On the 18th–perfect! What a fitting time to renew this message–when we’re trying so hard to do what we ought for the holidays, find some enjoyment in their midst, temper our expectations of the latest release by the Star Wars franchise (The Force Awakens opens in theaters today, as if you didn’t know), and prepare to make New Year’s resolutions.
Five biblio-antidotes to perfectionism. . . . Yes, I just made that word up on purpose so you would consciously check your perfectionism from the outset.
Looking for a last-minute holiday gift, or is it not yet last-minute for you, you procrastinating perfectionist?
Consider a book, film, podcast, course, or program about understanding, overcoming, recovering from, and/or channelling perfectionism. A gift for someone else or for yourself to offset making all those cookies, crafts, decorations, family photos, shopping trips, greeting cards, plans for seasonal outings, band concerts, dance recitals, Nativity plays, online purchases, sweaters for your dog, gift wrappings, countdowns to the day you’ll get a break from the madness, and silent vows never to put yourself through all this stress ever again, even if it means your kids go without Christmas.
This week, I offer five book titles toward that end (reducing stress, not excising Christmas)—two I’ve read and recommend, three I’m discovering along with you. I just looked on Amazon and chose some that spoke to me through their titles, a range of publication dates, and, of course, their high ratings coupled with a significant sample of reviews (conformity mixed with perfectionism, I know, but bear with me).
- Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride (1988) by Marion Woodman – I read this as a teen; it’s from a Jungian psychology series.
- The Artist’s Way (1992) by Julia Cameron – One of my favorite books overall. See the list of links below to my related posts.
- Present Perfect: A Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go of Perfectionism and the Need for Control (2010) by Pavel G. Somov PhD – The grammar reference alone makes me happy.
- Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist: Learning to Be Free (2013) by Amanda Jenkins – a testimonial approach to self-help
- Positively Perfect: How to Love and Utilize Your Perfectionist Qualities (2015) by Claudia Svartefoss – Don’t hate perfectionism; it’s counter-productive.
There are also many books for kids on the subject of needing, wanting, and seeking to be perfect, and the reasons behind those impulses.
Feel free to let me know what you think of any of the above books. I’ll probably add 3, 4, and 5 to my Goodreads.com to-read list.
I know that a conspicuous irony of promoting self-reflection regarding one’s perfectionism is that the perfectionist often already over-thinks things and can be too self-absorbed. If this is you, don’t beat yourself up! (That’s perfectionist behavior, after all.) Don’t see this list as a scolding or criticism. It’s an act of loving permission I give you to be imperfect by leading you to ways to learn how to do that—and, ultimately, be happier.
If you’re thinking, “Happiness—who cares? I want to be famous/rich/brilliant/impeccable/phenomenal/[fill in your perfectionist goal or label here],” realize that you’ve become one of those greedy little pan-dimensional mouse-beings from the film The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (based on the books by Douglas Adams), and you might just be about to steal someone else’s . . . er, property (no spoilers), to serve your own power-hungry aims.
Don’t be mean. Don’t try to be perfect. Strive instead to be your truest self—in all your imperfect glory.
Then again, perhaps only the mindful person is likely to read my blog in the first place, and you’ve already gone down this introspective road.
Maybe I’m only preaching to the choir, but it’s based on hard lessons from lived experience. I’m in a position to share some wisdom on this, and I do so with compassion for fellow sufferers of psychological wounds that are self-inflicted but with external triggers.
Here are some of my other posts–several inspired by other bloggers–on the subject of perfectionism, particularly as it relates to art and writing:
- Play-Write: A Response to “On Treating Writing As a Form of Play” March 24, 2015
- Reflection on “Abandoning Perfection,” March 23, 2015 (direct response)
- On Process: Verse Writing, Part IV: Reflection, March 18, 2015
- On Process: Verse Writing, Part II: Developing an Idea, Trying a New Form, March 11, 2015
- Is Writing a Single Bad Sentence a Signal of Bad Writing?, February 26, 2015 (direct response)
- Thoughts on “How to Be a Confident Writer,” January 29, 2015 (direct response)
- Classic Learning, January 28, 2015
- RE: Re-re-re-revision, January 19, 2015 (direct response)
- On “Writing Without Hope” by Jennifer Lynn Krohn, January 1, 2015 (direct response)
- Practice makes . . . , January 16, 2014
I encourage you (and me) to re-define what success looks like for you, to appreciate more of what you already have, to forgive yourself and others, and to move beyond what holds you back from joy and peace.
Happy–if not perfect–Holidays.