Nan Tien Temple Buddha among the lotus plantsIf perfectionism is a form of hunger (for approval/validation, reflection/attention, control/certainty), then how can we satisfy this hunger, how can we feed it?  The answer is: with the bread of acceptance!

Borrowing the language of the four noble truths from Buddhist psychology, I offer the following treatment (“self-feeding”) plan:

  1. The experience of reality as imperfect (i.e. dissatisfaction with reality the way it is) exists and is inevitable;
  2. The source of this suffering/dissatisfaction is a desire or an expectation for reality to be different from how it is, to be better than it is; i.e. the source of perfectionistic suffering is the striving to perfect what is;
  3. Perfectionism can be helped through the acceptance of the reality for what it is, in its perfectly imperfect suchness.

How’s this acceptance achieved?

The short answer is: by a) redefining the meaning of perfection and b) through mindful living (as a consciously-chosen philosophy of living) that allows you to recognize the ordinary perfection of what is.

The long answer is a curriculum of experiential precedents that I detailed in my 2010 book, Present Perfect.

As for redefining perfection, it is a matter of two paths – one dualistic and the other non-dualistic.  The first, dualistic,  strategy allows you to shift from a state-view of perfection to a dynamic/process-view of perfection – a relatively straightforward process that is easy to read about but requires a certain experiential homework to sink in.  The second, non-dualistic, strategy for reframing perfection is more nuanced: it completely collapses the distinction between perfection and imperfection.

Related: 3 Types of Perfectionistic Hunger

Resources: Present Perfect: a Mindfulness Approach to Letting Go (Somov, New Harbinger, 2010)

Creative Commons License photo credit: dorofofoto



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    Last reviewed: 17 Nov 2012

APA Reference
Somov, P. (2012). Buddhist Psychology Treatment Plan for Perfectionism. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 26, 2015, from


Reinventing the Meal
Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment
The Lotus Effect The Smoke-Free Smoke Break
Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. is the author of The Lotus Effect, Present Perfect, The Smoke-Free Smoke Break, and Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time.

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