This is another biggie for me. When I was moderating and trying to manage my drinking I struggled with the ‘I should be able to manage my drinking’ and ‘I must have 3 nights off a week as per the Govt recommendations’. Then when I couldn’t manage it I would beat myself up and feel guilty for being such a failure and not being able to keep my own drinking rules. Hello, addictive substance alert!
These kind of thoughts make heavy demands on us emotionally and I love that Albert Ellis termed this “musturbation,” probably because it appeals to my sometimes purile mind (source). It is one thing to want to try to do something positive about your drinking, like reduce the amount you drink on a daily or weekly basis. It is quite another to say that you ‘should’ or ‘must always’ be like that.
- When you find yourself using ‘shoulds and musts’ recognise and acknowledge the thought and then forgive yourself the perfectionism and give it up.
- Yes, of course it is important to try and change thoughts, feelings and behaviours but don’t punish yourself if you can’t always keep it up or don’t succeed.
This, for me is, is why I stopped drinking. Because if I drank I’d break my own self-imposed rules and then think ‘what the hell, may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb’ (explanation).
If you don’t drink the only should or must is not to drink. There is no sliding scale on the perfectionism. In this instance all or nothing thinking actually works to your advantage 🙂