What if perfectionism isn’t a curse or a character flaw but rather a common state of being that can be harnessed for good? In her eye-opening book, The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power, psychotherapist and former on-site Google therapist Katherine Morgan Schafler posits that perfectionists can live a life of joy rather than feeling perpetually disappointed by imperfection.
Schafler begins by describing the five types of perfectionists, including the classic (not spontaneous, a planner, always ready with a backup plan) and the intense (expresses anger when feeling overwhelmed, imposes standards on those around them). Indeed, this book is like a mirror for anyone who has struggled with perfectionism in any form. This reviewer identified a little uncomfortably closely with the Parisian perfectionist (wants to be liked, hides their deepest ambitions).
Schafler has treated hundreds of perfectionists in her private practice and recognizes that for many, perfectionism is rooted in a childhood of abuse, neglect or conditional love. It’s not as simple as just advising someone to lighten up. “Managing perfectionism by telling perfectionists to stop being perfectionists is like managing anger by telling people to ‘calm down,’” she writes. But the good news, according to Schafler, is that we can make perfectionism a tool in our lives by easing up on self-punishment, which she defines as hurting or denying yourself. We may think we are punishing ourselves to learn or grow, but we are actually just creating more fear and demoralization.
Schafler offers workable strategies to help perfectionists stop overthinking and overdoing and move to a joyful place. She also weaves research and suggestions with insightful vignettes from her clients’ experiences. All of it exudes warmth and empathy. “Until you can meet yourself with some compassion, you’ll reject the good in your life,” she advises.
In addition to being a fascinating look at the many influences that make a perfectionist, The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control is a welcome antidote that will help readers reframe and refocus.