Self-Help for the Super Smart, Persnickety Perfectionist

(Apologies to Kondo fans, especially if she didn’t really say this.)

I know you. You are a deep thinker. Introspective. You seek growth, healing, and self-actualization. It is important for you to live a meaningful life and to contribute something to make the world better. You have strong perfectionist tendencies. Some might say you are persnickety or, on a bad day, well, impatient, demanding, and a little annoying.

It’s tricky, then, for you to find resources that can help you through the hard times. You have particular needs and tastes. The typical self-help books are too simplistic, repetitive, or predictable. Some make ridiculous claims. Or they are poorly written. Or they are written by people who are too pretty. With trust funds. Where the biggest trauma in their lives was not making the cheerleading squad. (No offense to cheerleaders, trust funds, or to pretty people.)

Maybe you finally find a self-help book or program that is written by someone who seems to have substance, complex ideas, and true compassion. But, then, you become disillusioned when you discover they live in a mega-mansion in Beverly Hills. Near Kim Kardashian.

What do you do? How do you find guidance that is valuable? Guidance that passes your rainforest-minded complexity test?

Here’s an idea:

Design your own custom-made self-help program. Take bits and pieces from many programs and combine them into a plan that works for you. Embrace the parts that make sense, reject the parts that don’t. Allow yourself to have a nonlinear approach where you are working on a few different projects at once. Just because, for example, mindfulness practices are the latest craze, there’s nothing wrong with you if you prefer tai chi or gardening or doing tai chi in your garden.

Here are some self-help programs and books that clients of mine have explored and combined:

Kristin Neff’s self-compassion model uses meditation, mindfulness, and journal writing. Seena Frost’s Soul Collage taps your creativity and intuition to design a personalized tarot-like deck of cards for deep processing of issues. Pema Chodron teaches a meditation technique called tonglen that reaches beyond the personal to the universal. Internal Family Systems is a model that guides you to identify and accept your many sub-personalities while deepening a connection to your higher Self. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is an oldie but goodie. Bibliotherapy recommends particular novels for insight into yourself. Larry Dossey’s One Mind can help you  explore a view of consciousness and spirituality. The app Insight Timer has many free guided meditations from which to choose plus a network of meditators.

Of course, there is always my book! (with the spiffy new cover) But you knew that. (Reviews on Amazon are greatly appreciated, by the way. Even very short imperfect ones.)

So, my dearest super smart, persnickety perfectionists, do not despair. There is a self-help plan that is right for you.

And, it includes keeping 30 books–on your nightstand.


To my bloggEEs: What self-help tools have worked for you? How do you custom design plans to meet your complexity needs? Thank you to the clients who inspired this post.

I attended our town’s annual library used book sale today and picked up The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Ben Zander. I’ve just started it but it’s looking like another good resource.

Want to hear me talk? I’m presenting a webinar via SENG on April 30, 2019, 4:30 PST. Join me online for: The Complex, Contradictory, Creative, Crushing World of the Gifted Adult.

I’m also speaking in Houston, Texas at the SENG conference July 19-21, 2019. I’d love to meet you there.


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

35 responses to “Self-Help for the Super Smart, Persnickety Perfectionist”

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  1. hanansucess30 Avatar

    Do you also suffer from maladaptive daydreaming?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Not sure what you mean by this, hanansucess30.

      1. hanansucess30 Avatar

        I suggest you watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty movie to understand the condition.

  2. medbright14 Avatar

    Very wonderful advice, I know it is because that is how I exactly “fixed” myself. LOL. You know I had tried so many things – books, videos, meditations, etc but nothing really could help. But reading and understanding the life of Steve Jobs did so much help for most of the things he said do ring bells in my personal life. Oh not forgetting Living with intensity, the book just hammered the nails in. Plus the material I read on this blog (thank you Paula, ur such a great gift to my life) and explanations from intergifted. This helped as it did speak to me and gave me insights that I could use. And somehow I have incorporated all the things I learnt/followed in the past, my life has real direction.
    I can say I have embraced who I am regardless of how it makes others around me feel(I am not arrogant but yeah so what if I am, 😂) , it’s wonderful to come to know that your not the “ugly” duckling, that you have an edge to think, feel, do and be better than those around you. To come out of a shadow you have lived under for more than 12 years.
    To know that your “perfectionistism” is a gift and not a curse, that having high standards is what makes you feel good, and understanding how to live positively as a gifted adult.
    Thank you Paula and hello to all RFMs.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      It’s wonderful to hear how you’re sorting all of this out, medbright14. Thank you for sharing some of your process.

