The Sixth Step to Radical Self-Care from a Trauma-informed Survivor

For a Trauma-Informed Survivor, the Sixth Step of Thriving is to commit to learning to love our imperfection and to extend that love to all the other flawed humans that surround us.

Defective: having a defect or flaw; faulty; imperfect.

Step Six of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program asks adherents to pledge that they are “ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” But when speaking of trauma, seeking perfection or the removal of human defects is an especially risky road to follow.


Because to be human is to be defective and the people most resilient and able to navigate our sometimes-complex world are the ones who have learned to embrace their imperfections, not eradicate them. The call for removal of flaws through the power of a divine god calls for miracle. Most people with trauma and the emotional, mental, or physical wounds it leaves do not get a miracle cure. When the wounds remain, they can feel abandoned, rejected, or re-traumatized.

To be human is to be imperfect.

Perfectionism, after all, is an ultimately self-defeating way to move through the world. It is built on an excruciating irony: making, and admitting, mistakes is a necessary part of growing and learning and being human. It also makes you better at your career and relationships and life in general. By avoiding mistake at any cost, a perfectionist can make it harder to reach their own lofty goals.

But the drawback of perfectionism isn’t just that it holds you back from being your most successful, productive self. Perfectionist tendencies have been linked to a laundry list of clinical issues: depression and anxiety (even in children), self-harm, social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, binge eating, anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, hoarding, dyspepsia, chronic headaches, and most damning of all, even early mortality, and suicide. [1]

If you seek to remove any trace of defect from yourself or your world, even if calling on a higher power to do it, you are going to fail. And when we center on being perfect, we become a force of destructiveness to ourselves and the world around us.

The most recent season of the television show American Horror Story provides a parodied version of how and why this can happen through the introduction of a pill that gives the most talented people in the world access to perfection. The price – they turn into vampires who need the blood of other humans to survive. While this dramatization is meant to horrify, the truth is that we live in a world that feels like it rewards those who seek perfection and throws away everyone else.

Trauma can take a lifetime to heal. When that trauma is compounded by the extreme people-pleasing and hyper focus of perfectionism, it can fester.

Learning to accept ourselves as imperfect guides us to the path of wholeness and allows us to thrive.


[1] Ruggeri, Amanda. "The dangerous downsides of perfectionism." Best of BBC Future, February 20, 2018.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All