For nearly 20 years, I’ve been helping people with disordered eating, and I’ve noticed a common link among them: they tend to be “people pleasers” and “perfectionists”.

People pleasers put others’ needs before their own.  They try to avoid conflict and are afraid of being criticised.  Perfectionists, on the other hand, always try to be flawless and set incredibly high goals and standards for themselves.  Though these traits might seem like good things, they can hurt a person’s mental health.

How does this connect to feeling safe and loved? Let’s dive into that.

Feeling safe

Feeling safe means secure in your relationships, surroundings and within yourself.  But when a person always gives in to others (people-pleasing) or fears making mistakes (perfectionism), they might start to believe that they can only feel safe if others like them or  if they never mess up.

Similarly, these traits affect how we feel loved.  People pleasers often think that they must meet other people’s needs to be loved.  Perfectionists may think that they need to be perfect to earn love.  They’re scared that a single mistake will make them unlovable.

So, how does this all connect to food and weight?

People pleasers and perfectionists often turn to food as a coping strategy.  For people pleasers, eating can be a way to care for themselves without asking for help.  For perfectionists, managing their weight can be another way to show how perfect and flawless they are.

In both cases, food gives a sense of control and safety.  But this can lead to unhealthy habits.  If a person thinks or feels that they’ll only feel safe or loved at a certain weight, they can become obsessed with controlling their diet and body weight.

You don’t always have to please others or be perfect

I’ve found that to help people with these kinds of concerns, we need to address all these issues together.  This helps people understand that they don’t always have to please others or be perfect. It also helps to build their confidence and self-worth, teaching them better ways to deal with stress, and helping them to form a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.

In therapy, people can learn that they are valuable and good enough just as they are.

In therapy, people can learn that they are valuable and good enough just as they are.  They don’t need to always meet other people’s expectations or be perfect to be loved , accepted or to feel safe.

Remember, if you’re dealing with these concerns, you are not alone.  There’s help out there.  Don’t be afraid to reach out.  It might not be an easy journey, but it’s worth it.