email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
100 Things Guys Need to Know1001 Solution-Focused Questions101 Ways to Meditate17 Lies That Are Holding You Back29 Gifts8 Keys to Stress ManagementA Layman's Guide to Managing FearA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeAddiction and ChangeAddiction Recovery ToolsADHD Grown UpAdolescent DepressionAdvanced Sexual TechniquesAfter SuicideAfter the Ecstasy, the LaundryAge-Proof Your MindAnswers for AristotleAnxiety, Phobias, and PanicAre You Fully Charged?Authentic HappinessAwakening Self-EsteemBe Honest--You're Not That Into Him EitherBeating the BluesBecoming OrgasmicBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Better Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBeyond AddictionBibliotherapyBinge No MoreBipolar DisorderBlinkBoomers Really Can Put Old On HoldBrain LongevityBrainstormBread Upon the WatersBreak Through PainBreathingBringing Up ParentsBuddhist Boot CampBullyBut I Love HimCalm EnergyCalm Focus JoyCan't Eat, Won't EatCancer on $5 a Day* *(chemo not included)Caring in Remembered WaysChained to the DeskChange Your AgeChange Your Brain, Change Your LifeChange Your ThinkingChildren of the Aging Self-AbsorbedChildren of the Self-AbsorbedConceptual BlockbustingConquer Your Critical Inner VoiceConquering Postpartum DepressionConquering Shame and CodependencyCoping With Difficult PeopleCoping with Infuriating, Mean, Critical PeopleCoping With TraumaCreative Writing In Health And Social CareCrossing the Unknown SeaDance the Chakras Yoga WorkoutDaydreamingDe-Stress Your Life in 7 Easy StepsDealing with a NarcissistDefying DementiaDelivered from DistractionDematerializingDepression FalloutDepression-Free for LifeDivorce PoisonDoing ItDone With The CryingDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDr. Andrew Weil's Guide to Optimum HealthDr. Weisinger's Anger Work-Out BookDying to Be ThinEasy YogaEmbarrassing Medical ProblemsEmbracing UncertaintyEmotional Chaos to ClarityEmotional ClaustrophobiaEmotional Fitness for IntimacyEmotional IntelligenceEnjoying Guilty PleasuresEssays on Philosophical CounselingEvamarie Pilipuf's Yoga Express DVDEvery Day Yoga for Every Body DVDEveryday GreensExercise for Mood and AnxietyFailureFamily Desk Reference to Psychology Family FirstFast Food for the SoulFat and FuriousFatal FlawsFear and Other Uninvited GuestsFeeding Your ChildFinding Meaning in the Second Half of LifeFlow: The Psychology of Optimal ExperienceFluid Power Vinyasa Flow YogaFlying ColorsForgive Your Parents, Heal YourselfFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFrom Sabotage to SuccessFull Steam Ahead!Getting a Good Night's SleepGetting ControlGetting over Getting MadGetting the Love You WantGetting the Love You Want Audio CompanionGetting Your Life BackGirl StuffGirlWiseGod Never BlinksGoddess WorshipGoing DownGoing Home without Going CrazyGood MedicineGoodbye, ThingsGrieving Mental IllnessGuilt, Shame, and AnxietyHalf Empty, Half FullHe's Just Not That Into YouHeal & Forgive IIHealing ADDHealing through ExerciseHealthy AgingHonoring GriefHooking UpHot ButtonsHow Full Is Your Bucket?How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow Philosophy Can Save Your LifeHow Proust Can Change Your LifeHow Successful People ThinkHow to Change Someone You LoveHow to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Handle a Hard-To-Handle KidHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHow to Live Well Without Owning a CarHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Stay SaneHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenI AMI am PotentialI Saw It HappenI Wasn't Ready to Say GoodbyeI'd Rather LaughI'm OK, You're My ParentsIllness and the Art of Creative Self-ExpressionIn the Mood, AgainIntroduction to Qi YogaIt's Called a Breakup Because It's BrokenIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsJudo with WordsKripalu YogaKripalu Yoga Dynamic DVDKripalu Yoga Gentle DVDKundalini Yoga MeditationKundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress DVDLearn to RelaxLearned OptimismLearning