Book Review: The Perfection Deception

Book Review: The Perfection Deception

For most of you this review will come as no surprise. I talked about this book in my post on overcoming perfectionism.

This book, by Dr. Jane Bluestein is the reason I became interested in the topic of perfectionism as it applies to the ADHD community, particularly women. Perfectionism is so pervasive in women with ADHD that I am starting to think of it as a comorbidity.

The Perfection Deception breaks down the “culture of perfectionism” as it exists today. I think the breakdown is what pulled me in. I had never considered perfectionism as a big picture issue.

I had always thought of perfectionists as overachievers. In women, I associated perfectionism primarily with appearance or image. The physical appearance part of perfectionism is only one aspect of a larger problem created by our apparent admiration for “being busy. “

What do I mean by that?

I mean this whole trend of appearing “busy” will probably need a post of it’s own.

Business, and its trappings (stress, lack of sleep, deliberate overscheduling) has become entirely too glamorous. These days you not only have to look good, but you have to look busy and in demand.   As Dr. Bluestein points out through one of her sources, “stress helps you seem important.”

When you have ADHD you are already dealing with some executive function deficits, so overscheduling, over-planning and generally over-doing everything is a recipe for disaster.

The second major epiphany I had while reading Dr. Bluestein’s book was that perfectionism is rooted in fear. To me perfectionism felt like a sense of control, but I had never been able to connect the dots between fear and control.

I was/am a perfectionist because feeling in control helps me to deal with my FEARS. Fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of emotional intimacy. But I was not able to figure all of that out until I read through The Perfection Deception.

One of the best lessons of this book is how we develop into perfectionists based on outside influences. As children we become adept at winning the approval of others. At such a young age we have no frame of reference for developing internal rewards.

By the time we are adults, some of us are completely dependent on outside approval to feel comfortable in our own skin.

One of my favorite quotes is from a chapter entitled Building Our Identity, where the author discusses how family dynamics play a role in perfectionism. She writes, “whatever our parents’ feedback or reactions, we naturally assume these messages must say something true about us.” This hits home with me because I know that some of the things that were said to me as a child still echo in my mind. I do not want to repeat this with my own child.

Another realization when one reads this book is the idea that perfectionism not only hurts you, but also the people around you. When you are constantly self-critical and filled with doubt, these feeling of inadequacy start to emanate from you.

Worst-case scenario you take out your anxiety on the people closest to you. As the author explains, “it’s hard to restrict the pressure we put on ourselves to ourselves, and often these attitudes spill over in the form of irritation, micromanaging, criticizing and nagging.”

There is nothing that would upset me more than for anyone to think I was criticizing them. I am so criticism averse that the thought of hurting someone else in that way is painful for me. This passage got me thinking about ways that I might be pressuring my son or even my husband to conform to my need for perfection.

Earlier in this review I mentioned the idea of physical perfection as a smaller part of a big picture. While reading this book I started to see a frightening amount of evidence that not only do I suffer with ADHD and perfectionism, but I also definitely have some body image issues.

Body image issues are nothing new to me, but until I read through Dr. Bluestein’s chapter called The Perfect Stress for Body and Mind, I hadn’t considered that my patterns of thought are truly disordered. Nor had I considered that using stimulants, as many people with ADHD do, is common in perfectionists.

No wonder so many people with ADHD become “dependent” on stimulant medications. When you feel like you have to be perfect you will do, or take, just about anything to feel like you are measuring up to the world’s expectations.

My whole obsession with calorie counting, macronutrients, cleansing, exercise and how many steps I take in a day are part of my perfectionistic drive. I cannot believe I am admitting that, but I am.

I cannot even explain to you how beneficial this book was for me in terms of making these realizations about myself. If nothing else, at least I am spending less time beating myself up.

The Perfection Deception is a fascinating and fast read for anyone interested in (or grappling with) perfectionism, self esteem, disordered eating and yes, ADHD. This is a piece of writing that is not so much entertaining as educational. It will make you think and evaluate the lenses through which you see the world.

I highly recommend The Perfection Deception.  You can purchase a copy here:
The Perfection Deception: Why Striving to Be Perfect Is Sabotaging Your Relationships, Making You Sick, and Holding Your Happiness Hostage







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