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The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control

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11 April 2023

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I recently came across a book entitled “The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control” by Katherine Morgan Schafler. Schalfer is a multi-talented woman to say the least – a psychotherapist, writer and speaker based in NYC. She’s earned her psychotherapy credentials from both UC Berkeley and Columbia University, so it’s safe to say that she’s well trained in this area.

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Her book took the world by storm, and was titled an invitation to every “recovering perfectionist” to challenge the way they look at perfectionism and themselves.

This book is well-written, enlightening and a good read because Schafler tells us we’ve got our take on perfectionism all wrong and that we must look at it from a distorted lens. It’s full of anecdotal stories, humour, some darkness and depth, all while being informative and educational. 

She says that for years, we’ve been told that as women we need to find balance to be healthy, but she wants to break that paradigm with a different approach. She wants you to embrace being a perfectionist rather than being embarrassed by it.

In the first half of the book, Schafler focuses on breaking down the meaning of perfectionism so that we can understand the type of person we are. The second half of the book focuses on ways to restructure particular types of habits so that they aren’t working against you. She uses real life examples and stories of her experiences with female clients, so it feels relatable and really lived. 

She breaks down the 5 subtypes as:

Classic Perfectionist

These perfectionists tend to be reliable, consistent, all about the minutiae of the detail and they like their stable routine. They struggle to adapt to any new obstacles or changes, and experience immense inertia. 

Intense Perfectionist

These perfectionists are driven by their ability to maintain intense focus for their goals. Their standards appear to be impeccably high, and they can be extremely judgmental and punitive if their goals are not met. 

Parisian Perfectionist

These perfectionists hold immense value in interpersonal connections and relationships and are extremely intuitive and empathetic. They have an extreme desire to be loved, accepted, valued and seen and left unchecked they can become toxic people pleasers. 

Messy Perfectionist

These perfectionists push through anxiety of change and adapt to spontaneity well, and are naturally enthusiastic and optimistic. They struggle to stay focused on their goals, and therefore end up spreading themselves quite thin and feel a sense of restlessness. 

Procrastinating Perfectionist

These perfectionists love preparing, planning and running admin. They see opportunities holistically and have good impulse control, but struggle to translate that into action and this can result in indecisiveness.

The Perfectionists' Guide to losing control

Schalfer notes that once you understand your perfectionist profile, you can understand how to manage that form to work for you, rather than against you. Upon reading the different perfectionist types, I immediately resonated with the profile for a messy perfectionist. 

I utilised Schafler’s teachings to use that as my power, and harness it in a constructive way. Now, I use my tendencies to focus on the immediate needs, rather than over-committing and under-delivering.

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