Book Excerpt: Everything I Know About Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism

Everything I Know About Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism by Debbie Jordan Kravitz.

At the age of 35, Debbie Jordan Kravitz heard four words that would change her outlook on life forever:

“You have breast cancer.”

As a side effect of her battle to rid her body of cancer, Debbie eventually found a way to overpower her lifelong battle with perfectionism. She embraced her recovery as an opportunity to reinvent herself, follow her dreams and start living her life, as opposed to trying to perfect it.

This experience led Debbie to write Everything I Know About Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism (available from Maliza Publishing at Everything I Know about Perfectionism details secrets and solutions for overpowering perfectionism from a young breast cancer survivor and “recovering” perfectionist. Through Debbie’s experience, as well as the stories of other inspiring recovering perfectionists, you will discover:

• why perfectionists do what they do,
• the negative and sometimes secret consequences of living a “perfect” life
• life-changing “A-Ha” moments from recovering perfectionists, and
• solutions and strategies for overpowering your own perfectionism or helping the perfectionists in your life recover.

The following is an excerpt from Debbie’s book and highlights Laura, one of the many real-life stories of recovering perfectionists . . .


Everybody procrastinates from time to time. It’s human nature to put off things that are unpleasant or difficult. But for perfectionists, procrastination takes on a different perspective and seriously damages productivity.

In the pursuit of unreachable standards, perfectionists endlessly spin their wheels rather than move forward. In some cases, they never even start a project. The quest for perfection can be so intimidating that productivity literally screeches to a halt.

That is when procrastination sets in.

Perfectionists often put off a task knowing that to make the result flawless, it will require a lot of work. It may even require several attempts; many, many attempts if perfectionism is in high gear.

Some reasons that perfectionists fall into the procrastination trap is because they can never seem to find the perfect time to begin a task, the perfect tools or supplies for the task, or the perfect time to finish the task. Rather than just jumping in and making do, they wait for this perceived perfect situation in which to work. Inevitably, one aspect or another does not measure up to these high standards, and rather than risk failure, the perfectionist pushes aside the task for yet another day. For perfectionists, procrastination is about much more than just poor time management skills. It is about avoiding potential failure.

Laura’s Story

Laura, 45, works in the computer repair and consulting field. Although she currently considers herself a “recovering” perfectionist, Laura admits that during the height of her perfectionism, she also dealt with procrastination. “If I did not think that I could do something perfectly, I didn’t do it at all, mostly to avoid ridicule and feeling like a failure.” As a result, she consciously decided that if she could not complete a project perfectly the first time, it was better to never even start. Her standards were just too high and too rigid.

As an adult, procrastination resulted in a cluttered house, a disorganized business and haphazard financial records. She put everything off rather than risk not being able to get it done perfectly. As her disorganization grew, Laura found herself even more overwhelmed, and she saw perfection becoming less and less likely every day. It was a vicious cycle that continued for years.

Laura decided she needed to change her perfectionistic ways when she realized her young children were in danger of inheriting her over-the-top expectations. She lived by the belief that if her house couldn’t be perfect, any effort was just wasted effort. “Perfectionists want it Home and Garden beautiful in one day. When it doesn’t happen and we get discouraged, we give up the whole idea. We crash and burn, so to speak.”

Laura’s house was chaotic and disorganized, and her impressionable children were watching everything she said and did. “This is not what I wanted them to emulate.” Laura confronted her husband with the fact that what they were both doing around the house was simply not working. “My perfectionism was a ball and chain around my leg, and I had to get rid of it if I wanted to get control of my life and give my kids a better life.”

Laura stumbled across the book Sink Reflections, by Marla Ciley (a.k.a. “The Fly Lady”). Laura began to reinvent her ideas about housework as it related to her perfectionism. “First my belief system had a major overhaul, followed by an overhaul of my thoughts.” Gradually, she began to live by the wise words of Ciley. Laura constantly reminded herself, “Progress, not perfection,” “Even five minutes of work on a problem is progress,” “Your house didn’t get dirty and cluttered in a day, so it will take more than one day to clean it up.” Slowly, the clean spots got bigger. “I started to feel like I might actually be able to kick perfectionism to the curb and create the life that I wanted, and deserved. The tide was turning. I still have a lot to do, but I feel that I am fighting a battle that I will eventually win.”

As Laura and her family work toward a more organized living space, she is conscious to eliminate the need for perfection from the end result. With her family’s happiness and harmony in mind, Laura is able to achieve her goals. “I still catch myself in my old thought patterns, but I recognize them and deliberately replace them with something more constructive. I can honestly tell myself that things are better and that I can improve, even just a little bit, every day.” Laura compares her struggles to overcome perfectionism, disorder, and clutter to peeling an onion. “Each time I clean up a space in my home, I shed another layer of clutter and disorganization. It is not clean, yet, but I am definitely getting closer.”

You can read more about how Laura battled perfectionism, as well as other motivating and inspiring stories of “recovering” perfectionists, in Debbie’s book >“Everything I Know about Perfectionism I Learned from My Breasts: Secrets and Solutions for Overpowering Perfectionism.” (2009, Maliza Publishing) available as a soft cover book for $19.95 plus shipping, or as a downloadable ebook for $10 from For organizing tips and ideas, visit Debbie’s blog,

Buttoned Up will be giving away copies of Debbie’s great book. Our contest will begin on Wednesday!