Diving Into A Sea of Books–The Perfectionist’s Handbook


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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”–one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

The Perfectionist’s Handbook, subtitled Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes by Jeff Szymanski, PhD, a self-described perfectionist and clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), is mainly for people who think their perfectionism generally works well for them, but want to know  when it may drift into unhealthy territory, and how to cope with any tendencies perfectionism brings that they don’t want to have.

Dr. Szymanski describes differences between “healthy” and “unhealthy” perfectionism. He gives the pros and the cons of perfectionism. When serving the person, perfectionism can be good, but taken to the extreme, this mindset can quickly become the master of the person, resulting in serious problems.

I like the way the author uses stories from his life to illustrate what he means. He never “talks down” to the reader. He does refer to a lot of studies, which to this layperson, grew tiresome to read. However, it shows he did his research.

To me, the author generally takes an optimistic view of perfectionism. For differing views of perfectionism, check out How to be an Imperfectionist by Stephen Guise and the BBC Future article, “The dangerous downsides of perfectionism” http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise). The article links the mindset to OCD, anxiety, self-mutilation, depression, and other problems, with the worst being early mortality and suicide.

As a person realizing the damage I allowed perfectionism to do, I didn’t find The Perfectionist’s Handbook as helpful as I thought it would be.  For my part, I see perfectionism as an enemy; it brings on low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Striving for excellence is good; beating myself up when I don’t reach my standards is not.

©P. Booher

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