017: Ask David — Dare to be “average”—The perfectionist’s script for self-defeat

In this podcast, David answers a challenging question posed by a listener:

Dear Dr. David:

In your Feeling Good Handbook, you suggest that the reader just allows himself or herself to be an ordinary person instead of trying to be perfect. Contrary to your opinion in the book, you’re an outstanding therapist in reality. You’ve studied in one of the world’s top colleges, you’re well-educated with a doctor degree, and successful in your career and life. How can I believe your claim? I’m quite confused!

Sincerely, XXX

David first distinguishes perfectionism from the healthy pursuit of excellence, and then describes a painful incident when he was a Stanford medical student. One afternoon, he attended an afternoon Gestalt encounter group at the home of a friend and mentor in Palo Alto. During the group he was ripped to shreds by the other participants. At the end of the group, the other participants seemed elated, but he felt intensely humiliated, ashamed, and discouraged. This led to an unexpected interaction with his mentor that helped to change his life.

David also discusses his clinical work years later with a depressed and anxious professional who had never experienced even one minute of happiness in spite of a life of fabulous success and achievements.

At the end, David and Fabrice promise a future podcast on this topic: “Self-Esteem: What is it? How do I get it? How can I get rid of it once I’ve got it?”