There are many addictions that plague our world today. Drug, sex, food, work, video games, gambling, shopping, and the Internet are to mention a few of the more popular addictions that are literally destroying people and families by the millions. Surprisingly though, one addiction that gets overlooked and yet surpasses them all in affliction rate is performance addiction. In fact, if I was to take a survey of 100 people and asked them if they have ever struggled with either caring too much about what people think of them or if they have ever feared of failing I would guess the results would be 100 out of 100.
Why is performance addiction a concern?
On the surface performance addiction actually seems like one addiction we could be proud of. After all, if we care so much about how we act in front of others or strive to achieve worthy accomplishments, you would think we would have a lower crime rate and incredibly high performing organizations. However, we know the opposite is true for at least the crime rate in America. And while some organizations are truly high performing, don’t be deceived in thinking there was no cost to many families. Fathers that work 80 hours a week do negatively affect their families.
Performance addiction is detrimental to the person who struggles with it. If not cured, they will struggle with such mind-crippling emotions as guilt, shame, anger, emptiness, and fear for a lifetime.
Secondly, the family surrounding the one who struggles with performance addiction is negatively affected. For example, a mother who feels she never measures up to the standards of others becomes increasingly angry over her perceived rejection and lashes out at her children over the slightest of things. Research shows that 25-30% of chronically mentally ill people would no longer be sick if they could simply eradicate the guilt they feel from being failures (Scalise & Cisney, 2009).
Two origins of performance addicts
Where does performance addiction have its genesis? How does it get started? The two biggest factors that contribute towards performance addiction are:
1) Unrealistic self-imposed standards, and 2) An unhealthy need of approval from others.
When a person believes that they must meet certain standards in order to feel good about themselves they automatically set themselves up for failure. In fact, the fear of failure is constantly riding their backs as they can’t stand the thought of failing. The underlying core problem of a performance addict is that their self-worth is mistakenly derived from how well they do things. This leads to perfectionism, rigidness, control issues, risk avoidance, and debilitating struggles with guilt. In addition, people that struggle with guilt are more prone to struggle with anger and resentment which compounds their problems in life-especially in the area of relationships. A person who hates failure will always struggle because eventually everyone fails.
Imagine that a writer for Associated Content refuses to feel good about themselves unless they write at least four articles a day. If they break a wrist or a family crisis occurs that prevents them from writing for a good while they are going to accumulate quite a bit of bad feelings about themselves over that time frame since their standard of four articles a day will not be reached. A performance addict will literally feel their net worth as a person nose dive with each passing day until, like a bottomed out stock market, they crash. The identity of a performance addict is one in the same.
The need to find approval from others is a second main reason people find themselves trapped in performance addiction. Anytime a person refuses to feel good about themselves unless they know or perceive that someone else approves of them will struggle struggle constantly with the fear of rejection and shame. Someone who struggles to gain the approval of others must always figure out which character they must play around certain people (i.e. “wearing masks”) or avoid people altogether through isolation and withdrawal.
A person that desires to break free from performance addiction must come to realize a basic core value about themselves. That is, each person is valuable because of who and what they are, not because of what they do. A person must realize that just being human has intrinsic and immeasurable worth in and of itself. We are valuable simply because God says so. Repeating the last sentence over and over again about 20 times during an episode of struggle with self-worth will lend itself towards a personal breakthrough.
In addition, some valuable resources in helping a person deal with performance addiction are the following resources:
1) Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer
2) Search For Significance by Robert McGee
“Addiction & Recovery” (speakers Dr. Eric Scalise & Jennifer Cisney). Adrenaline Addiction. Lesson 306. DVD. www.lightuniversity.com, 2009