The Imperfection of Perfection

Social Emotional Project: The Dangers of Perfectionism

Understanding your Perfectionist

This quote deems a sense of inspiration doesn't it? Who wouldn't want to always strive to be the best in everything that they do? When you were in school your teachers most likely told you, "Do your best!" or "Give me your best!" and when you didn't do as well, they would say, "This isn't your best." For most, these were words of encouragement for you to overcome challenging material. However, for the Perfectionist this quote takes on a new form.

For the Perfectionist student, the phrase, "This isn't your best." tends to be the prevailing thought in their mind. So they are forever chasing this unrealistic goal of perfection. In this article, you will gain an understanding of the Perfectionist child and ways that you may combat this mentality and redirect it in your young scholar as a parent or faculty member.

The Traits of the Perfectionist

  • They work hard to avoid a failure.
  • Instead being excited for a challenge, they feel drained.
  • They have low self-esteem
  • Sensitive to criticism
  • They believe parents expect them to be perfect, even if they don't.
  • They may procrastinate.
  • They feel anxious

Redirecting Negative Perfectionist Mentalities

Strategies for Guiding Perfectionists

  1. Remember, your child’s giftedness and emotional characteristics go hand in hand. Understand and appreciate perfectionism as a personality trait.

  2. Point out positive, imperfect role models in the media to help them understand that no one can be perfect.

  3. Pay attention to the pressure your child faces at home and at school.

  4. Learn to set priorities in your life and help your adolescent to do likewise.

  5. Teach the concept of “constructive failure”. We learn from our mistakes.

  6. Set high but realistic standards for yourself. Help your adolescent to have high standards for her/himself, but not to expect others to conform to them.

  7. Help your adolescent understand that frustration and pain can motivate one to become a problem-solver, hard worker, and emotionally healthy.

  8. Work with your gifted adolescent to improve self-evaluation skills.

  9. Praise efforts not just successes. