Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Perfectionism: What's Bad About Being Too Good? Is a well written and accessible self-help book for teens. It speaks directly to the reader in a conversational tone. Chapters are organized into ten sections, with headings such as, “Why People Become Perfectionists”, “What Perfectionism Does to Your Mind”, and “When and How to Get Help Coping”.
The book contains a quick and easy self-assessment quiz to see how serious a problem perfectionism might be for the individual. A table illustrates the differences between the pursuit of excellence (a healthy desire to achieve) and perfectionism (unhealthy striving for perfection). Quotes from real teens are interspersed throughout the text, along with comments from well known historical and contemporary figures.
Teens can learn to recognize their perfectionist tendencies, understand why these thoughts and actions are ultimately detrimental, and discover how to change their attitude and behavior. There's quite a lot of information packed into this 123 page guide! I would not recommend it for kids younger than about 12, as there are entries dealing with violence, the dangers of eating disorders, and self-mutilation. Examples of celebrities who died as a result of their eating disorders, and plain talk about the practice of “cutting” are probably best discussed with a parent after reading.
I like the practical advice about balancing work and play. The advice here is meaningful and easy to follow. It's also interesting to note that some very famous thinkers were unhappy people who did not consider themselves to be successful. A quote form Leonardo DaVinci sums up his feelings, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have.” Marie Curie, who discovered radium, once said, “I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”
Other topics addressed include overcommitment, setting reasonable standards, how parents may contribute to perfectionism, and how procrastination relates to perfectionism. The tips for procrastinators are real life solutions that can make a difference.
The final section includes statistics on teen suicide and signs of a teen in crisis. It should be read by parents as well as teens. There are lists of relevant organizations and publications at the end of each chapter. Web sites may not be accurate, as the book was published in 1999. All of the writing and recommended readings are still completely valid and valuable.