Dealing with my perfectionism has been a lifelong struggle for me.
As a kid I loved going to school. I was an A+ student and was praised for it. All through school and college I proudly called myself a perfectionist. Being diligent, stringent, and extremely detail-oriented, favoring quality over quantity, preferring to work alone, holding myself to high standards, and working in a structured and organized manner; those were just some of my perfectionistic tendencies. You might recognize them in yourself.
I was convinced that these habits of perfectionism got me the good school results I got. Up until I entered the workplace that is. What I found was that corporate culture appreciates speed over diligence, quantity over quality, and group work in project teams over solo work. Needless to say, I was miserable.
My perfectionism didn’t help me anymore. In fact, looking back, it had never helped me. During my college years, my fellow students only saw the perfectionist shield I had put up. It stopped me from making authentic connections and friendships. Perfectionism was the shield I used to stop people seeing what was really going on on the inside.
I quickly realized I had to let go of my perfectionism. (And I did.) These five books helped me out tremendously along the way.
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Shauna Niequist - Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
The title of Shauna Niequist’s book says it all: ‘Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living’. If you’re done with the hustle of perfectionism and are tired of feeling like you’re not enough or doing enough, then is THE book for you.
Shauna shares - with honesty and vulnerability - how her perfectionism resulted in her hitting rock bottom. This book offers great advice about an entire new way to live: soaked in meaning, connection, and grace instead of constantly pushing for perfection.
I bought this book based on the title alone. This was my first book by Shauna Niequist, so I had no idea she’s a Christian writer. Her Christian beliefs play a large role in Present over Perfect and the advice in this book is rooted in faith. I just wanted to give you a heads up about this.
Brené Brown - The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Brené Brown is my spirit animal. Period. The Gifts of Imperfection is the book that set me out on my journey of letting go of my perfectionism. Reading this book shaped my understanding of what perfectionism really is and how it affected me in a negative. I had several aha-moments.
Brené is a scientist and teacher and it shows. The guideposts to wholehearted living (one of which is to let go of perfect) were developed from 10-years worth of scientific research. If you want to get a better understanding of your perfectionism, this book is a must-read.
Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. - The Pursuit of Perfect: Stop chasing perfection and find your path to lasting happiness!
Just like The Gifts of Imperfection this book is highly scientific. But what makes The Pursuit of Perfect so accessible and relatable is that Tal is open about his own history with perfectionism and how it negatively impacted his success and happiness.
The first part of this book is definitely better than the second part. I feel that Tal, a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, went off on a few tangents toward the end of the book. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are great nuggets of wisdom and actionable strategies in this book to help you overcome perfectionism.
Stephen Guise - How to be an Imperfectionist: The new way to self-acceptance, fearless living, and freedom from perfectionism
This is not your typical self help book. How to be an Imperfectionist is a highly practical and actionable book giving you the strategies you need if you want to become an imperfectionist. In this book, Stephen encourages you to be an action-taker and he focuses a lot on putting his advice and strategies into action.
As a result, the emotional impact of perfectionism on your life and self-worth doesn’t really get addressed in this book. But if you’re an action-taker and ready to get rid of perfectionism once and for all, this is the book for you.
Elizabeth Gilbert - Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear
Big Magic is a book about creativity and all the things that stand in the way of creative living. I wrote before about how perfectionism is a creativity killer. And, luckily for me :), Elizabeth agrees.
This book is a must for any creative who wants to learn how to untangle fear, perfectionism, and creativity and let their creativity shine.
I’ve created a free Tools & Resources guide with all of the resources, books, hacks (and more) I use that help me let go of my perfectionism and embrace my perfectly imperfect self. Want to know which tools I use on a daily basis? Just click the button below to download your copy of the Tools & Resource guide.
Hi there! I’m Wendy, founder of The Gratefulist and host of the #perfectionistproblems community for recovering perfectionists. I’m insanely passionate about helping you let go of your perfectionism. Let’s chat about the hard stuff - like dealing with comparison, people pleasing, your inner critic & starting a perfectionist detox - so that you can stop caring so much about what other people think and finally take on those dream projects that you've been putting off for so long.