Outside the Lines Letting Go of AngerLies! Lies! Lies!Life MakeoversLife StrategiesLife's WorkLifting DepressionLiving the TruthLiving Well with Pain and IllnessLiving with AnxietyLiving Your Best LifeLiving Your DreamLost in the MirrorLove & SurvivalLove Your Body, Love Your LifeLoving Someone With Bipolar DisorderLunar Flow YogaMadhur Jaffrey's World VegetarianMake It CountMaking a Good Brain GreatMaking ADD WorkMaking Your Mind MatterManaging Your MindManic DepressionMastering Anger and AggressionMastering the Power of Self-hypnosisMaui PilatesMeditation for Optimum HealthMeditation in a New York MinuteMind MappingMind-Body Workbook for AnxietyMindfulness for BeginnersMindfulness for Urban Depression: Tools for Relief from Stressful City LivingModerate DrinkingMotherstylesMozart's Brain and the Fighter PilotNapkin NotesNatural Healing for DepressionNew Hope for People with DepressionNo Enemies WithinNo More AnxietyNot Your Mother's LifeObsessive-Compulsive Disorder DemystifiedOne Last Hug Before I GoOrgasmOrgasmsOutsmarting DepressionOutsmarting OvereatingOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOvercoming Compulsive CheckingOvercoming Compulsive HoardingOvercoming DepressionOvercoming Obsessive ThoughtsOvercoming the Fear of FearPain Free for LifePain Free for WomenParanoia of Everyday LifeParenting Children With ADHDPassionate VegetarianPlan BPlanning for UncertaintyPlato, Not Prozac!Position Of The Day PlaybookPositivityPotatoes Not ProzacPower Yoga: Fat BurnerPowerfully Recovered!PredatorsPreventing Misbehavior in ChildrenProcrastinationProcrastinationProtecting the GiftPsychology Moment by MomentQiGong IllustratedQuantum Memory PowerRaising a Self-StarterRaising Kids in an Age of TerrorRaising Resilient ChildrenReady for AnythingReal Solutions for Overcoming Internet AddictionsRecovery from AddictionRelationship RescueRespect-Me RulesRitalin is Not the Answer Action GuideRomantic IntelligenceSabbathSecrets of a Passionate MarriageSelf MattersSelf-CoachingSelf-CompassionSelf-Help NationSelf-Help Stuff That WorksSelf-Help Without the HypeSelf-NurtureSeven Life Lessons from Noah's ArkSex and SpiritSex DetoxSex PositionsSex Q & ASextasySexual PleasureSleep BetterSolar Flow Yoga DVDSoulmatesSpiritually Healing the Indigo Children (and Adult Indigos, Too!)Spontaneous HealingStanding at Water's EdgeStaying Connected to Your TeenagerStaying Sane When Your Family Comes to VisitStop Arguing with Your KidsStop Caretaking the Borderline or NarcissistStop Me Because I Can't Stop Myself Stop OverreactingStop Smoking and Chewing Tobacco for Life ChangesStop Walking on EggshellsStraight Talk about Your Child's Mental HealthStress ReliefStrong, Smart, & BoldSun SalutationsSunbathing in the RainSurviving a Borderline ParentSurviving Manic DepressionSurviving Sexual ViolenceTaking Charge of ADHD, Revised EditionTaking Charge of AngerTaking Charge of Anger: Six Steps to Asserting Yourself without Losing ControlTaming Your Inner BratTeen Angst? NaaahTen Minutes to RelaxThank You for Being Such a PainThe 10 Best Anxiety BustersThe 5 Reasons Why We OvereatThe 7 Secrets of the ProlificThe Anger WorkbookThe Antidepressant Survival ProgramThe Art of Becoming HumanThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Breakout PrincipleThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Chronic Pain SolutionThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Consolations of PhilosophyThe Core Question: Who Am I?The Crowdsourced Performance ReviewThe Emotional Eater's Repair ManualThe Emotional RevolutionThe End-of-Life HandbookThe Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005The Essential KamasutraThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Game of TruthThe Gift of FearThe Gift of ShynessThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageThe Happy Hook-UpThe Healing JourneyThe Healing Journey for CouplesThe Healing Journey Through GriefThe Healing Power of PetsThe Identity CodeThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Introvert AdvantageThe Intuitive WriterThe Irritable Male SyndromeThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever NeedThe Light of DiscoveryThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Yoga BookThe Magic of Thinking BigThe Making of Dr. PhilThe Male Stress Survival GuideThe Money WorkbookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Self-EsteemThe New Cancer SurvivorsThe New Rational TherapyThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe OCD WorkbookThe Passion PlanThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Pill Book Guide to Natural MedicinesThe Places That Scare YouThe Pocket Life CoachThe Porn TrapThe Power of FocusThe Power of Full EngagementThe Power of Negative ThinkingThe Power of PlayThe Power of Self-CoachingThe Pursuit of PerfectThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Real Rules for GirlsThe Secret of LifeThe Secret Strength of DepressionThe Self ImprovedThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Self-Help SourcebookThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Stress CureThe Stress Less WorkbookThe Stress Owner's ManualThe Stress Reduction Workbook for TeensThe SuperStress SolutionThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Therapy for the SaneThe Truth About Chronic PainThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Van Gogh BluesThe Way of StretchingThe Way of the JournalThe Way of TransitionThe Weblog HandbookThe Why CaféThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival HandbookThere's a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemThings Might Go Terribly, Horribly WrongThink Confident, Be ConfidentThink NakedThink SmartThinking for a ChangeThis Is HowTotal PilatesTrain Your Brain to Get HappyTrain Your Brain to Get RichTransformation Trauma in the Lives of ChildrenUltimate SexUnderstanding the Borderline MotherUndoing DepressionUnhappy TeenagersUnlock the Genius WithinUntangling the WebVirtual AddictionWaking Up to What You DoWay to Be!What We Say MattersWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Holding You Back? When a Family Member Has DementiaWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen in Doubt, Make BeliefWhen Perfect Isn't Good EnoughWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhen Things Fall ApartWhen Words Are Not EnoughWhen Your Body Gets the BluesWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWherever You Go, There You AreWhy Can't I Change?Why Is It Always About You?Why Smart Executives FailWorried All the TimeWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting as a Sacred PathWriting in FlowWriting to HealYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!Yoga 4 TeensYoga as MedicineYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular Guys DVDYoga for the Young at HeartYoga on DemandYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYou Are Not AloneYou Are Not Your IllnessYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Speaks Your MindYour Brain on FoodYour Child, Bully or Victim?Zen Sex
Perfectionists are defined by the authors, following David Burns (1980), as individuals "whose standards are high beyond reach and reason, ... straining compulsively and unremittingly toward impossible goals and who measure their own worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishment". Apart from the perfectionist in most of us, this definition -- which does not include passionate professionals or artists committed to excel in their trade -- reads like a promising script for a book, play, or movie (e.g. No Reservations, 2007, with Catherine Zeta-Jones). Perfectionism suggests a sort of Doppel life where humans strive hard to change into some desirable, imagined state. At a grand level, the latter resonates stories of evolution, world religions, and self improvement plans: a theme that returns with cultures from every part of the globe and all ages. At a micro level, it suggests little boys and girls looking for acceptance, and adults searching for meaning, a place in social or professional networks. Perfectionism has an existential, emotional and potentially dramatic character.
