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What is perfectionism in recovery?

Old 10-22-2004, 11:24 AM
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Morning Glory
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What is perfectionism in recovery?

What is perfectionism in recovery?
Perfectionism in recovery from low self-esteem is:

The irrational belief that you must be perfect in recovery.

Striving to be the best, to reach the ideal, and to never make a mistake in recovery.

A habit that keeps you constantly alert to the imperfections, failings, and weakness in yourself as you work on recovery.

A level of consciousness that keeps you vigilant to any deviations from the norm, the guidelines, the way things are "supposed'' to be in recovery.

The underlying motive present in the fear of failure and the fear of rejection: "If I am not perfect I will fail and I will be rejected by others.''

A reason to fear success: "If I am successful in achieving my recovery goals, how can I maintain that level of achievement, of perfection?''

A rigid, moralistic outlook that does not allow for human, imperfect, or less than ideal behavior in the pursuit of recovery.

An inhibiting factor in recovery. It precludes commitment out of a fear of not being "good enough.''

The belief that no matter what you do in recovery, it will never be ``good enough'' to meet your own or others' expectations.



Irrational thinking which contributes to perfectionism in recovery
Everything you try in recovery must be done perfectly.

It is unacceptable to make a mistake in recovery.

You must reach the ideal no matter what.

If those in authority say this is the way it is supposed to be, then this is the way it is supposed to be.

You are a loser if you cannot be perfect in recovery.

It is what you achieve that is important, not who you are.

I have no value unless I am successful in recovery.

If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

If you have a setback in your efforts to change, then you'll give up trying in recovery.

The ideal is what is real; unless I reach the ideal, I am a failure in recovery.

There are so many roadblocks and pitfalls out there just waiting to keep me from succeeding in recovery; I should forget this; it's too hard.

If you screw up in your efforts to recover, you might as well give up; it must be too hard to achieve.

Don't let anyone else know the recovery goal you're working on; that way, if you don't succeed they won't consider you a failure.

If you can't do it right the first time, why try to do it at all?

There is only one way to reach the goal in recovery, the right way.

I'll never be able to change, why try?

I am a human being prone to error, frailty, and imperfection; therefore, I will never be able to accomplish recovery in an ideal way. So I'll give up.



Negative consequences arising from being a perfectionist in recovery
Increased low self-esteem Because a perfectionist in recovery from low self-esteem never feels "good enough'' about personal performance, there is the possibility of feeling like a "failure'' or a "loser'' with a subsequent loss of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Guilt Because a perfectionist in recovery never feels good about the way responsibility has been handled, a sense of shame, self-recrimination, and guilt may result.

Pessimism Since a perfectionist in recovery is convinced that achieving the ideal goal will be difficult to impossible, feelings of discouragement and pessimism arise.

Depression Needing always to be "perfect'' in recovery, yet recognizing that it is impossible to achieve such a goal, a perfectionist is caught in a "revolving door'' of feelings that result in depression.

Rigidity Needing to have everything "just so'' in recovery can lead to being inflexible, rigid, and result in a lack of spontaneity.

Obsessiveness Being in need of an excessive amount of order and structure in recovery can lead to nit-picky, finicky, or obsessive behavior.

Compulsive behavior Overindulgence or the compulsive use of alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, sex, shopping, smoking, risk taking, novelty, etc. are used to medicate the "not good enough'' feelings of a perfectionist in recovery.

Lack of motivation Believing that the goal of recovery will never be perfectly achieved can result in a lack of motivation. Change seems overwhelming, a goal always just out of reach.

Immobilization Because a perfectionist in recovery is often burdened with an extreme fear of failure, fear can immobilize the person. This results in a lack of energy, effort, or creative juices being applied to improve or change problems in the recovery lifestyle.

Lack of belief in self Knowing that one will never be able to achieve the intended goal of recovery can lead perfectionists to lose their sefl-confidence. They are afraid to try to continue on in recovery.


Rational behavior needed to overcome perfectionism in recovery
Rational behavior that will help to overcome perfectionism in recovery includes the ability to:

Accept self as a human being.

Forgive self for mistakes or failings.

Put self back "on the wagon'' immediately after falling off.

Accept that the "ideal'' is only a guideline worked toward.

Set a realistic time frame for the achievement of recovery goals.

Develop patience and reduce the need to "get it done yesterday.''

Be easy on yourself, not to set up for failure by setting unrealistic deadlines.

Recognize that the human condition is one of failing, weakness, deviation, imperfection; it is acceptable to be human in the recovery process.

Recognize that backsliding or relapse does not mean the end of the world; it is OK to pick oneself up and start over after each slip-up in the recovery process.

Use "thought stopping'' techniques when you mentally scold yourself for not being ``good enough.''

Visualize reality as it would be for a "human,'' not a "super human.''

Accept yourself the way you are; let go of the beliefs of how you "should be'' in recovery.

Enjoy success and achievement with a healthy self-pride.

Eliminate the need for self-deprecation or false humility in recovery.

Enjoy success without the need to second guess your ability to sustain it.

Reward yourself for your progress in recovery.

Reinforce your efforts to change, even when the progress is slight.

