a trigger for yourself for getting up early and make it a habit. You can do it!!
      – CJ =)

  6. tobby

    I am at the point of just eating salads the rest of the time because i cant get into a grove of cooking eating working and exercise without something getting messed up…either i dont have time to cook or i dont have enough time to eat all that food…..i want to follow the reciepy book u made but i am finding that i have to jump around and eat the simpler foods because im in a hurry…that makes me worry about having too many portions of veggies and not enough dairy or protein or what ever….so i just tell my self that its better than eating a cheesberger and fries…so what if i eat 2 extra veggie and one less protein and no fruit on some days.

  7. Arony

    Are you sure you don’t know me??? Lol That’s exactly how I am…. I haven’t started p90x because I want to make sure I have EVERYTHING ready I’m dissecting every little thing… but I’m starting today 🙂
    BTW thanks so much for making this

    1. CJ =)

      Sadly I do know you all too well, Arony, because I know myself!!! LOL. When I got married, one of the best pieces of advice I received was “No one’s wedding day is perfect. EVERY couple has a blooper. So when that one thing goes wrong, don’t let it ruin your special day. Instead, say ‘Ah, OK, this is our blooper!’ and then move on enjoying your wedding day.” It helped a lot when I was half-way down the aisle and realized that I had forgotten my husband’s wedding ring!!! LOL! So my theory is that we need to approach P90x the same way, because 3 full months of perfection is just an unreasonable expectation. Instead, when that thing happens, we say “Ah, OK, this is my blooper!” and move on with the program as if it never happened. =)

      Good job getting started! And when you have your “blooper” and then pick up the next day as if it never happened, come back here and brag about it!!
      – CJ =)

  8. Dana

    This is just what I need to read today! I don’t know why I hadn’t stumbled upon it before. I am everything you described above! I have just started phase 2 of P90X (today being day 1 of phase 2). This past weekend I was down in the dumps, thinking that the 2 slices of pizza I ate and the pint of beer I drank were puitting me back to the beginning. I felt awful and very dissapointed in myself. I needed to read this to remind myself to Bring It! ..thanks! I have found your blog to be very helpful and inspiring (especially in the beginning). Thank you for all you’ve done.

    1. CJ =)

      Hey Dana!! I am so glad that this is helpful to you. Maybe God knew you needed to hear this today. =)
      Don’t be disappointed in yourself. Be proud that you have made it all the way through Phase 1 – that’s 28 days of intense workouts already! Good on you!!
      – CJ =)

  9. Jason

    CJ – great thoughts to push the doubts out of your head. I picked up p90x and started and stopped and started and stopped…it just took that one day or couple days of too much to do to not get it in and that was it, I was done until I hit the urge to do better again. This last summer I committed to 90 days of movement and used the P90x workouts in combination with some karate, running, biking…whatever I could squeeze in… and it worked. I dropped 22 pounds and my 2 mile run time from 18 minutes to 14 minutes. Tony’s thought…Bring It, just works. Things have been a bit hectic, so having trouble staying true to my surge of exercise, but work in what I can. We perfectionist just have to understand that sometimes getting a ‘B’ gets us to the next test and keeps us moving forward. My next surge will have a bit more diet focus to go with the exercise. If 90 days of turning and burning while not watching my diet so much had that impact, can’t wait to see what a full commit will do.

    1. CJ =)

      Hey Jason! Now that is a quotable quote “We perfectionists just have to understand that sometimes getting a ‘B’ gets us to the next test and keeps us moving forward.'” Excellent observation!!! Thanks for commenting, and keep me posted on your progress.
      – CJ =)

  10. Dazzled

    WOW if this wasn’t written specifically for me! I am a perfectionist in pretty much this exact way. Everything has to be perfect all the time. Its when things are I start to freak out and things start failing. I plan on starting P90x as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. I plan on going at it full force, lol of course. Can’t wait to check out your blog and start this. Hopefully I don’t have any slip ups though….

    1. CJ =)

      Ah, but that’s the point, Dazzled! You will almost certainly slip up because you’re not perfect, and circumstances happen that are out of our control, and that is OK. Perfection is not the goal here. Even less than perfection will get the job done!!!! In fact, less than perfect P90x is still AWESOME! =)
      This is not to encourage less than total commitment to the goal – I’m not giving permission to cheat here. Instead, I’m encouraging commitment to the goal that can weather the storm of a few bumps in the road. Eye on the prize!!
      Thanks for commenting, and good luck as you begin your P90x journey. =)
      – CJ =)

  11. Simon UK

    I’ve just started P90x and so far so good, I have used you recipies and advise to fill my mind with the right thoughts and can’t wait for the book.
    This article is spot on for someone like me too you hvae to remember that doing what you can in this programme is all about what makes the changes happen, I really think you have a great eyes view on this and what it takes – thanks for yet again another confidence booster that I can do this and it’s going to make a difference.

    1. CJ =)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Simon. Please keep me posted on your progress. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!! =D
      – CJ =)

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