Antony and Swinson's book, subtitled Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism, contributes from an analytical, instrumental angle. It fits in the category solid Self Help books, with two professionals from the field of Psychology and Psychiatry. The book is accessible following a common problem solving cycle: define and analyze the problem, and offer effective strategies for dealing with the problem. The authors closely relate to the reader, e.g. in the section How perfectionism affects your life (p. 24), and various templates for diagnosing and monitoring daily life.
Part 1 Understanding Perfectionism defines perfectionism as a multidimensional construct. Perfectionism is oriented towards the perfectionist him/herself or their social environment, and it is potentially applicable to all areas of life (private, school, work). Perfectionism starts in people's thoughts and interpretations in relation to their experiences. To me, the section on perfectionist thinking styles (black-white thinking, filtering, reading others' mind, risk overestimation, tunnel vision, interpersonal sensitivity etc), was a very useful, even somewhat confronting section. Thinking styles correlate with various types of behavior (compensating, checking, reassurance seeking, correcting, organizing etc) that appear 'beyond the normal' in terms of frequency and intensity (very frequent checking f.i.). Plainly speaking and apart from the serious nature of these problems, people who do this can be a pain in the ass, adorable, and often welcome candidates for various forms of comedy.
In Part 2 Strategies for Overcoming Perfectionism the authors move on to remedies against the various forms of undesirable perfectionism. They invite and enable readers to self assess their areas and level of perfectionism. In particular, I found triggers of perfectionism very helpful. Perfectionist tendencies can be dormant in many of us, so knowing when they may become an issue and escalate is useful knowledge. Part 2 continues with ideas for developing a plan for change aimed at increasing realism of standards and self awareness, and options for changing perfectionist thoughts. Challenging one´s take for granted thought patterns can be refreshing, even for non perfectionists or ´perfectionists-light´. The final chapters in part 2 move on to behaviors (e.g. how to manage exposure effectively, and assertive communications), and the -- in my case sometimes considerable - challenge of accepting imperfectionism. Mindfulness strategies seem useful yet somewhat unexpected in this chapter.
Part 3 Working with Specific Problems and Perfectionism explores in more depth perfectionism in relation to depression, anger, social anxiety, worry, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and dieting/ body image. The authors' combined expertise is impressive. Many readers will find comfort in these common problem areas. Reading this part also shows that perfectionism could be seen at a meta-problem level, becoming expressed in various challenges humans almost inevitably will face during their lives. For instance, the authors briefly sketch how worry relates to perfectionism, both concerning topics such as standards, uncertainty, tolerance and disappointment. The fascinating intersection of specific problems and perfectionism could be explored in more depth; this could be a fruitful extension of the current book.
Finally, Part 4 What's Next (one chapter) is committed to helping readers locking in to longer term success. Briefly the authors talk about difficulties of adjusting life style aspects. This correlates with the social contexts in which readers are engaged. Sections on awareness of stress levels and life style habits (sleeping, eating/ drinking, exercising) are useful though a bit short. Further readings in general and specialized areas complete the book. In fact, this section could be moved to the Web in order to keep resources updated.
Synthesizing, the authors adopt an instrumental approach to perfectionism, working hard to offer a broad scope and relevant advice. The book delivers accessible, professional insights for which the authors should be applauded. Its scope sometimes results in brief discussions of topics that trigger new thoughts. Furthermore, an instrumental approach suggests that perfectionism is a problem that can be 'managed' effectively and banned from some one's life. I tend to doubt this philosophy does justice to the multidimensional nature of perfectionism and its intricate relationships with various aspects of individuals' lives in modern society. A realistic (less than perfect) starting point might be accepting some level of perfectionism and learning how to deal with it.
Burns, D.D. 1980. The Perfectionist's Script for Self-Defeat. Psychology Today, November, 34-57.
© 2009 Paul C. can Fenema
Paul C. van Fenema, Ph.D., Associate professor at Netherlands Defense Academy