Perfection maniacs? Lessons I learned - Women with diabetes weekend, San Diego

Hi all

My name is Fabiana, I am 31 years old and I have diabetes since I was 12. Now it has been 19 years dealing with this though condition and trying to be perfect…

I am originally from Brazil and I am currently living in San Francisco, CA. I am in a career change and doing a MA in psychology here, but mainly I say that what I am doing here is a MA in living new experiences!

In those new experiences I am living I include the fact that I am living in San Francisco, a very diverse and mixed city! My own house is sort of a sample of all that cultural diversity, I live with with 3 other girls with very different ethnicities and stories, one of them is american-arabic, the other american-persian, and the other one from Bangladesh… I am learning and opening a totally new perspective on the world as I knew it.

Well but my point here is, I am also living new experiences related to my diabetes buddy. One of those life-changing experiences just happened last weekend and that is what I want to share with you.

I went to this conference called “Celebration of Strength” for women with diabetes in San Diego. It was an event promoted by Diabetes Sisters (, a non-profit that connects women with diabetes, and the Behavioral Diabetes Institute (, a great center in San Diego that understands and focus on the emotional side of this disease, which for me is huge.

Talking about the emotional side of diabetes. Some of the amazing speakers we had at this event, who most of them have been living with diabetes for a long time, talked about the perfectionism we may carry in our shoulders, mainly trying to be the “perfect” diabetic. I can totally relate to that and I must say it is such burden in my life.

There is no way we can be perfect in any area of our lives, even less when talking about diabetes. The speakers presented some objective aspects of the disease that just makes it impossible to be a perfect diabetic, one of them for example is that there are 155 different things we have to do every single day (in the super ideal/unrealistic world) in order to maintain our diabetes management under control, or I would say “perfect”. Even though even if you do it all there is no promise that the result will be perfect as well, and seriously, it probably won’t, because just there is NO perfection. And the possible outcome will be: You will drive yourself crazy…

So, what they were saying that really helped me to look to my diabetes in perspective were:

  • We are NOT the number we see in our meters. It does not make us worth it or not. The number in our meters is literally just information.

  • Out of these 155 things we “should” do, what are the things that really matters?? Start with one step at a time. Be selective, act in the big picture, and then just live your life…

Because at the end of the day the purpose of taking care of ourselves is to live a healthier, happier life. What is the point then to be so perfect but don’t have a life?

" The best is the enemy of the good"

  • And then to conclude, my own take away of it all was…

False standards of perfection leads us to feel shame and guilty.
Whom of us ever felt like that? I have felt that for such long time. Still do…
I was all the time blaming myself from being imperfect and mistakes. I “should” do this, I didn’t do that, I failed…It was as a constant destructive self-talk.

So, what I think that was the most valuable gift I got from this conference was to meet with other 100 women who live the same challenges, who are not perfect as well and who can be compassionate and laugh about our “mistakes” together.

That is the power of connection! That is the power of being just humans and not Super-heros…

I would love to hear your thoughts on that subject!

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I like to have perfect goals. I don’t worry about hitting them but achieving something better requires a challenging goal. Even when I’m off, I sort of think “do the best job fixing the off you can” and don’t dwell on beating myself up too much for however I got there? It’s sort of a philosophical game but so is diabetes management.

Living with diabetes since 1983 …the day I was told I took the Doc’s assesment very seriously …had other challenges to cope with such as cancer , etc. etc. I have a sense, finally, I look at it : " do the best I can " …I am more relaxed …ask my Hubby .

Hi Fabiana, isn’t it terrible that we invest so much mental, physical and emotional energy into this chronic disease yet we can never be on top! It’s like working your hardest knowing that you will only be able to achieve 3rd place at best!

Hey Preeti, yes, I agree… most of times it can be frustrating. The Behavioral Diabetes Institute have a “claim” about that. They say we work SO hard, so what happens? Nothing… It means, we wont have complications or will minimize them. Which is of course a wonderful thing but against human brain… Because we always work hard expecting something good will happen, and not that bad things wont happen. This is hard but its our reality and we just have to keep doing our best which is not perfect but is great anyways. I had never celebrated my strength as a woman with diabetes before, and I like the idea of recognizing how much we have already done!! Stay well :slight_smile:

Hey Nel, you went through so much, not easy! Congratulations for your strength… I will remember your words and do the best I can “relaxed” :slight_smile:

Hi acidrock, thanks for your response. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts around this subject. I agree we should be ambitious and want the best in life, but I believe we don’t control all the outcomes all the time and it can be overwhelming if we expect perfection on whatever we do. Once I learned about achieving SMART goals and I like it…, Have you ever heard? S - Specific, M - Measurable, A - Attainable, R - Realistic and T - time bound. I guess those are good parameters.
In terms of diabetes I have my goals and it is basically, as you said, do the best I can, I (personally) just don’t like the word perfection…

I definitely agree with you that the emotional burden is the hardest part of diabetes. For me, the numbers don’t much bother me – it’s the burden of anger, guilt, blame and shame, body image, and fear for the future. I like AR’s approach of treating it like a video game, in the context of Danny’s constant reminder that tomorrow is a new day. I can’t change the past, and it’s true that I don’t achieve perfection all that often (LOL!), but if I can accept good enough, that’s a nice place to be. What I need to work on is my self-perception of being fat, and my emotional wish that I could lose weight and the diabetes would go away, although I know that is pure fantasy. And I need to stop the denial thoughts that plague me – that was something wonderful about the weekend – EVERYONE there had diabetes, and I DID feel like part of the group, and I didn’t need to feel embarrassed about it. I hope they come out west again, because I would love to go to another get-together like that!

