A Recovering Perfectionist at Play


When I was 27 years old, I went to see my OB for what I thought was another cyst – and came out with two diagnoses: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and prediabetic.

The latter blew me away.


I was sitting at the lowest weight of my life. Running half marathons. Four years retired from swimming.

I was eating well. Running. Spinning. Doing pump classes. Lifting weights. Doing extra cardio.

I could not wrap my brain around it.

High levels of glucose. High levels of insulin. Insulin resistant. High levels of cortisol.

It took me a few months to digest the news – most of which I spent feeling helpless, wondering what the hell else I could do to beat my family history of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

At the time, I was teaching high school science by day – and coaching swimming at night and on the weekends. After practice, I’d come home and do what teachers do – plan, grade, organize, communicate, strategize. Pouring every ounce of me into 'my kids.'

Rest was never a topic of conversation. Downtime didn’t exist.

When the endocrinologist told me that my cortisol levels (stress response)  were likely causing a cascade of hormonal reactions – I stared back at him. Or maybe through him.

He suggested meditation. I think I probably rolled my eyes.

At the time, I was deep in the middle of my struggle post-sport, and the transition to the ‘real world.' Never before did I have to exercise to stay in shape, practice took care of that. The concept was so foreign to me – as was going to workouts without teammates by my side - and not having a season goal to shoot for.

I went from training 6-7 hours a day to not having to train for anything.

So, I decided to run. And lift. And spin. And do pump classes. And ALL.THE.THINGS. Because, nothing ever felt like enough. Two hours at the gym was nothing compared to what I used to do.

I started running races. And set goals to do marathons. Because, I felt like I had to do something.

Rest is bad. Sitting still is a waste of time.

White space on a calendar is unproductive. 

These are the stories I told myself.

And. My body was dying on the inside.

{Changing the Narrative}

Talk about doing hard things.

I finally decided to sit down and listen to the guided meditation CDs. I couldn’t SEE the changes that were taking place. I couldn't measure them. It drove me nuts. 

But I felt a shift.

The first time – I fell asleep. The next few times (even though it felt like hundreds of times) I would get SO angry with all the thoughts racing through my mind that I think I ended up more stressed than I started. Eventually, I learned to settle in to the discomfort.

And then something crazy happened - I actually found myself looking forward to that time. It reminded me of the time I spent in my bedroom as a kid – visualizing my dreams – being still with myself – tuning in to the magic within.

I don’t have to override those narratives anymore. Because, I’ve re-written them.

I’ve released exhaustion as a status symbol – and separated my productivity from my self-worth.

I’ve learned to cultivate REST and PLAY.


Says the recovering perfectionist. That’s how you measure progress!!

I’ve learned that numbers don’t define us.

I’ve learned that it’s not the numbers that invite shame – it’s the stories we tell ourselves about those numbers.

And I’ve learned to NOURISH. My body + mind + soul.

My bloodwork reflects these inner changes - no more prediabetes. And my PCOS has been at bay for eight years.

When we tie our productivity to our self-worth, we enter dangerous waters.

When we celebrate and honor exhaustion as a status symbol - we have to ask ourselves what's underneath all of that?

What are we trying to prove?

I'm done proving. And, I'm loving the play thing.

This is next level freedom for a recovering perfectionist!!


What narratives do you need to re-write?

Where can you add in REST + PLAY? 

Would love to hear from you if you're up for sharing!! 


Samantha Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, transformational speaker, high performance coach and mama of four.  She inspires and empowers others to cultivate the courage, resilience and perseverance needed to let go of perfection and other limiting beliefs so they can live their dream. Samantha candidly shares her battles with her inner critic, depression, perfection, PTSD and parenting as a working mother because she believes in the transformative power of story – and the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone. She is on a mission to pay forward all that she’s learned to help others find joy and live free.  

A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls.  

You can learn more about Samantha at www.samanthalivingstone.com