The Monkey Mind Workout for Perfectionism – Jennifer Shannon

“Break free from anxiety and build self-compassion in 30 days!”

Perfectionism is one of those ‘joke’ answers when asked in an interview about your biggest weakness. Oh, I’m such a perfectionist – like it’s a good thing. But it’s really not much of a joke: it can be a debilitatingly stressful way to live, and often stops people from living up to their potential. At the end of the day, we’re all human and all make mistakes – and that’s fine. There’s a calmer, more streamlined way to live, and that needs a loosening of any of those perfectionist tendencies. Easier said than done, but here’s a friendly guide to help 🙂

This book is a lovely light-handed take on the psychology of it all, based around the idea of the ‘monkey mind’: that bit of ourselves that lurks under the thinking, logical brain. When it decides to feel threatened, the ‘woo woo’ alarm it makes can alter our behaviour, usually for the worst. Ultimately, it all boils down to anxiety that we’re going to be ejected from ‘the tribe’ for failures – as illogical as those thoughts can seem. The good news is that you can train yourself to behave differently.

We start, after an introduction on the topic, with a link to an online test to take before and after, if you want to gauge your progress, as well as QR codes to additional resources. Then, over 30 chapters (so one a day for a month), there’s a short exploration of a perfectionist behaviour, how it ties back to that ‘monkey mind’ (ie, what’s really going on in that brain!), before an exercise to challenge yourself with, to break the behaviour.

Chapters cover things like accepting criticism, dealing with ‘no’s (by deliberately asking for things you know aren’t going to happen), letting go of tasks before they are ‘finished’ to your usual standard, and being willing to make mistakes and not only risk but actively pursue failure (by doing something you are bad at, or totally new to). While a few tasks share a core underlying behaviour, the 30 generally feel quite different.

I do think the month timeframe is over ambitious (the irony!), although that might just be me. Some of the exercises felt incredibly challenging, and I couldn’t go from one straight to the next – my nerves just wouldn’t take it! However, it’s these ones that do feel so hard to do that are probably touching the real problem areas, and the ones that felt ‘no problem!’ are things I most likely tackled without help over the last several decades 😉 I do wonder what it says about me, though, that I just scoffed at the idea of not spellchecking… eep! 😉

Overall, I think this is a really well thought out book. Making changes to your fundamental behaviours and ways of thinking is a *huge* thing, and tackling that from a book isn’t easy. But I think the approach is spot on: mini-challenges, with enough explanation of what you’re attempting to change, plus a nice dose of humour, both from the ‘monkey’ and regular cartoon strips of example scenarios.

I will now go and give myself a pat on the back for not rewriting too much of this review – it’s not perfect, but that’s okay! 🙂

NetGalley eARC: 176 pages / 30 chapters
First published: 2021
Series: Monkey Mind books (incl. Anxiety workbook, and Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind)
Read from 6th June – 1st August 2021

My rating: 8/10

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