Perfectionism and substance use often go together. Perfectionists often have unrealistically high expectations for themselves and then are extremely hard on themselves when they don’t meet those expectations. Perfectionists are often harshly self-critical. Their unyielding attitude can lead to anxiety, depression, and addiction. Perfectionism can also make recovery much harder, since as with other things, perfectionists typically expect too much too soon and are unforgiving of their own mistakes. Perfectionism frequently leads to procrastination. After all, you can’t fail if you never start, so getting help is always something for tomorrow or next month. Perfectionism is a difficult problem to overcome, but with persistent effort, you can loosen its grip on you. Here are some suggestions.
Talk to a therapist.
Perfectionism can be sneaky. If someone suggests your standards are too high, you will probably think, “Too high for you, maybe.” To the perfectionist, setting reasonable standards for herself feels like failure. Never mind that inflexibly adhering to impossibly high standards hasn’t worked at all. Sometimes we need an expert to guide us out of this trap.
Beware of all-or-nothing thinking.
Perhaps the hallmark of perfectionism is all-or-nothing thinking. This is what keeps you from even starting on a project until you feel like you can do it perfectly the first time. In reality, nothing is perfect, especially not on the first try. The first draft is always terrible, even for the best writers. Learning any new skill requires hundreds or thousands of awful and mediocre efforts before anything good comes of it. Be aware of the hidden assumption that you have to do everything exactly right or not at all. For one thing, most tasks require only completion, not perfection. Good enough is usually good enough. For the things that matter, strive for progress, not perfection. We rarely get exactly the result in anything we try, simply because there are always factors outside our control. Although we may never get exactly what we want, we can usually get something a little better than what we have.
Learn to accept yourself.
This can be very hard for perfectionists, who tend to base their self-worth on their achievements. However, you don’t have to earn your value as a person. You love and value other people even though they aren’t perfect. Try extending that same acceptance to yourself.
Adjust your expectations.
Perfectionists often bristle at the thought of giving up on their Big Dream, those lofty goals that most people would consider unrealistic. It’s often the case that those goals are achievable, but with certain caveats. For example, you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want. Big goals require big sacrifices and you will have to prioritize and accept that some parts of your life will suffer so you can achieve more in other parts. Also, your goal may take much more effort than you first thought–like 10 times or 100 times more effort. If the goal still seems worthwhile, go for it. If not, find another goal.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.