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The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes by Jeff Szymanski, PhD

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Chapter 1

Definitions and Types of Perfectionism

“You're such a perfectionist.” Are we supposed to feel insulted or flattered when we receive this comment? And what do people mean when they say that anyway? Do they label us as such because we are detail-oriented, organized, and systematic? When people enter my office as the executive director of the International OCD Foundation, they typically remark how neat and organized it is: “Suffer from the same affliction you claim to treat, huh?” Do they mean that being neat and organized qualifies me for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)? I thought I was just trying to give a good impression! You know, look competent—like an executive director should look. I mean, wouldn't it be a little strange if I had all of my files and books strewn around the office with the past three days' worth of coffee cups piled up?

So, what are we referring to when we say someone is a perfectionist? Is perfectionism a behavior that includes being detail-oriented and organized? Is it an intention, like giving feedback to help improve someone's performance and achieve a certain standard? Is it an attitude, one in which you are always concerned about not making mistakes and giving others the “right” impression of you? Or, is it about outcomes only? In other words, can you still be a perfectionist if you have a messy office? What behaviors and attitudes define perfectionism?

As a result of discussions with my patients and my research on perfectionism, I've put ...

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