Love yourself.

Believe that you deserve to be treated fairly by yourself.

Drop all unrealistic expectations and desires to be perfect or infallible in the recovery process.

Visualize yourself as a winner for being willing to take the time, effort, and energy to work on recovery.

See yourself as "winning'' even when it takes longer, more energy, and more perseverance than you had expected.

Let go of rigid, moralistic judgments on yourself.

Develop an open, compassionate understanding for the hard times, obstacles, temptations, and old behavior scripts.

Lessen your expectations, developed in the glow of enthusiasm for beginning a task.

Plan a program of recovery not doomed to fail from the beginning.

Realize that you will be successful even if you are not ``the best'' or ``the star pupil'' in recovery.


How a social support system helps in overcoming perfectionism in recovery
Social support systems can help you overcome perfectionism in recovery if you:

Select people who are more realistic than perfectionistic in their own lives of recovery.

Encourage your support system members to avoid moralistic attempts to keep you on course.

Have support people who forgive and forget when mistakes, offenses, or backsliding occurs.

Give them permission to call you on being rigid, unrealistic, or idealistic in your expectations of yourself in the recovery process.

Have people who can recognize and reinforce you for any positive change, no matter how slight.

Trust them to be open, honest, and sincere with you.
 
Old 10-22-2004, 11:25 AM
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Morning Glory
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What is perfectionism?
Perfectionism is:

the irrational belief that you and/or your environment must be perfect

the striving to be the best, to reach the ideal, and to never make a mistake

an all pervasive attitude that whatever you attempt in life must be done letter perfect with no deviation, mistakes, slip ups, or inconsistencies

a habit developed from youth that keeps you constantly alert to the imperfections, failings, and weakness in yourself and others

a level of consciousness that keeps you ever vigilant to any deviations from the norm, the guidelines, or the way things are ``supposed to be''

the underlying motive present in the fear of failure and fear of rejection, i.e., if I am not perfect I will fail and/or I will be rejected by others

a reason why you may be fearful of success, i.e., if I achieve my goal, will I be able to continue, maintain that level of achievement

a rigid, moralistic outlook that does not allow for humanism or imperfection

an inhibiting factor that keeps you from making a commitment to change habitual, unproductive behavior out of fear of not making the change ``good enough''

the belief that no matter what you attempt it is never ``good enough'' to meet your own or others' expectations

What irrational beliefs contribute to perfectionism?
Everything in life must be done to your level of perfection, which is often higher than anyone else's.

It is unacceptable to make a mistake.

You must always reach the ideal no matter what.

If those in authority say this is the way it is supposed to be, then that is the way it is supposed to be.

You are a loser if you cannot be perfect.

It is what you achieve rather than who you are that is important.

I have no value in life unless I am successful.

There is no sense in trying to do something unless I can do it perfectly, e.g., ``I don't attempt things I can't do well.''

If I have a failure or experience a set back in my efforts to change then I should give up.

The ideal is what is real; unless I reach the ideal I am a failure.

There are so many roadblocks and pitfalls to keep me from succeeding. It is better just to give up and forget my goal.

Unless I am ``Number One'' there is no sense in trying. Everyone knows what ``Number Two'' is. To win is the only acceptable goal.

If you screw up in your efforts to achieve a goal, just give up. It must be too hard to achieve.

You must always strive to reach the ideal in everything you do because it is in the achievement of the ideal that you give meaning to your life.

Don't ever let anyone know what goal you're working on. That way they won't consider you a failure if you don't reach it.

If you can't do it right the first time, why try to do it at all?

There is only one way to reach a goal: the right way.

It takes too much effort and energy to reach a goal. I save myself the aggravation and discouragement by not setting goals for myself.

I'll never be able to change and grow the way I want to, so why try.

I am a human being prone to error, frailty and imperfections; therefore, I won't be able to accomplish things in a perfect or ideal way. I'll just give up on achieving any of my goals or desires.



What are some negative consequences of perfectionism?
Examples of the negative consequences of perfectionism include:

Low self-esteem. Because a perfectionist never feels ``good enough'' about personal performance, feelings of being a ``failure'' or a ``loser'' with a lessening of self-confidence and self-esteem may result.

Guilt. Because a perfectionist never feels good about the way responsibility has been handled in life (by himself or others) a sense of shame, self recrimination, and guilt may result.

Pessimism. Since a perfectionist is convinced that it will be extremely difficult to achieve an ``ideal goal,'' he can easily become discouraged, fatalistic, disheartened, and pessimistic about future efforts to reach a goal.

Depression. Needing always to be ``perfect,'' yet recognizing that it is impossible to achieve such a goal, a perfectionist runs the risk of feeling down, blue, and depressed.

Rigidity. Needing to have everything in one's life perfect or ``just so'' can lead a perfectionistic to an extreme case of being inflexible, non-spontaneous, and rigid.

Obsessiveness. Being in need of an excessive amount of order, pattern, or structure in life can lead a perfectionistic person to become nit-picky, finicky, or obsessive in an effort to maintain a certain order.

