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Be Happy Without Being Perfect: How to Break Free from the Perfection Deception Hardcover – March 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to psychologist and Harvard Medical School assistant professor Domar (Self-Nurture), everything is never perfect, and if you expect it to be, true happiness and contentment will always be out of reach. To teach women to create reasonable expectations for relationships, careers and their bodies, the authors offer quizzes to determine how much perfectionism is influencing readers' lives and interview women struggling with perfectionism. In a three-part process, readers are encouraged to identify, challenge and restructure detrimental thoughts. For example, a woman who decides her neighbor is a more creative parent than she is because the neighbor sews exquisite Halloween costumes should tell herself, We all have strengths and weaknesses, and I do some things better than she does. The authors also offer step-by-step techniques to tame the perfectionist beast, such as meditation, yoga, mini relaxations and journaling, and advise readers on setting realistic exercise and eating goals. Although much of the advice, written with journalist Kelly, is obvious and easier said than done, it's also sound and detailed and provides a good starting point for perfectionist readers. (Mar.)
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"..A wonderful antidote for the anxious, depressed woman for whom no level of achievement seems to be enough. Doctor Domar fills her easy-to-read book with real life examples from her own practice and offers sold, innovative advice for dealing with unreasonable expectations of life and of self."
—Marianne J. Legato, M.D., founder and director, Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine

"Finally the message all women need to hear. It is time to stop beating yourself up and read Be Happy Without Being Perfect. It will save your life!"
—Susan Love M.D., president and medical director, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, and author of Dr. Susan Love's Menopause and Hormone Book: Making Informed Choices, and Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

"Smartly written, greatly insightful...there's not a woman I know who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. Take in its lessons and you will find a deeper level of contentment and satisfaction in each day. This is essential reading for every woman."
—Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., associate professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University and author of the bestselling Strong Women book series.

“Giving up perfect sets women on the road to true and sustainable health. If you feel trapped in any way by the need to have a perfect body, a perfect house, or perfect life on any level–you need this book. Now!”
—Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom, The Wisdom of Menopause, and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

"Perfection is the enemy of happiness. Dr. Domar teaches us to be more accepting of ourselves so we don't live in fear of failure."
—Mehmet Oz, M.D.,  professor of surgery, New York-Presbyterian  Hospital/Columbia Medical Center  

“Reading Be Happy Without Being Perfect allows women to exhale-- finally. We women are so tough on ourselves, that it takes a masterful advisor to get us to step back and think about changing our daily thoughts as well as our habits. Reading this book is like having a truly close friend, who you trust, and who just happens to be a psychologist, nutritionist and coach. The book is wise, humane, and it goes down easy. I enjoyed reading it- what's more, I have zeroxed a few of the pages and put them up in strategic zones ( bathroom mirror, refrigerator door). There is something in this book for just about every woman I know.
—Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of sociology, University of Washington and author of Prime: Adventures and Advice about Love and Sex and the Sensual Years

“We strive for perfection in everything we do…Work, the kids, the meals, and trying to be the dutiful spouse. But where does happiness fit into that equation? Not to worry. Dr. Ali Domar tackles all the misconceptions (and misplaced pressures) and gets you back on the right track. Be Happy Without Being Perfect gives you permission to be you, to be good enough, and find happiness along the way. It’s a must for each and every one of us.”
—Nancy Snyderman, M.D., chief medical editor NBC News

"In her  work as a psychologist, Domar (Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's  Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility ) found  that many of her clients felt overwhelmed, depressed, and out of control in  trying to live up to the media's depictions of women as perfect mothers,  spouses, hostesses, and decision makers. Together with fitness writer Kelly,  Domar here shows that perfectionism has been an issue for American women since colonial times, long before Martha Stewart made the scene. In her survey of  more than 50 women whose observations and advice appear throughout the text,  Domar identifies six areas of perfectionism: health and personal appearance,  housekeeping, work, relationships, parenting, and decision making. In each of  these areas, she demonstrates how the technique of cognitive restructuring, or  "retraining your brain," can be used to reframe common distortions in thinking  and result in realistic expectations and happier lives. Many women will  recognize themselves in the descriptions given by Domar and her respondents,  and even nonperfectionists can benefit from her advice on decision making and  coping with everyday stressors (e.g., journaling, meditation). Recommended for self-help and women's health collections in public libraries."
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; 1 edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307354318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307354310
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,383,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Left Brain Mom on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have been a perfectionist or striving toward perfection ever since my pre-teen years. As an oldest (hero) of a family with an alcholic mother and an engineer/lawyer for a father, my perfectionism runs deep. For my grades, I got "why the B?" and for my adolescent weight gain, I was ridiculed by my family. But the criticism that my family innocently enough started, I "perfected". I became a master at self depreciation. In fact, telling myself that "I did a great job" is painful for me, even when obviously true.

