Imagine yourself at the bottom of a flight of stairs. There are a dozen steps to the first landing. Now consider how much progress you would make toward the first landing if you would only be satisfied getting there in one step. Even if you stretch your stride and make it to step five with one giant step, you don’t recognize the progress, so you step back to the beginning to try again. Even with a running start, you make it only to step seven. Back to the bottom step you go, defining yourself as a failure. Eventually you give up, accepting that you are not capable of making it to the first landing.
This scenario sounds ridiculous, but it accurately describes how far too many of us sabotage our own efforts by defining success in all or none terms.
By imagining the flight of a dozen steps, you can easily see how to get to the first landing, and it is obvious that you could just as easily make it to the next landing using the same amazing technique: one step at a time.
This very same amazing technique is how you can successfully recover from your mental illness. The idea is to build your whole recovery from smaller ~~ sometimes even tiny ~~ steps to progress. Your challenge (and your responsibility) is to become supportive of your own efforts, to learn to recognize progress as it is happening. For instance, if you have a problem with engaged in your behavior 3 to 4 times a week and this week you only engaged once, that is progress. Give yourself credit, and then get ready to take the next step.
What if you are half way to the first landing and you fall, tumbling back down to the bottom? The principle remains the same. Taking one step at a time is still your best bet. Feel your frustration, express it ~~ scream, holler, stomp your feet. Rest a little while, then start again.
Ultimately, it is persistence that will pay off
Forget about perfection
It is doubtful that there is such a thing as a person with a mental illness who is not, to one degree or another, a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist does not mean that you do things perfectly; it means that you are never satisfied with your efforts, you can never do anything good enough. Very advanced perfectionism manifests as a person who has stopped trying to succeed at anything that is important to them. This person doesn’t even make the effort because they paralyzed by the fear of failure. And remember, this person’s definition of failure is expansive, while her definition of success is very narrow, no to mention beyond human capacity.
In recovery from a mental illness of any kind, one very important way that you must be on your own side is in reminding yourself that perfection is not one of your options. Perfection is not possible for us imperfect human beings, and striving for the impossible does not make us better; it tears us down.