Perfectionism: It’s a Killer


“Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat.” If this is you, put the knife down.

Perfectionism turns you into your own worst enemy when really you should be your own greatest cheerleader. We often convince ourselves that if something isn’t done perfectly then what’s the point. This type of unhelpful thinking comes up a lot when we struggle with things like dieting or addiction, or any type of goal really.

We may bail on a diet completely after the mistake of a single cupcake or fall back into a full blown relapse after a single drink. As a side note, with severe addiction, moderation is often not possible, but the idea that a mistake means you’re forever hopeless is simply untrue. In my work with addiction, I can honestly say I’ve never seen someone who’s recovery was flawless from the get go. Mind you, this isn’t license to go have one or two, but if you slip, pick yourself up, take the necessary steps to prevent a repeat, and move forward. Same goes for any of you trying to make major lifestyle changes.

If we allow ourselves to believe that anything short of perfect is a pointless pursuit, that doesn’t leave us a whole lot of room to be human does it? If we throw up our hands every time a mistake happens, very few things in life would ever be completed. For instance, we’d all be living in the dark if good old Thomas Edison was an all or nothing thinker. Thankfully Edison was more of a “back to the drawing board” type of guy. He merely surmised, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

For the next time you’re tempted to throw in the towel at the first sign of a misstep, consider the following:

You can choose to turn a mistake into a learning experience. If you slip up on your diet, maybe it’s time to step back and think of a few ways you could have prevented yourself from eating that cupcake. Remember, the purpose of this is to plan better for next time, not to kick yourself for what’s already happened.

If you are human, you will make mistakes. Period. Let’s be realistic here. There is no way to get through life without making a single mistake. Everyone you’ve ever met has made one. A single misstep is not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The real mistake would be to throw out a perfectly worthwhile, perfectly attainable goal because of a minor slip.

You can be both imperfect and successful. It is possible to obtain 20 years of sobriety even if during your first year of recovery, you had a slip or two. You can be a good parent and still occasionally lose your cool. You can be fine just the way you are, but still be working on yourself. Sometimes seeming opposites co-exist. This is because all things in life can be seen as a process, therefore a mistake isn’t a failure unless you quit trying. If you allow yourself to move past it, the mistake becomes just a part of the struggle you overcame.

So the next time you make a mistake, shake it off, maybe restrategize, but most importantly, give yourself a little room to breathe because anything in life worth pursuing, is not without its challenges.

If you are looking for counseling in Orlando or the surrounding area to begin working on your own perfectistic tendencies and stop letting them get the best of you, feel free to contact me for a free consultation, to make an appointment, or just to gather information on where to look for some helpful resources. I’d be happy to help get you started on your path to wellness.

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