We believe in progress, not perfection.
Given the many proven links between addiction and perfectionism, it’s not surprising that 12-Step programs are full of perfectionists. So are therapeutic boarding schools. Teenagers in general are easily seduced by perfectionism, given our highly competitive culture in which the best is rewarded and all too often second-best just doesn’t count. As a rule, these students set unreasonable goals then punish themselves for not meeting them. As they repeatedly miss their mark, their anxiety increases. They may procrastinate, stop trying, drop the goal and avoid the work altogether, which creates another level of anxiety. At home they could escape into alcohol, drugs, sex or other high-risk behaviors. Here, they are just frustrated, until they begin to work the program.
We believe the 12 Steps work for perfectionism as well as for any other addictive behavior. In following the Steps, students become aware that perfection is an abstract, unattainable, and that even success itself is a by-product, never the goal. They gradually stop over-identifying with their goals, realizing that success and failure are always dictated to some extent by circumstances, and they’re no longer willing to risk their self-esteem trying to control things they can’t control.
Most important, the Steps help students approach goals and goal-setting more realistically. They learn that nothing worth having comes all at once: not weight loss, not a term paper, not running a marathon. Everything’s a process, and all achievement is incremental. One day at a time, one step at a time. That’s progress! The Steps also open students to the journey, to delighting in the process, to asking for help when they need it, accepting help when offered, and to discovering for themselves that getting there really is half the fun.