Often as alcoholics and addicts, we have what is known as black and white thinking which I shared in my last blog. This is a cognitive or (thinking) distortion. Part of that distortion comes from our perfectionist thinking. For example, as I also mentioned, I have been beating myself up over my appearance on CNN’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell. If you haven’t read about it already, I truly believed I could have done such a better job. I believe I looked too serious and didn’t smile enough; therefore, my cognitive distortion is “I must have done a bad job.” This also comes from black and white thinking and my perfectionist personality. Being perfectionist usually comes from a feeling of not ever feeling “good enough.”
Perfectionism is a painful drive toward a never-ending journey for flawlessness; it does not allow for mistakes, personal limitations, or imperfections. It causes you to feel anxious, fearful, and full of second guessing yourself. It can keep you frozen, discourage creativity, reduce confidence, and cause you to never take the leap or to ever take chances. In recovery, you could have perfectionist thinking such as, “If I don’t go to a 12 step meeting every day, I might relapse,” or “If I relapse, then why even bother getting sober again,” or “My sponsor doesn’t want to work with me, so I won’t bother getting a new one.”
All of these types of thoughts will only sabotage your recovery. It keeps you in a never ending cycle of always feeling that if you don’t do something just right, then why bother.
Ask yourself if you are a perfectionist by answering the following questions:
I never do anything halfway; it is all or nothing for me?
I believe there is a certain way to do things and they should always be done that way?
I hate to make mistakes. I get angry or defensive when I make them?
I feel humiliated when things are not perfect?
If I can’t do something perfectly, I won’t do it?
People say I am too hard on myself or them? (That’s how I was this week when I did my appearance on CNN).
Even when I do something great or accomplish a goal, I feel empty inside and feel it “should “have been better?
After you have answered these questions, let me know how you are a perfectionist? How is it sabotaging your recovery? Is it sabotaging other areas of your life such as your career, relationships, or well-being? I look forward to hearing some of your responses. I did get over my beating myself up over the television appearance by some positive self-talk, and reminded myself that although I might have done a better job, I showed up, did the best I could under last minute circumstances, and that I can always improve next time. In addition, I reminded myself that at this point I was powerless, the newscast was over, and I needed to let the obsession go. Not always easy for people in recovery to do…..but when you finally surrender, you usually feel a whole lot better.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.” She is the go-to expert on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and has developed a seven step action program of recovery for living a purposeful life.