child of God, wife, mother, recovering anorexic who longs to see the beauty in herself that she sees in the world around her

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Pursuit of Perfect

I have recently developed the habit of getting audio books when I go to the library.  I love to read but often just don't have the time.  I started getting audio books when I had a cd player in my car and now I play them in my kitchen while I am cooking dinner, doing dishes, and whatever else keeps me in the kitchen kid free for more than 5 minutes.  The other advantage of this is that I have a "dead tree book" (my dad-in-law's phrase since he got his Kindle) that I actually read when I have time to sit down and I have the one I listen to, so I get to have 2 books going at once and both get equal attention.

Currently I am listening to The Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Shahar. 

My first impression of the audio version is that the guy reading sounds vaguely like a robot and is at times a bit boring to listen to.  But the content of the book, however, fabulous.  I have only listened to the first of 7 discs and so far I have to say this book is hitting home in way too many ways.  I find myself on one hand agreeing with much of what is said and on the other hand wanting to throw my cd player to the ground because it is so right on that it is a bit eerie.  He even addresses eating disorders and the role that perfectionism can play in it.  

One part that resonated is how a perfectionist sees things only in black and white, success and failure.  There is no middle ground.  In the case of eating disorders, the perfection drives one to starve to achieve perfection and there is no moderation.  There is no such thing as one piece of cake because that means failure.  If you have had one piece you may as well finish what's left because you have already failed by swerving from your strict acceptable foods list.  It is all or nothing.  

I have also seen how others expectations of perfection, specifically my mom's, have shaped my own view of what is ok and what is not.  I am suddenly aware that my inner perfectionist has been come by naturally.  I was raised with often times unrealistic expectations and have come to put those on myself.  I don't try new things or like to make decisions because what if I fail?  

The author does a really great job of portraying stories to support the evidence that failure is a necessary part of a healthy life.  It is a terrifying perspective to be sure, but also a healthy one.  It is definitely worth the time to read, especially if you have bold or latent perfectionist tendencies in you.  I would recommend the actual book over the audio on this one.  The content is fabulous but the reader is a little boring.  If audio is all you can get your hands on though, it is still worth it.


  1. I've heard a lot about this book, but never actually sat down and made myself read it. I'm glad you posted this, because I think now would be a great time for me to do that. Doesn't the black-and-white get so exhausting? Ugh. Thanks for this post (and all posts .. I really enjoy your blog) and for reminding me about the book.