Setting goals and accomplishing them is paramount throughout recovery. Even alumni that have navigated the challenges of dedicated detox and residential treatment programs are still faced with setting and achieving new and updated goals. However, expecting oneself to constantly overcome any challenge perfectly, or to accomplish anything with a perfectionist mindset, can be actively detrimental to even those with the most robust of coping skills. The dangers of perfectionism can compromise a person’s otherwise effective recovery strategies and introduce an intense amount of unnecessary stress or doubt into a person’s daily life that can have an impact on the mental health and sobriety of alumni in their continued recovery.
Identifying the Dangers of Perfectionism
Overcoming the dangers of perfectionism as an alumnus in recovery means first identifying when such mentalities may be taking hold of a person’s perspective. Perfectionism is often much more than just wanting to do the best a person can. Rather, perfectionism comes with many active, detrimental, and unrealistic expectations of oneself. This can be difficult to process, leading to stress, frustration, and more that can impact a person’s sobriety and other sober efforts.
All-Encompassing Perfectionist Mindsets
One of the many dangers of perfectionism comes in the idea that it is an integral part of everything a person does, not just a single task or area of life. Perfectionist mindsets will expect to be perfect in every aspect of a person’s life all at once. This can often lead to exhausting emotional expectations. Expecting perfection not just at work but also in hobbies, competition, and more, can lead to unfair expectations of oneself and intense doubt when such expectations cannot be realistically met.
Another profound danger of perfectionism is the expectation of perfection even when starting new activities or learning new skills. An individual may expect themselves to be already adept at something they were just exposed to, despite how unfair that may be to themselves. For those in recovery, not seeing instant success in exploring new strategies or hobbies can compromise the efficacy of these practices before an individual has had time to truly learn about them and explore their benefits, leading to both an increase in stress alongside a decrease in available and practiced coping strategies.
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Propelled Through a Fear of Failure
While there are many dangers of perfectionism in recovery, there are also many misconceptions. It is common that those expecting perfection from themselves are not doing so out of a belief that they can and should push themselves to always be successful but rather out of an intense fear of failure. However, constantly operating through a lens of fear can have an intense emotional impact, with feelings of anxiety, stress, and panic being incredibly prevalent.
This fear can also bring guilt, depression, and doubt if an individual feels they cannot accomplish a goal to their unrealistic standard, setting themselves up for disappointment and stress from the beginning. Such a lens of perfectionism can also make an individual incredibly sensitive to criticisms or even perceived criticisms. These emotions can facilitate difficult feelings that can all inform a person’s mental health and even their risk of relapse if such feelings persist.
Perfectionist mindsets can also compromise a person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Not only can an individual begin a task already with unrealistic or unattainable standards, but the depression and fear that comes with this perceived sense of “failure” can cause an individual to doubt other aspects of their lives. For example, this can include one’s ability to tend to professional obligations and responsibilities to their ability to maintain their sobriety in the first place. This compromised sense of self-esteem can also cause an individual to doubt their ability to stay sober or question if they deserve sobriety in the first place, further complicating each individual’s continued sobriety.
Perfectionist mindsets or expectations also often dismiss the context surrounding a person’s abilities or the product of their efforts. Recovery is a personal journey, and this context surrounding each person’s challenges defines how they structure their goals and their successes and milestones along the way. Expecting perfection of oneself eliminates this context and instead compares a person’s efforts against the accomplishments of others in a more competitive way. This can also cause an individual to minimize other accomplishments or fail to celebrate hard-earned successes and milestones.
Maintaining sobriety is a nuanced and personal endeavor, and the context of each person’s own resources, experiences, journey, and support are all integral to informing what constitutes success and progress in recovery.
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Challenging the Dangers of Perfectionism
Perfectionism can be wholly devastating to a person’s otherwise effective recovery efforts, and changing this mindset is necessary for a healthier mental state and for each person’s continued sobriety. Some ways to challenge the dangers of perfectionist include working with peers and professionals to:
- Instill effective strategies for positive self-talk to challenge low self-esteem
- Engage in a community of learning rather than a community of competition
- Eliminate unnecessary comparisons to set more appropriate personal expectations
While learning to accept failure is important, each individual can also work with professionals to instead help those in recovery better understand and recognize that not everything outside of a perfect result is somehow defined as a “failure,” facilitating a healthier mindset. Retooling these definitions in daily life can empower those in recovery to better identify their successes for their own benefit, rather than furthering unhealthy comparisons.
Lastly, continued engagement in outpatient treatment programs as an alumnus at our Hawaii recovery center can help each person practice effective mindfulness techniques and engage in effective cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This allows individuals to explore the connection between these beliefs, feelings, and behaviors and can help each individual overcome the dangers of perfectionism for a sustainable and healthy sober life.
Perfectionism can be a dangerous and unnecessary challenge throughout your continued sober journey, and we at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to helping establish your best approach to continued success in sobriety. Our Hawaii recovery center is equipped not only with caring, trained professionals but also with an atmosphere and culture that fosters understanding and personalized therapeutic strategies to challenge unhelpful or self-destructive mentalities, thoughts, and behaviors. We understand that your sobriety is an ongoing journey, and we are committed to helping you through any of your personal challenges along the way. For more information on how we can personalize a plan to address and overcome perfectionism in recovery, call to speak to us today at (866) 390-5070.