Books on Perfectionism – My Top 11 Books


In this post, I’m looking at books on perfectionism. I’m giving you the low down on my top 11 books about perfectionism. Hopefully you can use them to help you try to ditch this destructive habit. 

Perfectionism can be a real drag. It can cause you to procrastinate. Worse, you may not even try to achieve your dreams as you are afraid of it not going perfectly. So you just don’t bother. You miss a lot of the journey because you are terrified of making the wrong step. 

Plus a recent study shows that perfectionism is increasing. In the study they state:

Overall, in order of magnitude of the observed increase, the findings indicate that
recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves.

“Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time” A Study by Thomas Curran, from the University of Bath, and Andrew P. Hill, of York St. John University

I have come to really appreciate the imperfections in life. You could say, I am a wonky advocate. In a new Bullet Journals, I try to make a mistake right away. Or at least have something that doesn’t look quite right, at the start. This way, it quietens my perfectionism somewhat, since I already ruined it anyway.

I have curated a list of some of the best perfectionism books for you to read. If you want to know how to deal with perfectionism, or you want to overcome perfectionism.

“How to be an Imperfectionist” by Stephen Guise

“Perfectionism is a naturally limiting mindset. Imperfectionism, however, frees us to live outside the lines, where possibilities are infinite, mistakes are allowed, and self-judgment is minimal.” 

This perfectionist book aims to give you mini actions you can take to gradually let go of perfectionism. The idea is that it takes minimal motivation to get started. With the removal of barriers and embracing imperfection being a larger aim. 

His hypothesis is that people who embrace imperfection get more done, are happier and overall have less stress. Anyone who has ever dealt with perfectionism paralysis will definitely concur. 

This book gives you an overall understanding of perfectionism symptoms. It also covers how a perfectionists brain works. It then provides small actionable steps to help change your behaviour. 

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“Pursuit of Perfect” by Tal Ben-Shahar

“You don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly happy!” 

Tal Ben-Shahar runs a Positive Psychology course at Harvard. So he uses the scientific principles taught in that course in this book. He directs us away from perfectionism towards happiness and true fulfilment. So if you are interested in books about perfectionism, this is a good one to read. 

His focus is on the lessons that failure and painful emotions can teach us.  He provides exercises for self-reflection, meditation and thought exercises so you can rediscover what you really want out of life.

He uses the term “Optimalist” to describe someone who has positive perfectionist traits. A “perfectionist” to describe someone with more negative traits of perfectionism. The main difference being that an Optimalist accepts reality and failure whereas a true perfectionist doesn’t. 

The premise is the acceptance of a more balanced life. Taking the rough with the smooth and debunking the idea that happy people never feel sadness or have setbacks. 

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“Overcoming Perfectionism” by Ann Smith

Ann Smith is a codependency treatment pioneer. She states that while perfectionism has less stigma that other common compulsions, it has many similar negative connotations. There is quite a concentration on perfectionism in relationships, and how this behaviour affects family life. 

In this book, readers will learn how to identify covert and overt perfectionism. It also discusses the life circumstances that lead to this problem. It will show the importance of forgiveness and letting go. So it helps to lead you to reveal and accept your true self. 

There are process-oriented exercises throughout the book to help you learn how to stop perfectionism. Obviously though, with Smith’s background, there are significant links between perfectionism and codependency. You may or may not agree with Smith’s take on things but many people find this book helpful.

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“Too Perfect” by Jeanette Dewyze and Allan Mallinger

“Although many of us appear cool and confident on the outside, inside we are in emotional turmoil, trying to satisfy everyone, attempting to direct the future, and feeling that we are failing.”

This book shows how perfectionism problems sap energy, complicate even simple decisions and suck the joy out of life. 

This book focuses on overly analytical perfectionists. With revealing self-tests, fascinating case histories, and practical CBT strategies to help overcome obsessiveness and reclaim the right to happiness.

The ultimate idea is to become more aware of these behaviours in order to help overcome them. There are complaints that whilst full of insight, this book is light on practical advice to change the behaviour. 

Still, it is worth a read for the insights alone. It can sometimes feel a little uncomfortable to read due to how close to the mark it is.