Compulsive behavior. Over-indulgence or the compulsive use of alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex, smoking, risk-taking, or novelty, is often used to medicate a perfectionist who feels like a failure or loser for never being able to be ``good enough'' in life.

Lack of motivation. Believing that the goal of ``change'' will never be able to be ideally or perfectly achieved can often give a perfectionist a lack of motivation to attempt change in the first place, or to persevere if change has already begun.

Immobilization. Because a perfectionist is often burdened with an extreme fear of failure, the person can become immobilized. With no energy, effort or creative juices applied to rectify, improve, or change the problem behavior in the person's life, he becomes stagnant.

Lack of belief in self. Knowing that one will never be able to achieve an idyllic goal can lead a perfectionist to lose the belief that he will ever be able to improve his life significantly.



What rational behaviors are needed to overcome perfectionistic tendencies?
To overcome perfectionism one needs to:

accept self as a human being

forgive self for mistakes or failings

put self back on the wagon immediately after falling off

accept that the ``ideal'' is only a guideline or goal to be worked toward, not to be achieved 100%

set realistic and flexible time frames for the achievement of a goal

develop a sense of patience and to reduce the need to ``get it done yesterday''

be easier on oneself; setting unrealistic or unreasonable goals or deadlines sets you up for failure

recognize that the human condition is one of failings, weakness, deviations, imperfections, and mistakes; it is acceptable to be human

recognize that one's backsliding does not mean the end of the world; it is OK to pick oneself up and start all over again

develop an ability to use ``thought stopping'' techniques whenever you find yourself mentally scolding yourself for not being ``good enough''

visualize reality as it will be for a ``human'' rather than for a ``super human''

learn to accept yourself the way you are; let go of the ideas of how you ``should be''

enjoy success and achievement with a healthy self-pride, and eliminate the need for self deprecation or false humility

learn to enjoy success without the need to second guess your ability to sustain the achievement

reward yourself for your progress, to reinforce your efforts to change even when progress is slight or doesn't meet up to your idealistic expectations

love yourself; to believe that you deserve good things

to eliminate unrealistic expectations and the idea that you are infallible

visualize yourself as ``winning'' even when it takes more energy, and more perseverance, than what you had planned

let go of rigid, moralistic judgments of your performance and to develop an open, compassionate understanding for the hard times, obstacles, and temptations

be flexible in setting goals and be willing to reassess your plan from time to time to keep things realistic

be open to the idea that you will be successful in your efforts to change, even if you are not ``first,'' ``the best,'' ``the model,'' ``the star pupil,'' `` the exemplar,'' `` the finest''

realize that the important thing is to be going in a positive direction

How can a social support system help in overcoming perfectionism?
Social support systems can help you overcome perfectionism if you:

select realistic people who are not perfectionistic in their own life

encourage your support system members to not be rigid or moralistic in their attempts to keep you on an honest course

have support people who role model forgiving and forgetting when mistakes, failures, offenses, or backsliding occur

have given them permission to call you on being ``too hard,'' ``too brutal,'' ``too rigid,'' ``too unrealistic,'' or ``too idealistic'' in your expectations

have people who will give positive reinforcement for any positive change, no matter how small or slight it is

select trustworthy people who are open, honest, and have a sincere interest in your personal growth


Steps to overcome perfectionism
Step 1: In your journal, answer the following questions:

a. What characteristics of perfectionism are true for me? How do these perfectionistic traits impede my efforts to change my problematic behavior?

b. What irrational beliefs of perfectionists do I ascribe to? How do these beliefs influence my desire to change? How do these beliefs contribute to a failure script in my efforts to change? What rational alternatives can I adopt to reduce the negative impact of perfectionism in my life?

c. What are the negative consequences of perfectionism in my life? What am I doing to address these negative issues in my life? How do these negative issues affect my past and current efforts to change my problematical behavior?

d. What new rational behavior do I need to develop in order to overcome the negative impact of perfectionism? How will these new behavior traits help me to fully achieve change in my life?

e. How can my social support system help me in overcoming my perfectionistic attitude? What contributes to perfectionism in my support system? What changes in my support system would reduce its perfectionistic character?

f. How does dealing with my perfectionism help me in my efforts to change? How well does perfectionism explain why past attempts to change have failed?

Step 2: In your journal, identify a problematic behavioral pattern you want to change; then list the characteristic negative behavior traits of the pattern. For each of the negative characteristics list positive alternative behavior traits. For each of the new alternative behavior list your likelihood of achieving them 100% of the time. How many new behavior traits could you achieve 100% of the time?

Step 3: Once you have recognized that no change can be achieved 100% of the time, continue changing your problematic behavior patterns. If you continue to be hindered by perfectionism, return to Step 1 and begin again.

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Old 10-22-2004, 06:40 PM
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Perfection-----Thank God I don't carry a gun. Nobody would have to worry. I'd be the first person I shot for being less than perfect. Even my sobriety, I've got 17 months to be proud of, and at times I'm upset because my program isn't perfect. If I don't hit as meetings as I should, I don't tell people. Not to lie but, to protect the fact that I'm not perfect. Don W
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Old 10-22-2004, 07:56 PM
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Thanks for that MG. I need much work to overcome my unrealistic ideals.
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