Psychological Self-Help

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resulting in anxiety and/or depression. (2) Socially induced—where the
person’s culture or general social environment demands very high
performance, resulting in feeling unable to make the grade. (3)
Imposed by specific others—usually a parent, a boss or a spouse who
insists on perfection, resulting in a miserable situation. In short, there
are several ways to get there. 
Are you perfectionistic? Consider these questions: Do you try to do
the best you possibly can in almost everything you do? Do you avoid
doing things you can't do well? Do you get upset and harshly criticize
yourself when you make a mistake? Is being average embarrassing to
you? Do you expect to be outstanding if you work hard enough? Are
you sacrificing your personal life for your career? Do you think people
will think less of you if you don't do well? Do you value being precise
and logical, and distrust your intuition and emotions? Do you over-
emphasize the importance of what you say or do, or of your work? Do
you often feel that one little flaw ruins the whole thing? Do people call
you nit-picky or a control freak? Do you expect to be a super parent or
to please everyone? Do you often feel guilty? Do you expect a lot of
others too? If you are answering "yes," you are probably a
perfectionist, maybe overly controlled and a workaholic too. Mallinger
& DeWyze (1993) is a good reference for a compulsive perfectionist. 
In general (there are exceptions), worriers with impossibly high
standards are not better decision makers and more productive than
people with more reasonable standards. Perfectionists are often over-
demanding on themselves and have lower rather than higher self-
esteem, poorer rather than better relationships (they expect perfect
partners too), and less stick-to-it-iveness rather than more, according
to David Burns (1980). Perfectionists strive for the impossible; they
say to themselves "I must...should...ought to," rather than "I
want...wish...would like." They are often slavishly avoiding failure,
rather than eagerly pursuing excellence. They think in the same
illogical ways depressives do (see theories above), e.g. they set
unreachable goals, and then judge themselves to be failures. In
addition, constant worry causes health problems. Tell yourself that it is
unnecessary to be perfect; being average in many or most ways is just
fine. You can change the way you think; you can avoid too high
demands in the future and discard excessive regrets about the past
(Freeman & DeWolf, 1989). But it may not be easy; perfectionists
often fail to improve much in therapy. 
There are seven steps in the treatment for perfectionism proposed
by Burns: (1) list advantages and disadvantages of striving to be
perfect, which should encourage the person to give it up, (2) rate the
expected and then the actual satisfaction with several activities, which
will show the person that he/she doesn't have to be perfect to enjoy
an activity, (3) try for an entire day to rate many things as either
perfect or not perfect, proving to the rater that the world isn't black
(imperfect) or white (perfect) although he/she may think that way, (4)
record for a day each self-critical thought and consider what would be
a more reasonable and self-tolerant viewpoint, (5) design an
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