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  • Writer's pictureJake Kastleman

Porn Addiction and Perfectionism

Updated: Aug 11, 2023



I’ve been giving a lot of thought to addiction and perfectionism lately. About how alike these two mental illnesses are.


I’m going to tell you how perfectionism and porn addiction feed off of each other, and how all addictions, to an extent, find their origin in guilt and shame addiction - something you may have never heard of.



Both pornography addiction and perfectionism have something in common, and that’s that they both originate in guilt and shame. This guilt and shame can become alluring to “the natural man” (the pleasure-centered brain). It can come to crave it over time.


Feeling shameful or guilty about a bad behavior is not what motivates an addict to stop. In truth, it is the shame and guilt that drive us addicts to engage in our addiction in the first place. (Don’t try to make sense of our addict brains - God knows we certainly can’t!).


Perfectionism feeds off of this guilt and shame, just as addiction does. And because perfectionism increases stress, it can cause us to feel a need to cope in unhealthy ways.



What Porn Addiction and Perfectionism Have in Common

Perfectionism, I think, lingers in most of us. It comes in different forms and is centered upon different subjects depending on the person: work, school, relationships, etc. But while it may be varied, essentially perfectionism is the belief that making mistakes causes us to be unworthy of love.


When we are perfectionistic, we avoid mistakes at all costs, or refrain from admitting to our weaknesses, because we believe that others would reject us if they knew we were flawed.


The saddest part is, if we were open about our flaws, most people would love us more for that honesty. Not less.


Perfectionism is simply guilt and shame taken to the umpteenth extent. We feel shame and guilt so often and so intensely growing up, that it becomes a part of our personality.


This is similar to porn addiction. We escape to addiction because we are unwilling to face our insecurities, flaws, and trauma. We don’t want to let others in, as we know from experience that letting others in can get us (or them) hurt. We don’t want people to see our mental and emotional pain, because we believe these broken parts of us make us unworthy of love.


So, at the end of the day, perfectionism and addiction come from the same root: the fear that we are not enough. This is shame.



Guilt and Shame Addiction - An Addiction to Intensity

This feeling of not being enough - this shame - is the lifeblood of every addict’s bad decisions. It is the reason that we give in to habits and choices that are sometimes detestable.


We voluntarily make our lives a living hell. And that’s because someone who believes they are not enough - that they are unworthy of love - will make choices and do things that align with such a belief.


Destroying one’s life with an addiction matches our belief that we are unworthy of love. After all, someone who does feel worthy would never choose such a life.


This, in an odd and twisted way, can become an addiction all its own: a guilt and shame addiction. And that’s because guilt and shame are intense, and when it comes to the natural man (the primitive brain) intensity is the goal. The pleasure-centered brain doesn’t care if that intensity is positive or negative - acceptable or forbidden. If it’s intense, it will pursue it.



Guilt and Shame Addiction is at the Core of Other Addictions

Whether due to our own volition or the unfair acts of others, we develop life habits of reacting to situations with guilt and shame.


We fail at many things, and instead of chalking it up as a learning experience, or understanding that failure is an inevitable part of life, we internalize our failures and believe they define our worth as a human being.


At some point we become addicted to this way of thinking - addicted to the victimhood mentality, the “woe is me” attitude, and the attention we get from others for having “such a hard life.”


And, to be fair, most of us have good reasons for feeling this way. But that doesn’t make it a helpful or good way of dealing with things.


Later in life, we find that this guilt and shame approach isn’t working for one reason or another. Relationships are damaged or lost, jobs put in jeopardy, we’re depressed or feel incapable… We realize we need to find another way.



To Work Through Pornography Addiction, We Stop Hiding Our Pain

The good news about addiction and perfectionism - attachment to shame and guilt - is that we can heal. By God’s good grace we can overcome these unhealthy thought patterns and live a better life. Not a perfect one, mind you, but one that contains a reasonable level of peace and quality.


Pretty much any addict who has a substantial length of sobriety has a support system. For me, part of that support system is my 12-Step brothers and sisters, a group of people who aren’t afraid to get down in the muck with one another and be real about the stuff that hurts.


We get each other - the bad habits, selfish thoughts, judgmental attitudes, pride, and ignorance. We come together to be honest and straight about the things that most don’t want to talk about.


Both addiction and perfectionism have to have one condition to remain intact. And that’s secrecy. We keep our hard feelings and difficult emotions hidden and allow them to fester. This is the only way unhealthy habits remain. If we confess them, they are no longer hidden and cannot continue to grow. At least not forever.


