There is a common saying among people in twelve step groups and recovery programs that quitting an addiction means “progress, not perfection”. This doesn’t mean that people in recovery should not strive to do their very best and follow each step of their program.
It simply means that trying to be perfect all the time is too ambitious of a goal and can lead to a lot stress and anxiety that can actually hinder progress. In order to work effectively in recovery, one must focus on attempting to correct character flaws but at the same time embracing your own humanity and allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Recovery requires significant changes and it can take a lot of time and effort to make these changes. No one should expect too much to happen right away or they will feel disappointed in themselves. Having realistic goals of progress and trying your best will eventually lead to change but it is important not to set your aim too high or get frustrated with the process.
Perfectionism Can be Harmful
Expecting to be perfect or having incredibly high standards in recovery can be dangerous for a number of reasons. People who have very high expectations of what they should be achieving in recovery can actually be setting themselves up for relapse. They may feel frustrated with themselves when they aren’t perfect and begin to use this as justification that should start using drugs or alcohol again.
An attitude of perfectionism can also lead to issues in your relationships to other people. When someone expects themselves to be perfect they may have the same high standards for other people and become unfairly demanding of those around them. Allowing yourself to make mistakes and be less than perfect can help you be more forgiving of other people as well.
Accepting Failure and Staying Motivated
If you set your goals too high for yourself and expect to be perfect then you are actually more likely to give up than achieve more. When the aim instead is to make progress rather than be perfect then you will be more motivated as you see results throughout your recovery journey.
Focusing on progress rather than perfection can also make it easier to cope with failure. When a perfectionist faces failure they may choose to give up rather than starting over and realizing that it is all a part of their efforts to improve. It is important in recovery to not be afraid to fail and to accept failure as a part of the process of change.
Any time you fall or make a mistake, with the right mindset it can actually serve as motivation to work harder and do better next time. It can also force you to think differently about your approach to things so that you come up with a different solution in order to accomplish what you set out to do.
The good thing about focusing on progress rather than perfection is that it makes things seem more achievable. Perfection is in a sense an impossible goal because no one can ever really reach a state of being perfect. The only thing that human beings can do is try their best and stay motivated to continue working toward their goal.
When you think about the progress you have made or are still making you will feel more confident and happier with your work in recovery. A person who does not expect perfection from themselves will feel more fulfilled with what they are doing and less judgmental of other people because they will understand that humans are fallible and all a person can do is try their best. “Progress, not perfection” is more than a saying, it is an important tool for people to think about it in recovery so that they stay on the path to sobriety.