Overcoming Perfectionism in Recovery

Old 09-04-2006, 08:42 PM
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Overcoming 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.
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Old 02-20-2007, 09:51 AM
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I've got problems with perfectionism. I'm working on it. I tend to beat myself up for any mistake I make. Alternately, I then throw the towel up and say, "the heck with it all!" (Not really, but, I can't print what I REALLY say, lol!)

This post is a great reminder for me.
I need to read it for a few days and let it sink in.

Anyone else deal with these issues of perfectionism?
How do you deal with them? How do you accept yourself as human with faults, especially when we strive in our recovery. For me, to fail at smoking means I'm back to 3 packs a day, coughing my lungs out, being broke all the time and being a slave to RJ Renolds. So, it's important that I not fail.

But, traits of perfectionism are not healthy, nor are they attractive.
It's up to me to moderate my behaviors and attitudes.

Care to share how you do that?

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Old 02-20-2007, 02:47 PM
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thanks for posting that MG, good to read. The only worry I have about "not being a recovery perfectionist" is that I might kind of "forgive myself in advance" for a relapse and make that more likely, if you see what I mean. I know how devious my brain can be so I don't want to open that door even a crack.
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:21 AM
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That's a really interesting post MG. I've got to say that perfectionism is not (touches wood) a problem I've had. I feel I have a healthy attitude towards my recovery. I have some people in my f2f world - and here at SR - who I use to triangulate my recovery position sometimes - I know I'm not on a path to perfection, but I like to make sure that I'm not on a path to relapse too. The line about "thought-stopping" is resonant - I started using my step ten as a way of checking my mental processes and nipping things in the bud before they became big issues capable of tri[pping me up. Also the line about "let go of rigid and moralistic judgements about oneself" - I feel liberated from those thought patterns, full of "you shoulds". But I can still be rigid and moralistic about recovery generally, but I think that's going to be with me forever. I love reading about people recovering, however they do it. I hate reading people disrespecting other recovery systems out of prejudice. So, rigid and moralistic!

Funny, as I write that and look at your list of good practice, I'm thinking the only thing I would add is "give up the need to fix things". In recovery I have learned that I don't need to respond to someone sharing that Jesus is their personal saviour in recovery by trying to persuade them that in fact, they are the agent of their own change. I can be polite, and let them have their beliefs, and try to accord their beliefs the same respect I would wish mine to be shown. I can just - let go.
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Old 02-22-2007, 11:03 AM
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Feeling less than, and wanting to be better than (perfect) is one of my character defects. I'm also a people pleaser, and a "fixer".

One of the hardest things for me is to be simply a part of. Not the driving force, not the grunt following orders, just a team player.

I didn't make my bed this morning. It doesn't bother me. I'm getting better
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Old 02-22-2007, 11:21 AM
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Oh, timing couldnt be more on for this to be brought up to the top again.
Yep, huge issues with perfectionism.

didn't make my bed this morning. It doesn't bother me. I'm getting better
Shoot, I didnt put my breakfast dishes in the sink before work and Ive been irritated about it all day!
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Old 02-22-2007, 12:26 PM
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Perfect is not a human attribute.
Life itself is, by defintion, imperfect. So it is, with mortal humans.

The issue is to cope, effectively, with the inescapable insults of life; which is, after all, contingent.

Life is contingent; and, imperfect; and, mortal.

Perfection is impossible. Perfection is impossible because life is mortal; it has been ever thus.

The issue, then turns upon 'good enough'. What is 'good enough'? There is no universal answer to that question. Any answer worthy of the name to that question is a function of the human individual.

Whatever happens, the sun will rise.
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