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Being Perfect vs. Perfectionism

Wanting to be good at something is human nature. Wanting to be perfect can cause issues around mental health and even addiction. Being perfect may seem to be the ultimate goal in many areas of your life, but perfectionism can actually hold you back from achieving your goals.

An Obsession with Perfection

Perfectionism is characterized by an overly critical and often negative relationship with yourself. Setting high standards for your work and your life can be a positive thing, but trying to be perfect in everything you do can result in some serious issues for your mental and physical health.

Paul Hewitt, a professor at the University of British Columbia, explains that perfectionism is dysfunctional because underneath the stress of being perfect is your sense of being permanently flawed. He adds that one way you “try to correct that is by being perfect.” Researchers say that perfectionism is a growing cultural phenomenon that is fueled by pressures from modern parenting styles as well as social media and an increasingly competitive economy.

Link to Mental Health Issues

A perfectionist will hold themselves to extremely high standards; however, being perfect is impossible in most cases. The result of such stress and frustration can lead to an array of mental health issues. Multiple studies have found that perfectionism is linked to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as self-harm. Physical symptoms can result from a constant attempt at being perfect as well, including extreme fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.

Research has also linked perfectionism to suicidal thinking and behaviors. The red flags for suicidal thoughts include going to great lengths to hide your distress and trying to present a picture of perfection that does not reflect your reality. Your friends and family members are often able to see through this façade.

Link to Addiction

Attempts at being perfect can cause you to feel discouraged, frustrated, and even ashamed that you are not able to reach a level of perfectionism, particularly when people who are close to you know the truth about your struggle. These negative emotions can lead to an addiction with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the constant disappointment. This type of thinking can distort reality in your mind, leading to mental health issues and substance use disorders.

Types of Perfectionism

Perfectionism can be self-oriented, when you demand perfection from yourself; other-oriented, when you demand perfection from others; or socially prescribed, when you feel external pressure from the world and society to be perfect. Socially prescribed perfectionism can be the most detrimental to your mental and physical health, and has actually been linked to chronic health problems such as heart issues and fibromyalgia. An obsession with being perfect becomes toxic when you hold yourself to an impossibly high standard, as you set yourself up for perpetual failure.

Attempts at Being Perfect Hold You Back

There are many negative impacts of perfectionism, including the fact that your attempts at being perfect often results in procrastination. If something is not immediately perfect, then you will spend a great amount of time trying to make it perfect. You will waste time, in fact, stressing over tiny mistakes and creating unnecessary aggravation for yourself. Your limiting belief of never being good enough will also hold you back from making progress in addiction treatment and in life.

Perfectionism can cause you to create a defensiveness to suggestions from others. This can be extremely damaging when you are in treatment for an addiction or a mental health issue. Another issue that will arise in treatment when you are too focused on being perfect is an “all or nothing” mindset that can paralyze you so that you are not able to complete the necessary steps toward recovery.

Accomplishment and Success

Rather than obsessing over the ultimate goal of being perfect, it is healthier, mentally and physically, to focus on enjoying the journey of achievement. This is true in addiction treatment and recovery as well as in many other aspects of life. When you work toward your goals in a healthy way, you can continue on your quest for accomplishment and success, without the stress and frustration of perfectionism.

Being flexible, while continuing to work toward a positive end result, will enable you to be more successful in recovery. You can achieve great things. They may not be perfect things, but you and others around you will be happier and healthier as you rid yourself of your negative talk and work toward a positive future.


At BRC Recovery, we offer you proven psychological treatment and evidence-based therapeutic approaches to address your mental health and addiction concerns. At BRC Recovery, we help you work with you to heal your mind and your body while addressing the underlying issues that lead to your addiction. We bring you real change for your life, with proven treatment options that will empower you to recreate and reclaim your life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we offer a safe, clean environment so you can continue receiving the highest quality of care. To learn more about our services and to get the help you need, please call BRC Recovery at 1-866-291-2676 to speak to our team.