  3. Ro Avatar

    I’m right into IFS. It successfully helped me integrate from a long-standing DID diagnosis. I’ve cultivated a relationship with Mother Mary (reparenting), I watch several ASMRtists on youtube (also reparenting). I spend meditative time in the garden. Practice shadow work. And funnily enough, decluttering my environment does help me enjoy life more. 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for these ideas, Ro. And thanks to Marie Kondo!

  4. M. J. Cuthbertson Avatar
    M. J. Cuthbertson

    Recently, I realized not a single self-help book had worked very well for me. Turns out, they were recommendations from others based on their perception of potential problems or my belief of what might be potential problems. Everyone, including myself, was incorrect. It was all based on flawed information.

    Myself included, not a single person knew or understood anything about 2E. The problems, or perceived problems, we’re not the actual problems. Turns out it doesn’t work to fix stuff that’s not broken while ignoring the things that need help.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      So glad that you’ve found the missing piece, M.J. Now as you read about twice-exceptionality, things may start to make sense. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Marie Watts Avatar
    Marie Watts

    Thank you for this information. I will definitely check them out. Also, your book is on a shelf in my bedroom, on my pile to read. I’ll have to put that one at the top

    Thank you Marie

    On Mon, Apr 15, 2019 at 9:43 AM Your Rainforest Mind wrote:

    > Paula Prober posted: “I know you. You are a deep thinker. Introspective. > You seek growth, healing, and self-actualization. It is important for you > to live a meaningful life and to contribute something to make the world > better. You have strong perfectionist tendencies. Some mig” >

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Hope you enjoy my book, Marie. Thank you!

  6. Katy S Avatar
    Katy S

    I really love Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way and Walking in this World

  7. Stef Avatar

    I also endorse the idea of creating (or writing) your own. So i did. Change Your Story, Change Your life. if anybody wants to check it out (It’ll say not a safe site because not https: but not to worry, as it doesn’t require anything from you, so clicking does no harm.). The book can be bought on Amazon, but it’s also a free, downloadable PDF on the Storyhealer site. The whole POINT of it, of course, is that we all do create our own story, whether we know that or not. Ultimate helping of self.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the link, Stef, and for being here!

  8. cathytea Avatar

    Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion has had lasting impact on me, not only helping me be kinder to myself, but also allowing me to have much more compassion and acceptance for others.

    I’ve also found really useful suggestions in autofspoon’s Hacking Your Executive Function, Great tips for taking care of oneself!

    And your posts always offer a breath of kindness and a moment to breathe.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you very much, cathytea. Oh, and I’ve been looking for something on executive function! Will check it out.

  9. veroniqz Avatar

    My self-help? Reading articles like this… Never seem to make it to the end of a book. Scared maybe, to find out the answer is not in there? I sometimes try to tell myself: leave it, there is no solution, you are not responsible to solve everything. And I turn to small things. Drawing. Gardening. Enjoying a walk. And I started a blog to share those thoughts and small things, probably just with myself, but it helps!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, veroniqz, Sometimes the small things are the most powerful.

  10. GoatyGoats Avatar

    I think motherhood is my best self-help tool. Raising an intense, 2e, introverted, rainforest-minded child has motivated my own self-actualization in order to help her build a strong self. Researching, indentifying, integrating or discarding is now part of my truest self. The sharing of what I’ve learned with DD has come back to delight and support me as she’s growing into a young woman. Learning her obstacles has sometimes had me looking in the mirror and has propelled us toward solutions.

    I was trying to put together a list of resources I’ve used, but it doesn’t really work that way for me. Resources don’t stand out individually. I stumble across an idea then start researching myriad resources and synthesize my own conclusions. I take the long way 🙂 I will say that the podcast “The Fringy Bit” has been amazing for DD – who hasn’t done the research that I have. The additional knowledge/experience the Boorman’s have as therapists is fantastic. DD identifies so strongly with the topics discussed there. They have made a huge impact on her life. Thanks so much Paula for doing an interview with them!