However, after reading Dr. Domar's book, I believe that I can change my thinking and become a much happier person. In fact, I have started using the cognitive restructuring tools and wow, what a difference. Here is an example: my son's birthday was last week and instead of ripping myself for not wrapping his package (and placing it in a blanket), I said to myself, "he is 12, we are away from home, who cares if the package is wrapped?...he just wants the present". And guess what? I was much happier because I didn't lay into myself with criticsim for somehting that really didn't matter. And, I enjoyed a very unperfect party. Yahoo!

For all the women who either struggle with, are paralyzed by or even just flirt with perfectionism, I highly recommend that you read this brilliantly written book. For me, freedom from constant perfectionistic thinking is happening! Thank you Dr. Alice Domar and Alice Lesch Kelly!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is not a book about conquering low self-esteem, but rather one about overcoming perfectionism. It is also written specifically for women. According to Alice D. Domar, perfectionism is a particularly American problem and also one that women are especially susceptible to.

The first few chapters offer a general overview, but then Domar drills down into the areas where women are most likely to suffer issues with perfectionism: body image, the home, work, relationships, parenting and decision making. Early in the book there is a quiz which helps the reader to identify their key issues (for me it was parenting and decision making, so I focused on those chapters).

Domar has a chatty writing style which makes the book easy to read but gets irritating after a while - I felt like saying to her enough about you, let's get back to my issues! She also spends a lot of time telling the reader why they need to change, but I would have thought that the fact that they were reading this book meant that they were already interested in changing and would like some advice on how to do it. Reading the chapter on parenting and all the problems that perfectionism can cause just made me feel worse about myself as a mother rather than feeling optimistic about how to do better.

In terms of how to change, the book is moderately useful. There are some good examples of cognitive distortions and how to replace them with more constructive thoughts. Domar also talks about the need for relaxation and offers guidance in visualization techniques, relaxation techniques and journal keeping. This section of the book also contains some excellent suggestions from stressed women on how they unwind.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Chicago Book Addict TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book after 6 months of seeing a psychiatrist and therapist. I felt as if I was making significant progress through medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. However, I found there were certain feelings of perfectionism I was still struggling to shake. After initially picking up the book I passed on buying it because my feeling was there was little I could learn from a book that therapy hadn't taught me. However, after seeing the title again at another bookstore something told me it was worth buying. As I am sure you can tell by the 4 stars I gave it, I am very glad I picked it up.
The most valuable part of this book for me was to be able to read the stories of others. There were so many stories in this book that felt like they were written about me and knowing that these women were able to overcome their perfectionism and go on to lead healthy lives gave me hope. It was also helpful because I think sometimes you can more easily see the flaws in someone else's ways so reading the stories of others was a great way to dissect my own behaviors in a non-threatening way. As a geek I also enjoyed the history of perfectionism as I love whenever a behavior or trend can be put into context.
I also really appreciated the exercises and techniques described in the book. They reinforced a lot of what I had been practicing in therapy for great continuity. Combined with the stories this book really guided my thinking about my tendencies and helped me make great efforts to adapt them. I've even brought the book in to my sessions with my therapist to help guide our conversations.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dave Carpenter on April 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In a world of quick read self-help books all too often serving up platitudes, it is a pleasure to read a thoughtful, constructive, guide book on such an important subject. Author Alice Domar does a wonderful job of weaving short snippets about her patients (anonymity protected of course), candid confessions about her own struggles with perfectionism, and compassionate guidance as to self help remedies. An occasional dash of humor makes for a most enjoyable read. (My wife and I howled at the story of Martha Stewart's "perfect" Thanksgiving.)

Couple of caveats for potential readers. This book was written for woman, a point not clear on the book's jacket front (what with the one highlighted reviewer being a male stating "Dr. Domar teaches `us' how..."). I believe the author's major points are largely applicable to men, albeit in a different enough context that males will likely not find this as effective a book. And, this book is much more about "perfectionism" than being happy. Perfectionism obviously is a barrier to happiness, but certainly not anything close to the end all of happiness. There has been a raft of excellent books of late on the overall subject of happiness (e.g., Marci Shimoff's Happy for No Reason) that would be a good companion read for reformed perfectionists looking to progress further on the road to deep happiness.

Notwithstanding those two caveats, I thought this was an important book, well written, and fully deserving of five stars.

Now, if only I had written a perfect review...
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