One of the most difficult challenges for people to overcome in their recovery from problematic anger is perfectionism. Oftentimes, when someone begins anger management, they express deep feelings of shame and regret about they way they acted when they were angry or raging. These feelings have greatly impacted their self-esteem by making them feel inadequate, dehumanized, isolated, and more.
In an effort to make things better, the person seeking help may commit to the idea that they will never act in anger again. It is common for that person to say things like:
- I have to be better.
- I need to stop this behavior.
- I must change or else I will ruin everything.
- I will never lose control of my anger again.
While these thoughts are logical and well-meaning, they are not necessarily realistic. There are a lot of problems with thinking this way, the largest being that it sets a standard of perfectionism around anger that is actually difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. Check out the video below for more information on the harms of perfectionistic thinking:
Therefore, as you start to work towards gaining more control over your anger, and recovering from the negative impacts of it, it is important to set realistic goals. Here are three ways you can challenge perfectionism during anger management:
Set reasonable goals. When it comes to managing your anger, practice makes
perfect progress. It is unrealistic to believe that you will never feel or react to anger again. Therefore focus on setting goals for controlling your anger when you feel it. If you mess up and lose control, try to forgive yourself and fix what went wrong so that it does not happen again. When you set positive and realistic goals, you will avoid shame and defeat and instead feel encouraged by your progress. If you set goals that are unrealistic, and do not accomplish them, you may get discouraged. Therefore, take it one day at a time and set realistic and achievable goals for managing your anger. Below is a video on setting “SMART” goals for success.
Forgive yourself. If you do not forgive yourself for your history with anger, it will be hard to move forward in controlling your anger. Managing your anger not only requires skills to control your anger, but it also requires feeling empowered and rebuilding your self-esteem. The first step to doing this is forgiving yourself through self-compassion. What has happened in the past does not define your future. Being unkind or unforgiving of yourself serves no purpose but to hurt you and hold you back from growth, change, and improvement. Take some time to figure out how you can begin to forgive yourself to move forward for the better.
Remember, there is always room for improvement. If you have gone a few weeks or months without an outburst, it is easy to fall into the thought trap that you have mastered control over your anger. While it is possible to obtain a great amount of control over anger, it is also important to remember that there is always room to grow. The largest trigger for rage happens when people are not actively practicing or being mindful of the skills they have learned in anger management. Just like any other skill, practice continues progress. Therefore, don’t forget to practice your anger management skills regularly, and to seek out new skills and information where possible.
DecisionSkills. (2014, May 22). SMART Goals – Quick Overview. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-SvuFIQjK8
GoodTherapy. (2019, November 5). Types of Perfectionism. Retrieved November 27, 2019, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/perfectionism.
ThoughtMonkey. (2017, September 20). Perfectionism in 3 Minutes. [Video file]. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2ox3mAqBx8.
Timmins, E. (2017, December 12). How Self Forgiveness Leads to Light, Love and a Joyful Life! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Gv9rllzQZI