From a young age we are praised for our achievements.  However, somewhere along the line we start to believe that in order feel good or be loved we must be perfect.   Perfectionism can easily sabotage someone in recovery from addiction.  So to give yourself and your recovery a boost -- work toward eliminating perfectionism.

Brené Brown is a leading researcher in the field of shame resilience and vulnerability.  Her work looks at perfectionism as a form of shame.  It is a self-destructive belief system because perfection is impossible to achieve.  Perfectionism creates an endless cycle of blame and shame where we never feel we are good enough.  These feelings of blame and shame are well known to those in recovery from addiction.

Do You Know If Perfectionism Is Dictating Your Life? Here are four signs to look for:

1.     To A Fault, You’re A People Pleaser: From our school days to our work days, individuals are praised for their work in quantifiable ways.  We receive grades from teachers, bonuses at work, and various accolades along the way.  We start to believe what we achieve is who we are and what makes us a deserving person.  People pleasers do not strive from the healthy standpoint of ‘how can I improve,” rather they operate from “what will others think?”.

2.     You Procrastinate Or Do Not Even Attempt Things At All: Perfectionists often utilize black-or-white thinking:  you succeed or you fail.  There is no gray area allowed for “good enough”.  Perfectionism holds people back from trying new things out of a fear of failure.  It also leads to procrastinating as a way to avoid possible disappointing outcomes.  Of course, we all know that procrastinating often leads to the disappointing outcomes we fear.  For a time, we try to console ourselves with the fact that we didn't have enough time and that is the reason for the outcome.  But deep down, we know this isn't true and so we feel shame and blame ourselves.

3.     Perfectionists Are Critical Of Others And Have A Hard Time Opening Up: Judgment is a common thing people project onto others.  We have a tendency to place perceived shortcomings onto others that we actually fear are within ourselves.  We reject in others what we can’t accept in ourselves.  Perfectionism is a defense against rejection.  It makes it very difficult for people to open up to others out of fear of not being good enough.  Perfectionists are afraid to show their vulnerabilities, and this inhibits them from truly connecting with others.  Perfectionists see their vulnerabilities as serious defects, instead of what makes them uniquely human.

 4.     You Personalize And Become Defensive With Feedback: Perfectionists hear helpful feedback as criticism. They hear anything other than high praise as a reflection of their perceived failings.  They become defensive over possibly exposing their weak points.  Instead of realizing and believing that we’re all human and we all have challenges, the perfectionist tirelessly tries to avoid that reality.

Eliminating Perfectionism

For the most part we all fall on a continuum of perfectionism, we all feel the effects and try to defend against the shame.  Brown comments, "When perfectionism becomes compulsive, chronic and debilitating it looks and feels like an addiction.  More times than not, below the surface of chemical dependency is a shame-ridden belief system.  Perfectionism is one of those belief systems.  Feeling relief from perfectionism is a journey from “what will people think” to “I am enough”."

The tools Brown suggests to make that journey is choosing to practice authenticity by owning our stories and having self-compassion.  Our lives are imperfect yet we yearn for un-achievable standards.  We are susceptible to navigating our lives mistaking being loved as being perfect.  Choose to affirm yourself and your loved ones that they are “good enough”, don’t let perfectionism dictate your life.

Providing a safe space to let down the armor and be vulnerable is a step towards addiction recovery.  New Hope Recovery Center is proud to provide groups facilitated by Sarah Buino, who is trained in The Daring Way™, Brené Brown’s shame resilience curriculum.  For more information please visit our website New Hope Recovery Center , call us at 888-707-HOPE (4673) or email us at

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center