"Some people are stressed because they are perfectionists. Perfectionism is an instructive phenomenon. It is like a cartoon, a hyperbole, whose exaggerated qualities suggest qualities we also possess, but more moderately. A perfectionist is a person whose mission in life is to avoid flaws or mistakes at any cost. I often see students in my office who suffer from perfectionism. They usually come because they are anxious and depressed and think they are mentally ill. Once their perfectionism is identified, the dynamics become clear. They very often procrastinate doing their schoolwork because they want it to be perfect. They want to remember perfectly and write perfectly. Because they doubt their ability to achieve this, they avoid their tasks or suffer from procrastination. As a result, they hand their work in late, their grades fall, and they become anxious and depressed about the prospect of failure. One student, a senior, came in depressed because her straight A record was spoiled by a B. Perfectionists suffer at every endeavor because their desire is impossible to achieve. No one and nothing is perfect, except in the sense that it is perfect as is.

"Perfectionists constantly look for what they are trying to avoid. They are constantly looking for what they fear. All a perfectionist sees are flaws and mistakes. I had an aunt who was a perfect housekeeper. In every room she went into, she looked for dirt. She was always looking for dirt. To a perfectionist, the possibility of encountering dirt, disorder, or imperfection is stressful. It is a sign and a symptom of their creature vulnerability. If something can go wrong, everything can go wrong. Their perfectionism is a ritualistic pattern of avoiding failure, pain, sickness, and death. On the other hand, almost everyone is stressed by the possibility of failure, pain, sickness, and death. The operative words are 'almost everyone.' "