I don’t ever think I lost control of an outcome as that would be be giving up? I blame the numbers that are “off” on inevitable biological changes and, rather than “being” perfect (MrsAcidRock ROFLHAO…), I try to “work on being more perfect”? If a test is where I want it to be, I can go yippie but my goal will sort of shift gears to “keep it going” and push the goal to the next level and get more of the good ones?

I think that the “diabetes industry” undergoals people with diabetes because of safety concerns and because the goals (maybe fasting BG around 100 and post-parandial around 140?) aren’t “pushing” people to succeed? Those are very challenging goals and I don’t always hit them either but I always want to push myself to hit them and, if I don’t, I try to step back and look at a mistake as an opportunity to do the best job getting the data (of which we have lots!) to figure out how a burrito or a 5K race or trip to an amusement park or a big project @ work or whatever can be managed successfully? I get the “look at all those lows” comments from my doctor sometimes too and have had some “issues” (hypos, passing out, etc.) that are disconcerting but they are all experiences I can learn from. Lately, I’ve run into some night time drifting up (DP? Somyogi [sp?], SAD, who knows?) and have been fiddling around with basal rates and stuff like that to try to fix it. It’s bothersome but I’d rather try to fix something than just give up and say “well, 120 in the AM is ok…”.

I had a very brief experience as a martial arts teacher and could always recall how when I started, I was like “there is no way in hell I’m gonna do that” watching some 20 somethings do a particularly snazzy looking kick at one of my first classes. I kept at it and eventually not only learned enough to do the kick myself but also to be able to help other people improve their technique, even some students I considered much more brilliant than I considered myself could benefit from a “if you lift your knee higher as you come around the rest of you will go higher”. Not because they “were” perfect but because they had stepped back to perceive that aiming at “more perfect” could be of use. Which is sort of a form of perfection in itself?

Hi Fabiana: Well, one of the most fun things about DiabetesSisters in San Diego was spending time with you! And love the photo! The big takeaway for me was “do all you can but seek a balanced life.” As in, the pursuit of perfection can kill you.

Thanks, Fabiana, for sharing your thoughts and your experience. It sounds like a great conference! I think many of us tend to get caught in the obsessive/perfection trap - wouldn’t it be funny if that was the “gene” that caused Type 1 diabetes? Kidding. (Mostly).

For me it is definitely balance, as Melitta says, and quality of life. What are the things in my life that matter to me and how can D fit into them, not the reverse. If I were to give up all those things, than what would I be working so hard to stay healthy for?

I think it’s all too easy to get caught up in control and “good numbers” as a goal in and of itself. Then, especially if you are good at numbers (as I am) and have way too much time on your hands (as I do) - or even if you don’t…you lose sight of what you are doing it for. You are right, as humans, we function best with recognizable short term goals and rewards. It’s hard to be motivated so “something bad (probably) won’t happen”. So we make our goal the damn numbers and numbers are so maddening because they are cold, where we humans are (hopefully) warm creatures. So if my goal is “under 140” and I’m 142, let alone 202 - I feel bad, as if I’ve failed.

I try to think of myself as already having the artificial pancreas… So I “set all the parameters” - good, moderately low food, good tools (pump, insulin), accurate I:C, basal rate, correction factors. Then I just “let it run” and hope it all works out which much of the time it does, and some of the time it doesn’t - at all. Of course, I don’t really have an artificial pancreas yet. So I really just can’t walk away and let the program run. I’m continually returning to fine-tune the dials and hone in on the parameters. But if I “act as if” it takes away the pressure.

Quality of life is also, for me, about choices. We all make them. I choose to eat “moderate low” carb (under 100 per day) as I am a vegetarian and a foodie and both things are important to me. So I get an A1C around 6.4 and I’m fine with that. We all weigh things out and in the end, choose, if not perfect D control, as happy a life as we can imagine and create. And when life (like D) kicks us in the butt, we just fine tune again.

Sorry for all the rambling. it’s a distraction from my focus on all the details of moving in a few weeks! Good topic!

Sorta like AR, I keep pushing my goals. I no longer beat myself up for not achieving them every time, but rather work at figuring out where I can do better in a similar situation next time. I do still beat myself up on a lot of things, but BG isn’t one of them.

A good example - Chinese 3 weeks ago, thought I bolused perfectly and I spiked to almost 200. Chinese today - did a straight bolus and had a smooth long curve that peaked at 138 and started curving back down. If I had just accepted the first fubar, I wouldn’t have made the changes I did. This works for me, not suggesting it’s for everyone!

I do have fairly tight control, and sure, I’m disappointed when things go out of whack. Those are the times I try to dredge up what Melitta and Zoe said about balance, correct as best as I can and move on.