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Books for Working Through Perfectionism

Updated: Jun 27

Girl feeling stressed in her home office

Perfectionism is characterized by setting painfully high standards for ourselves. Perfectionism is also fueled by high levels of self-criticism when we do not meet the standards we have set out for ourselves.

Perfectionism can manifest in many ways, and affects people in different ways. It can mean putting in long hours at work, or showing up for people in your life whenever they need you. Or it may present as procrastination on an important task or goal out of fear of being unable to do it perfectly.

There is an important place for resources like books in supporting one's personal growth.

Books can also complement your journey in therapy, as you learn new ways of being. Fortunately, there are many books that are available that can support you in deepening your understanding of perfectionism, and that will help to loosen the grip that perfectionism has over you. These books will provide tools for developing self-compassion, embracing imperfections, and supporting you to develop a new relationship with emotions so that you are less driven to avoid them.

Here are some books I recommend to those wanting to work through their perfecionistic tendencies:

The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidenced-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance

This workbook is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), designed to help individuals develop curiosity and awareness of their thought and behaviour patterns. CBT emphasizes identifying and transforming self-limiting beliefs into more empowering ones that acknowledge personal strengths, self-worth, and imperfections - ultimately promoting self-appreciation for our multifaceted nature.

The workbook will support you in beginning to identify the causes of your perfectionism and the ways it is negatively impacting your life. It delves into the idea of separating our self-esteem from our achievements, learning to practice self-compassion, and extending that compassion to others. It assists the reader in exploring their core values and provides ideas about how to use them to guide us in our everyday life.

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

The book delves deeply into the concept and practice of self-compassion, illustrating how it can support you in cultivating a stable sense of inner security and self-worth. The author urges readers to gently and compassionately examine their belief that mistakes and imperfections indicate failure or inadequacy, emphasizing instead that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.

Through practicing self-compassion, you can begin to soften the harsh inner critic inside of you who often judges and criticizes you relentlessly. Instead, self-compassion can be a tool to foster kindness and understanding toward yourself when confronted with your imperfections. It delves into the transformative nature of self-compassion and how practicing self-kindness can aid you in confronting your fears by removing the inner obstacles that perpetuate your anxiety (i.e. the harsh self-criticism you are used to facing when you fall short of your inner critic's high expectations).

It's Not Always Depression: A New Theory of Listening to Your Body, Discovering Core Emotions, and Reconnecting with Your Authentic Self

The author shares the concept of the Change Triangle, a tool that can support you in navigating your emotions in ways that honour them. So often we can find ourselves feeling confused by the emotions we are feeling, and feeling overwhelmed by them. We can soon come to dread feeling certain types of emotions, viewing them as unwelcome and fear inducing. Fear and shame are especially relevant when it comes to perfectionism. When emotions are experienced in ways that are distressing or overwhelming, we begin to adopt habits to alleviate or evade these feelings altogether. Consequently, this behavior can establish a pattern of maintaining strict standards for ourselves ("If I do __, then I can avoid feeling __") and/or procrastination.

Learning to feel, identify, and listen to the information contained in our emotions can be an important step in working through our perfectionism.


Hannah Peirce

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