    I also find this blog a good resource for me personally. I appreciate not only the content, compassion, and experience provided but also participating with other rainforest minds.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes. For parents of gifted kids. Heather Boorman and The Fringy Bit. Thank you Goatygoats, for your words of support. 🙂

    2. bethplanetbethcom Avatar

      Me, too. I love the dialogue that Paula sparks. And I can relate to what you say, even though I’m not a mother! I am a mother, however, to myself. I don’t think I can verbalize it too well, but my life’s path has been quite unique, I needed to submerge my self for quite a long time, in order to merely survive a completely traumatic event at age 11. Now at age 57, I am raising myself, it would appear. And Paula is one of my Helpers, providing a way station along the way.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        So glad to be your Helper, Beth. My honor!

      2. GoatyGoats Avatar

        Beth, nurturing is nurturing, I agree 🙂 I was born into a codependent family where submerging yourself was the norm for females. While I wish you hadn’t had that traumatic event, I hope that it might have enriched your life in unexpected ways. Raising yourself never ends, does it?

  11. dmstauber Avatar

    Great post, and some resources I didn’t know about! I would add Barbara Sher (Refuse to Choose, Wishcraft, Live the Life You Love, and I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was). Her self-help is about accepting yourself as you are and getting support for what you love to do–no discipline or changing yourself! Her writings have changed my life several times.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, dmstauber. Multipotentialites benefit, in particular, from Refuse to Choose!

  12. Sandra Avatar

    Thanks Paula. Agree totally with the pick and combine approach. For me at the moment a mix of inspirational women I’m following – think Brene Brown, poet Naomi Shahib Nye, Michelle Obama, as well as podcast channels broadcasting new ideas. Also ashtanga yoga – mysore style. Expanding my creative expression skills, following courses in writing, color, design, music improvisation. And I also highly recommend to check out healing through dance – 5 rythms has particularly helped me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Love these suggestions, Sandra. Thank you!

  13. Lizzy Avatar

    Oh, the Marie Kondo rule on 30 books is funny. But I still loved her book. I figured out it was all about not keeping things out of guilt. I also like the original Brenee Brown book.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Lizzy. Many people follow Brene Brown. And many have benefitted from Marie Kondo as well.

  14. FTB Avatar

    hehehehe the image alone made my day!! <3 wonderful post

  15. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, Great advice, and great links to wonderful resources. I completely agree! And your photo of Marie Condo is perfect! I couldn’t get past the first few chapters… her advice may be wise counsel for some, but it was way too perky and simplistic for me, and geared toward people who are already naturally organized, like she was as a young child.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I haven’t read her book. Like many self-help books/programs, she’ll be right for some and not for others! Thanks for sharing, Gail.

  16. Ed Eby Avatar
    Ed Eby

    Or… Write your own book about your own psychology. You’re smart enough to do this! Besides, you probably know more about your own psychology than the pointy-headed shrink sitting across from you (apologies to all pointy headed shrinks out there).

    Honestly, before I will agree to meet with any counselor, I make them read a list of books, starting with “Living With Intensity,” which I consider the bible of the gifted.

    The good thing about writing your own book on your own psychology is that you can then share it with your friends and family. A few of them might actually read (or skim) it. You can have two or five pages of bibliography listings at the end, listing a ton of books and webpages.

    Writing things down helps to organize your thoughts. It gives you something to refer back to when life gets muddy again. You can update it, and publish revisions as you learn more things about yourself and/or you change.

    Maybe I’m just a nerd and like studying and writing. But then again, if you’re reading this blog, you’re not too different than me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for the suggestion, Ed.

    2. bethplanetbethcom Avatar

      Writing really does help you organize your thoughts. I belong to an online group for gifted adults, where there’s plenty of chatting, disagreeing, agreeing, and everything in between. I joined about 3 years ago, and it’s been quite gratifying to see how much my writing has improved. I mean writing more clearly, or supporting my opinion in a more logical manner.