Perfectionism Book Preface

This is not a perfect book.

It’s written by a recovering perfectionist, but this book is not by all means perfect.

It’s not imperfect and it’s not perfect… It’s just good enough.

–The Author

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I am a diagnosed perfectionist. That stereotypically places me in a cohort of people entirely focused at seeking to be the best at everything we do. As a consequence we are generally competitive and have really high standards for themselves and of others. All these are commonly seen by society as “positive traits” which creates an affirmative feedback loop for the individual, rewarding what is damaging in the long term.

Perfectionists are generally ambitious people, who are likely to be gifted in a certain area of their lives either through intellect, physicality or skill. They are generally focused on one field, subject or occupation but the goal of perfection frequently leaks to the other parts of their life.

These individuals chase perfection throughout their life and uphold it as their personal maxim – although most of them will not be aware of their actions. They won’t discover their actions, behaviour or even know why they make certain career and lifestyle decisions until they fall and witness unhappiness, stagnant or unhealthy relationships or depression.

This book is generally written for two groups of people: industry professionals and perfectionists. It is for those diagnosed (or even self-diagnosed) perfectionists who are seeking to improve their lifestyle and increase their happiness. The other group of people who would be interested in this book are the industry professionals like psychology clinicians and practitioners, researchers and students. They may find the book of interest in terms of reading about the real world practical application of advice given by a licensed clinical psychologist from the viewpoint of the patient.

The main underlying idea of this book is to release perfectionists from “thinking too much” – from thinking about the past, from thinking about the future and simply living in the present. It all sounds like a very simple concept to grasp but for perfectionists, many behaviours are embedded deeply within their behavioural construct that many of these damaging thoughts and actions simply come automatically.

When I read my own story back to myself, a small part of me found it to be a highly incredible yarn. How can all this be true? Don’t I have any common sense? Didn’t I have any friends or family that would point out my unscrupulous-seeming ways? On the surface it seems like a simple problem with a simple solution. However, when you’re trapped in a loop you simply are blind to the root problem

A perfectionist will simply act like how I have. A normal person wouldn’t. And other people may be facing other psychological disorders. But we aren’t here to talk about the other people. We’re here to talk about perfectionism.

We are surrounded by things that appear perfect. We are bombarded by images of perfection. But when you come to understand reality and what it truly means to be realistic, only then you can unravel the illusions and biases that comes with perfection.

I came across an interesting story about the SR-71 Blackbird – the long range reconnaissance US-based aircraft. The aircraft was a secret operation but the planes’ existence was known. On 22 December 1964 the aircraft flew its first official test flight with Lockheed Test Pilot Bob Gilliland at the controls. When Gilliland successfully flew that flight around the airbase for an hour at 1000 mph, the aircraft itself had 383 “open items” of which he was aware of at the time. Open items are unresolved engineering and technical issues.

A plane doesn’t need to be a perfect plane to be the best or even operational. Just like you don’t need to be perfect to be successful, loved, to be highly effective or to be happy.

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