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Aim for better, not perfect

Guest article by Riva Greenberg.

Let's dispel a diabetes myth right now—the idea that you can manage your diabetes and blood sugar perfectly. You can't. There are so many tasks involved in managing diabetes and blood sugar that you will not be able to do them all, every day, with absolute success.

For example, you won't eat perfectly all the time. There will be times an event will prevent you from being active. You may forget to take your medicine or log your blood sugar every now and then.

Further, while we know keeping our blood sugar in the recommended target range helps delay or prevent diabetes complications, it's not always doable. Our bodies perform dozens of metabolic functions continuously throughout the day that affect our blood sugar, and most of them are hidden from us. Also, things like being sick, feeling stressed or a bad night's sleep can impact our blood sugar.

Striving for perfection comes with a high price. It can cost you your peace of mind. It can limit what you are willing to try for fear of failing. Expecting to manage your diabetes perfectly and not doing so can leave you feeling like a failure. For some people, making perfection a goal and not achieving it causes them to stop taking care of their diabetes entirely.

A psychologist told me, "Human beings simply are not
designed to be perfect. When it comes to diabetes, I tell people
to try your best and know that good is good enough."

Another untruth many people believe is that you can control your blood sugar. Like perfection, control is not possible. There are too many factors. Perhaps you've heard of the "X factor." That's when you do the same, exact thing two days in a row—you eat the same amount of the same foods and exercise the same way—yet you still get different blood sugar numbers. The idea of control is a mechanistic view. It assumes, "Do this and that will happen." This is true of machines, but not our bodies.

You might think that knowing you can't manage diabetes perfectly is discouraging, but it's actually good news. It liberates you from struggling so hard and thinking it's your fault when you get unexpected results.

A better goal
Realizing perfect blood sugar and control are not the goal, what should you aim for? Improvement.

Improvement is a goal that is worthwhile and achievable. Try to do just a little bit better tomorrow than you did today. Here are a few things that will help you do that:

  1. Talk to your healthcare team about target ranges for your blood sugar and how to best achieve them. This will include noticing how your blood sugar responds to different foods and activities, and what to do when your blood sugar is out of range.
  2. Forgive yourself when you have difficulty managing your blood sugar or diabetes. Right now, diabetes is a lifelong condition and you are running a marathon, not a sprint. Forgiveness is a powerful healing energy to help you manage your diabetes for the years in front of you.
  3. Make your diabetes a judgment free-zone. Don't take others' judgment to heart and don't judge yourself. Criticism can weaken your resolve to take on your daily tasks. Instead, do your best and appreciate all you are doing to manage your diabetes.

Finally, remember to not make your whole life about diabetes. You are you, not your diabetes. Do things you enjoy, spend time with loved ones, take up a hobby and live your life as fully as you can and desire.

Doing well with diabetes, not perfectly, is a worthy goal. You will feel more satisfied with yourself and everything you do, which will help you do even better. Embrace your own perfection simply for being the remarkable human being who you are.

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