Ann W. Smith is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of Grandchildren of Alcoholics. In this revised and up-dated version of her successful book of the same title, she lays out the differences between overt and covert perfectionism and ways to break old habits and move into a more balanced and fulfilling life. To learn more about Smith, visit

Smith provides tests which can help you discern whether or not you are a perfectionist. She then goes on to discuss some of the indicators of this malady, such as avoiding stillness and quiet; placing excessive demands on time and energy, yet never doing enough; obsessing over the details of a task and making it bigger than life; being frustrated with and criticizing the imperfection of others; practicing rigid, purposeless rituals; feeling inadequate, guilty, and shameful when your humanness shows; competing mentally or behaviorally in any endeavor; and struggling with spirituality and feeling unworthy and judged.

Smith points out that perfectionism has a way of discoloring our relationships at home and at work. Individuals from painful families often are unable to reach for balance because of emotional neglect, shame as discipline, praise without affirmation, violation of boundaries, and repression of feelings.

The only way out of this prison is to identify the major ingredients in your perfectionism; to cherish and nurture your essence; and to let go and forgive. Giving yourself the gifts of acceptance and humor opens many doors to new possibilities. In the last chapter, Smith celebrates the art of living with imperfection, delivers a set of affirmations to lift up your spirit, and puts out the welcome mat for spiritual practices.