Mind

Nadia Lim on why we should all stop trying to be perfect

Motherhood has taught the celebrity chef and My Food Bag co-founder to ease up on herself.

No one can really 'do it all', feel happy every day or be 100 per cent healthy. Unfortunately an abundance of self-help books, health articles and green gurus on Instagram can lead us to believe that perpetual wellness and happiness is achievable.

The reality is far more complicated. A balanced life includes happy and sad times, periods of wellness interspersed with illness, and days when you just can't be bothered. Unrealistic expectations around health and happiness can lead to feelings of inferiority, depression and, in extreme cases, orthorexia, a disordered form of eating centred around an obsession with healthy foods.

In their book The Wellness Syndrome, Carl Cederström and André Spicer, professors from Stockholm University and London's City University, say wellness has become a moral demand in today's world and is making people feel guilty and anxious. "When wellness goes from being a general idea of feeling good to something that we ought to do in order to live truthfully and righteously, it takes on a new meaning. It becomes an impossible demand that reconfigures the way we live our lives. Obsessively tracking our wellness, while continuously finding new avenues of self-enhancement, leaves little room to live."

Here, Nadia Lim shares her wisdoms on how to take a balanced approach to life.

How do you practise being 'good enough' when juggling work with parenting, exercise and socialising?

I think a lot of 'pressures' – to be the perfect parent and friend, and live a healthy lifestyle all the time – are fake pressures. I mean, who can actually maintain doing all those things all the time? If you were perfect at all those things, you'd be boring, and not a real person! So, first things first, realise this and be cool with it.

I actually like to embrace a certain amount of chaos in our lives – it makes the dance more interesting. I believe it's important to be flexible and kind to yourself and not beat yourself up about things that don't really matter in the big picture. If only I could tell you how many times I've resorted to toast or takeaways for dinner for us and our son, Bodhi, because I've been too disorganised, or how many exercise sessions I've missed because I had to give myself a rest or attend to something else, or how many times 
I've felt that I was letting a friend down by having to cancel a catch-up.

Look after yourself, don't expect you'll be 'good enough' all the time. Give yourself a pat on the back when you feel you've done a great job, and a hug when you're exhausted and can't give it an A-plus – and be at peace (and happy that you can be chilled out about it!).

How did you lower your expectations when you were a new mother?

I used being a new mum and having a young baby as the ultimate excuse not to have to commit to anything! Some days I felt like I was doing super well just to have brushed my teeth, let alone get dressed. There were plenty of days when the plan to get out of the house turned to custard. I enjoyed not having the pressure to do things perfectly or have things go according to plan.

How can women lessen the pressure on themselves to be perfect?

My advice would be that being imperfect is being perfect! There is great beauty in imperfection and having the ability to be relaxed about it. Being flexible, calm and relaxed about things not going perfectly is one of the skills I cherish most.

Why is it important to take a balanced approach to eating well?

It's about what you do most of the time, not occasionally, that counts. If you aim to eat well most of the time, it doesn't matter that you indulge and have whatever you want the other 10 per cent of the time. Don't even think about it, just enjoy it.

Things come in phases and waves, as does wellness and eating healthily. It might surprise you that I've had periods of eating takeaways several nights in a row, but I didn't stress about it because I knew I'd get back on the horse and eat well later. At the time, I just had to get through the day and make sure I ate. There was no point in moping about it and feeling like I was a failure.

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