Breaking Free of Guilt and Shame Addiction

All us addicts have a guilt and shame addiction to some extent - an addiction to isolating and feeling unworthy. Again, guilt and shame are addicting simply because they are intense. They become a habitual way of thinking.


To change this habit, we must start being real with ourselves and others. We must start admitting to the stress, insecurities, fears, overwhelm, etc. that we feel on a regular basis. We stop hiding these feelings from ourselves and we stop getting angry at ourselves or others to cover them up.


Many of us addicts like to think that we don’t feel fear, guilt and shame. We pretend these feelings don’t exist. But that doesn’t help. We can’t begin to overcome our addictions until we start being honest about our feelings. And being honest about our feelings doesn’t mean admitting to being annoyed with someone or saying “you really piss me off.” That’s not honesty.


Honesty requires integrity, and that requires us to practice looking at ourselves rather than blaming others. It requires us to look deeply at our own flaws and weaknesses, own them, be willing to change, and forgive others for their shortcomings that we can’t very well judge them for, because we are no better.


We’re all messed up, we’re all broken. That’s life. Once we can accept this, and love each other with all of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, we can begin healing together.


Things start to change when we realize that everyone else is just as messed up inside as we are, and we are all worthy of love - not in spite of our weaknesses, but because of them.


Overcoming Porn Addiction and Perfectionism Requires Us to Look Outward

The shame and guilt addiction that underlies perfectionism and our other addictions can only continue to survive under the right conditions. One of those is selfishness. And I don’t say this to bring anyone down, but rather to help us be aware of our thoughts and habits.


When we spend most of our time thinking about what we want and need, and putting it ahead of the wants and needs of the people around us, we are primed to deal with guilt and shame. And this is because these emotions are inherently self-centered. We cannot feel them when we are focused outward on the good of others.


Does this mean that we will be perfect at thinking of the needs of others, striking the proper balance between taking care of ourselves and serving those around us? No. And that’s kind of the point.


Christ is the only perfect one who has ever lived. We are not and never will be. But we can depend on Christ’s grace to strengthen us to change our thoughts and habits and begin thinking more of those around us. Not in a way that demands others see the good that we do, but instead genuinely thinking about their well-being without any need for recognition. Just as Christ did while He was on the earth.



…And Upward

Pray to God. Pray that He will help you change your nature. Ask that Christ’s Spirit and the Holy Ghost will help you put away your guilt, shame, and other self-indulgent thoughts, replacing them with empathy and compassion for self and others.


Be sincere in your prayers, and instead of placing the pressure upon yourself, allow God’s love to change you. As you pray, you will be guided to make different choices than you have in the past, and you will feel inherently motivated to make them. Not because of your own will or talents, but because of God’s working through you.


Remember that feelings of selfishness, addiction, perfectionism, shame, or guilt do not make you bad. They simply mean you have more to learn. That’s what you’re here for, and as you trust in Christ He will make weak things become strong.



Practices to Replace Perfectionism & Guilt and Shame Addiction

  • Pray: Be honest and open with God. Also, practice asking for specific blessings that enable you to do more good for others. Above anything else, depend on Christ and ask that Christ will help you overcome your weaknesses and replace them with His love and peace.

  • Read Holy Scripture: God will aid you if you engage with spiritual words each day. This is not because God is withholding blessings from you if you don’t, but because you need to invite those blessings in by filling your mind with things of light and goodness. How else would these things come into your life? You have to choose them.

  • Be Open & Vulnerable: Be real with others about your feelings and flaws. Not from a place of self-pity, but from a place of pure honesty. Laugh about your weaknesses with others and it will help them feel comfortable in admitting their own. I testify I have seen this in my own life, and it is powerful. Doing this brings the darkness into the light and helps you and those around you heal.

  • Practice Genuine Empathy: Put yourself in another person’s shoes. Instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next, deeply listen to what another tells you and imagine how that experience would feel for you if you had their history and brain chemistry. Refrain from judging or downplaying others’ feelings. Practice reflecting back to them what they tell you. This will strengthen your relationships, help those around you feel loved, and even empower you to be more compassionate and understanding towards yourself.


Remember above all things that you are loved by God and Jesus Christ, my brother. And if you don’t feel this, that’s okay. Ask God to help you feel it.


I believe you will ultimately overcome your guilt and shame addiction and other challenges you face. But this will not happen because you are strong or talented. It will happen because you turn your will over to Christ, letting Him know that your life has become unmanageable and you cannot do this alone.


Be humble and willing to stop trying to live your way. Your way hasn’t worked. It’s time to ask for God to change you - day by day and moment by moment - and then rely upon the strength and guidance you are given.


“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”

- Psalms 18:2-3







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