An interesting article by Padraig O Morain on perfectionism recently. He states perfectionism robs us of pleasure in our own successes. We’ll always find the extra thing we could have done, so we focus on that, rather than what we’ve achieved. It also stops us starting or finishing things because we can’t guarantee it will be a success.
Perfectionism starts early
Padraig uses the example of the child coming home with 90% in their assignment and the parents joking- asking
“What happened the other 10% per cent?”
If this is constant the child learns they need to be perfect to receive love.
Social media does not help
The constant feedback from social media of people with perfect lives and perfect bodies does not help. People socialising, who can drink as much or as little as they want without hangovers or making a fool of themselves.
Perfectionism is the enemy of managing our drinking
Nowhere is the enemy of perfectionism more obvious than in our approach to alcohol. Most approaches focus on not drinking at all. For some people, this is exactly the right approach, (for example Mc D– though he does not blame or criticise himself when he drinks) but for others it’s totally wrong, for example Lisa, found it did not work for her and even made her drinking worse.
I’ve had one so might as well go the whole hog
One drink is seen as failure. So once one drink is taken, sure might as well go on a binge. So instead of praising ourselves for reducing or not drinking over the last while, we give out to ourselves for drinking. Unlike Mc D we don’t see it as an opportunity to learn.
Padraig quotes the psychologist Aaron Beck who states
“All or nothing thinking is an unhelpful habit- this is the attitude that if one thing is wrong, everything is wrong”
Demanding perfection makes us miserable
We’re never going to be perfect. We’re human not machines. So demanding perfection is just going to make us miserable.
Perfectionists find it difficult to relax
Perfectionists also makes us less enjoyable company. It’s much easier being around people who accept their own imperfections and don’t try to be perfect all the time.
I always remember returning to Dublin after a work trip and the boss suggesting a cup of tea in her house. When we went in, the house was untidy, there was a clothes dryer with underwear in full view. But she just moved it out of the way, laughing and we had a relaxing and enjoyable chat over a cup of tea.
The perfectionist in me would have been embarrassed and apologising for the house not being tidy. I would have been unable to relax. So the chat would not have been as enjoyable. So I learnt a lesson. It’s ok when your house is untidy to have visitors. I do not have to be perfect.
So praise yourself, you’re making an effort
So if you’ve read this far, accept you’re making an effort. You might never have the perfect life. But that’s ok.
As Padraig quotes
“People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have and looking for it where they will never find it”
So in managing your drinking, strive for progress not perfection.
You can read Padraig’s full article here.