Striving to do your best is a positive impulse, but the quest for perfection can get unhealthy and have decidedly negative consequences.
Fortunately, you can take actions to release perfection’s choking hold.
That’s the basic message of Martin Antony and Richard Swinson’s book, When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism.
The authors divide their work into several sections: definition; explanation of the problems caused by perfectionism; diagnosis; how to counter perfectionist tendencies; and advice for specific types of emotions like depression or anger or situations like social anxiety.
At base, an excessive desire for perfection is grounded in incomplete levels of self-acceptance, Antony and Swinson say. This can come from a number of sources-some of the usual psychological culprits like childhood experiences appear here-and the authors also make the point that holding these beliefs and taking these actions can lead to some behavior that receives reward and reinforcement.
The way out is first to understand where and how much striving for perfection is interfering in your life, and then to work gradually to counter those elements.
Some of the countering is mental and internal. The authors supply examples of alternative ways to talk to yourself, shifting the messages you send from harsh judgments to more accepting language.
On the other hand, some techniques are physical. People who cannot stand to leave areas of the house unclean are encouraged to let a little mess flourish (This one is not a challenge of mine!).
In the end, a more grounded and accepting position toward oneself is possible. When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough may not be perfect, but it is a useful and accessible text to help get out of perfection’s suffocating grip.