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Progress Not Perfection

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12 Steps 101

Progress Not Perfection

“The principles we have set down are guides to progress…We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection” (Alcoholics Anonymous)

This good guidance is often ignored when someone enters into recovery, since many addicts are unabashedly hard on themselves. At the core of addiction may lie a fundamental belief of ‘not enough’. “Not smart enough, attract enough, successful enough, thin enough, rich enough,” snarls the inner critic.

To silence the voices, substances are applied like salve on wounds. Although the illusion is that they accomplish that goal for the short run, the criticism eventually breaks through the wall built by using. A more effective means could be to face those self- limiting beliefs, questioning their origin and validity.

Are You A Perfectionista?

Cindy refers to her inner critic as Perfectionista who glares at her and wags her finger, telling her “You should know better. How could you have gotten yourself into this mess again?” When she wants to put her hands over her ears, she turns to her go-to drug: food and plenty of it. She finds it to be a vicious cycle, since her shame about over-eating drives her inevitably to the refrigerator.

Negative Thinking

No surprise that Mark’s negative self-talk sounds like his mother who would tell him in ways both large and small that he was “just like your father. He was a loser who left us high and dry and if you don’t get it together, you will turn out the same way.” As a result, he has lost jobs, sabotaged relationships and dove head first into the bottle.

Can Perfection Itself Become An Addiction?

Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst and author of “Addiction to Perfection,”wrote,

“Perfection is defeat … Perfection belongs to the gods; completeness or wholeness is the most a human being can hope for … It is in seeking perfection by isolating and exaggerating parts of ourselves that we become neurotic. The chief sign of the pursuit of perfection is obsession. Obsession occurs when all the psychic energy, which ought to be distributed among the various parts of the personality in an attempt to harmonize them, is focused on one area of the personality to the exclusion of everything else.”

Self Conscious About A Body Part

When Cheryl was 10 years old, she began to develop breasts and felt deeply self -conscious since her friends were still flat chested. Rather than speaking to her mother about her discomfort, she began to restrict her food intake with the belief that she would remain small. She even stopped drinking water since she noticed it made her belly bloated. Her parents became alarmed when a rash appeared on her skin, she became lethargic and dis-interested in socializing as she had before. In her mind, perfection looked like staying childlike, rather than the adolescent she was becoming. She began creating food rituals such as only eating certain foods on specific days. Mondays were salad days. Tuesdays meant slurping soup. Wednesdays brought with it fruit. Thursdays were all about yogurt. Fridays called for cucumbers. Saturdays provided her with crackers and jelly. On Sundays, all she would eat  was rice.

Ginger Blume, Ph.D. says, “Perfectionists are driven toward an unreachable goal, while being doomed to a sense of failure and inadequacy.” Like a hamster on a wheel, a person addicted to perfection can never ‘get it right’.

There is a sign that reads “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Attributed to Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame, this paradoxical statement is familiar to those in the throes of addiction. No amount of self-flagellation will uplift anyone.

How To Measure Progress

The standard by which we measure our progress needs to be self-regulated and not dependent on the opinions of others. What if we could love and accept ourselves ‘as is’? Such a revolutionary idea.

 Content Originally Published By: Edie Weinstien @ Reach Out Recovery

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