When You're Sick of Trying to Be Perfect and Resist Recovery

March 19, 2019 Megan Griffith

Trying to be perfect and freeing yourself of perfectionism could both lead to resisting mental health recovery. Find out why at HealthyPlace.

I've resisted recovery for all kinds of reasons, including because I was sick of trying to be perfect. I spent most of my adolescence trying not to be like other teenagers, not to go through "phases" or be bad. I tried so hard to do things "right." When mental illness appeared in my life, I could barely do things at all, let alone do them "right," so I got angry.

I resented all those years of trying to be perfect, and I refused to do the things that might help me recover because it felt like coping mechanisms were just ways to shove me back in that box where nothing was ever wrong. Instead of dealing with my past perfectionism issues, I embraced my symptoms. If I was sick, then I clearly wasn't perfect, so I didn't have to try anymore. I was free.

The Pain of Trying to Be Perfect

Many people with mental illness find themselves in a position where they feel constant pressure to try to be perfect. If you've been in this position, you know how much it hurts. Perfectionism makes you feel like a constant failure until eventually, you become ashamed of not only your actions or thoughts, but of who you are as a person. Trying to be perfect definitely prevents us from really recovering, but breaking out of that perfectionism doesn't automatically put you on the road to a healthier mind either.

Because perfection is unattainable, everyone reaches a breaking point in their perfectionism eventually. If you've spent weeks or months or even years trying to be perfect despite mental illness, finally dropping the "perfect" facade is incredibly freeing. Finally, you can just be your messy, human self.

Why Not Trying to be Perfect Leads to Resisting Recovery

This might sound like a good thing because to a certain extent, it is. It's so important to acknowledge and accept your mental illness, so this breaking point is absolutely necessary. The problem is, many of us get stuck here because we confuse recovery with pretending to be perfect, and no one wants to go back to that.

This leads to resisting recovery because we are unwilling to try various recovery techniques because they feel too similar to our old, perfectionistic ways. For instance, I put off implementing a regular exercise routine for years because it felt like that's what healthy, normal people do. When people suggested I try yoga or running, it felt like they were trying to force me to recover so I could be "perfect" again, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

How to Recover Without Trying to Be Perfect

The best way to get past this resistance and start to really recover is by dealing with your perfectionism head on so that you can move past it. If you're always trying to run away from perfectionism, then you'll always be trying to prevent something bad rather than trying to cultivate something good.

Check back in two weeks for the last installment of the Resisting Recovery series"Resisting Recovery: When You Choose the Devil You Know."

APA Reference
Griffith, M. (2019, March 19). When You're Sick of Trying to Be Perfect and Resist Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Megan Griffith

Find Megan on Facebook, Tumblr and her personal blog.

Leave a reply