January is here; and with it, the buzz of the “new year, new you”; this idea that we should resolve to better ourselves over the next year.
Many will vow to get in shape, quit smoking, or read a book every month… yet the reality is, that most will have dropped their resolution by the first week of February!
Sure, making positive changes and setting goals can certainly be a good thing, but this pressure to achieve in the New Year can be a breeding ground for trouble for those in recovery or in active addiction.
While it might seem unlikely at first glance, one of the underlying characteristics of addiction is perfectionism. Beyond setting personal goals and striving to always do your best, people who are perfectionists can often have extremely high standards and can suffer deeply when these cannot be met. The irony is that when we’re too hard on ourselves, it can prevent us from crossing the finish line – or from even starting!
This kind of distress can result in a fixation on perceived failures and massive disappointment – which can be treacherous ground for the individual in recovery; sometimes resulting in negative coping behaviours or relapse.
Perfectionists in active addiction might set unrealistic resolutions (pertaining to their desire to get clean and sober, or otherwise), while those in recovery might become overly critical or rigid about their recovery program, or place an “obsessive focus” around another goal.
Although perfectionism can present itself differently in everyone, there tend to be some common traits:
To many perfectionists, anything less than perfect is a failure. This kind of cognitive distortion sets an unreasonable precedent; where anything less than 100% equals 0%!
Although it might seem unlikely, it makes sense that many perfectionists find themselves procrastinating when we consider the inclination for all-or-nothing thinking! For many perfectionists, it seems safer not to begin – than it does to fail.
The relationship between self-worth and perfectionism is tightly interwoven; with those with perfectionistic traits imposing unreasonable expectations upon themselves, and then feeling even worse about themselves when they can’t be met.
While these are only a few examples, it’s easy to see how these ways of thinking have the potential to create a hurricane of negative emotions!
Here are 5 ways we can let go of perfectionism in the New Year:
- Identify any unreasonably high standards we may hold ourselves to. Would we hold someone we love to such a high standard? If not, what would be a more realistic expectation?
- Embrace self-compassion and self-acceptance – we are human, afterall! Mistakes are a sign that we’re growing, changing, and learning.
- Accept that progress – not necessarily perfection – is sometimes a gentler AND more effective way of achieving what we want in our lives. Sometimes, ‘good enough’ has to be the gold standard.
- Reassess our environments or the people in them who may reinforce perfectionistic ways of thinking. Mindless scrolling on social media can cause us to needlessly compare ourselves to others (as we see only see the filtered and carefully selected photos of one’s highlight reel) as can keeping company with others with perfectionistic tendencies.
- Celebrate small accomplishments.
Regardless of the stage of recovery, shifting our focus to let go of perfection (as much as possible) helps reduce anxiety and fear and keeps us grounded in the present moment.
Developing a new mindset takes time, so having patience with ourselves in crucial; afterall, we’re undoing years of programming as we change the ways we think.
As with any part of the recovery process, being surrounded by one’s support system is always helpful. We’re always here for you.
You can call us anytime: 1-866-716-2006
Do you have any suggestions on how to let go of perfectionism?
We’d love to see your comments below!