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“The Gifts Of Imperfection” by Brene Brown

“When our embarrassments and fears lie, we often listen to them anyway. They thwart our gratitude, acceptance, and compassion—our goodness. They insist, “I am not worthy.” But we are worthy—of self-discovery, personal growth, and boundless love.”

This is a motivational and inspiring guide to wholehearted living as opposed to a book truly about living with perfectionism. Brown explores the psychology of releasing our definitions of perfect in order to live authentically. 

The book includes “Ten Guideposts” for authenticity that can help you establish a practice of having a perfectly imperfect life. Achieved through the cultivation of feelings of self-acceptance and self-love.

This is more of a revelation sort of book than one with practical advice. So if you are after more action and tips on how to get over perfectionism, then I would suggest starting with a different book first. 

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“Being Wrong” by Kathryn Schulz

Being Wrong looks at why we often insist that we are right about so many things. And why it is so difficult for us to admit to being wrong. Although it does not discuss the signs of perfectionism, it is definitely in the same wheelhouse and shouldn’t be discounted. 

Schulz uses traditional and modern philosophies and up to date neuroscience to explore the allure of certainty. 

It also talks about how we should admit our mistakes and the benefits doing so would bring. Particularly in 4 areas of our lives, religion, politics, memory and love. 

This book is a mix of psychology, philosophy and research. It is a great summary of how we get things wrong, why it matters. Showing how, ultimately, errors can be a really positive thing in our lives. 

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“The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism” by Sharon Martin

“Life isn’t perfect and neither are we.” 

This workbook provides a great overview of the causes of perfectionism, how it negatively impacts your life and then answers the question of how to let go of perfectionism. 

It advocates self-compassion instead of measuring your worth in terms of your accomplishments. You’ll also focus on prioritising the things that matter to you without being too rigid on attaining fixed goals. 

It provides a gentle approach to understanding yourself in a deeper way. It’s well written and easily accessible with a really lovely flow which encourages you to keep working through it. 

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“Present Perfect” by Pavel G Somov

This book is backed up by claims that a study in the Mindfulness Journal shows it helps to overcome perfectionism. Stating it reduced perfectionism causes and reduces self-criticalness.  

It says that when you try to change your perfectionist traits, it’s easy to be too hard on yourself. Therefore you fall into the same traps that keep you feeling stressed and disappointed.

Instead, it uses the Buddhist practice of mindfulness to learn to accept the present moment in all its imperfection.

This book has over 150 exercises and mindful practices. It aims to help you become more accepting and forgiving of yourself and others. 

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“The Perfectionist’s Handbook” by Jeff Szymanski

If you are working on letting go of perfectionism, then this book is a good place to start. It help your learn when perfectionism pays off and when it is sabotaging your efforts. 

The overall aim of the book is to harness the positive power of perfectionism. Then cast off the negative associations with the behaviours. 

I like that Szymanski states that Perfectionism should be reviewed as an ongoing process. Rather than a black and white, or good or bad, trait. With this believe comes the necessity to continually review your behaviour and harness the helpful and release the negative. 

The book is divided into two parts. The first explains what perfectionism is, including the problems associated with perfectionism as well as those things which aren’t problems. Next, the book explains how to harness the benefits of healthy perfectionism. 

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“The Joy of Imperfection” by Damon Zahariades

This perfectionist’s book aim’s to silence your inner critic and eliminate your fear of failure. It has a complete action plan with a step by step guide showing how to get rid of perfectionism. 

It doesn’t go into a lot of detail about the problems with perfectionism. Or the general theories about perfectionism and in some ways, this is a good thing. 

Instead, this stands out as a practical book with easy to follow exercises. Also, the chapters are succinct and easy to read. 

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“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is not strictly about problems with perfectionism, focusing instead on creativity. It speaks about the barriers to creativity. I would suggest without a doubt that perfectionism is a big creativity stopper. 

It’s practical, thoughtful, comforting and inspiring all at once. If you are looking for a less clinical, approach to tackling your perfectionism, this is the perfect place to start. 

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That is my round up of some of the top books on perfectionism. Let me know if you check them out and if they are helpful.

Also, get in touch if there is a book you really think I should be including that I haven’t.