Renaissance Ranch

The Problem With Perfectionism

Jan 9, 2022

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s research, expertise takes 10,000 hours to learn. He explains this theory in his book: Outliers: The Story of Success. An important focus relative to this finding is Malcolm Gladwell does not cite perfectionism but expertise. Competitive athletes, musicians, writers, and other professional fields all require study and focus on practicing skills before expertise occurs. 

The same practice is required for recovery. It is impossible to be perfect, and today’s society pushes perfectionism in every area of our lives. Children cannot play perfectly, and children do not accept defeat without some form of self-loathing. As we near adulthood, our requirements for ourselves increase exponentially, and we are never satisfied with “good enough.”

Perfectionism and Mental Illness

Perfectionism is the idea that nothing is ever good enough. There is no “perfect” in life. High-achieving individuals often do not believe an “A” on a test is good enough; they will always wish they had answered one question better and still think they did not put forth the right amount of effort. Nothing less than perfect is ever good enough. 

Living with this concept as your guiding force leads to mental illness issues. When you believe there is nothing good enough, you become dissatisfied with all you do. This idea leads to depression, anxiety, and anger. It can also lead to the use of alcohol and/or other substances. 

Mental illness is often an underlying factor in substance use disorder. Many people struggling with abuse of alcohol and/or other substances are self-medicating to cope with an underlying mental illness. This underlying mental illness might be caused by perfectionism. 

The Nirvana Fallacy

Urban Dictionary defines the Nirvana Fallacy as “an instance when a person does not do something because they fear that it will not turn out like they envision it in their minds.” The Nirvana Fallacy is an important predictor of perfectionism. Our unwillingness to try new things is often a result of our fear of being imperfect. Voltaire explained perfectionism as being the enemy of the good. Good enough must be good enough. 

Recovery Is Messy

Recovery is not perfect. We stumble. We fall. We have bad days. Some people relapse. However, recovery is worth seeing your children smile. Recovery means success in so many other areas of your life. Recovery takes time to master – more than 10,000 hours. Recovery is worth every moment of trial and error.

Considering the messiness and foibles of our humanity, we must accept our recovery to be imperfect. Merely admitting the problem we have with alcohol and/or other substances is “good enough” to begin the journey toward the life we want. Yes, we will stumble, but slowly and then suddenly, we will discover how much better our lives are away from the toxic effects of alcohol and/or other substances on our lives. However, we must remember perfectionism in recovery is impossible. Recovery can only be managed one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. Focusing on the moments requires resilience.

Recovery Requires Resilience

Resilience is an essential part of recovery. Resilience is the ability to withstand stressors and problem-solve in the face of adversity. This problem-solving and stress tolerance requires a willingness to forego perfectionism and accept “good enough.” Your worth is not defined by success. Your value is inherent and existed the moment you were conceived. 

According to a study on resilience relative to relapse, resilience is inherent or acquired. Either way, resilience is an important factor in avoiding relapse as you focus on recovery. Inherent resilience is a resilience we have always carried. Acquired resilience is learned resilience. Both are imperative in our recovery process.

Acquired resilience is associated with modified problem-solving through environmental factors. Relative to perfectionism, acquired resilience can help us change our focus on not being good enough, accepting our attempts, and learning how to improve. 

Things to Remember

Our perfectionism affects not only us but also those around us. If we view our attempts as never “good enough,” what are we teaching our children? If we follow the Nirvana Fallacy, we accept our current situation and accept the idea that we will never be able to change. 

Change is never perfect, but you can take a step toward a positive change just by admitting you have a problem. You do not have to be perfect to seek help. You need help because your life is not perfect, but you can make your life better by taking steps to build a better life. 

Building resilience as you battle addiction and accepting “good enough” can help you build the life you want.

Perfectionism is the downfall to effective recovery from abuse of alcohol and/or other substances. You may believe you will never be good enough to pursue recovery, but that is a lie; you were born good enough. You deserve recovery and a better life. At Renaissance Ranch, we recognize your value and understand the importance of recovery, as well as how messy recovery can be. You do not have to be perfect to seek recovery. You can build a life worth living, starting today. We have people waiting for your call. We offer personalized support and treatment for every step of the recovery process, including detoxification, residential, outpatient, and our sober living home. We believe in your ability to succeed in recovery and can help you build the resilience you need to overcome substance use disorder. Call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898 and learn how we can help you recover.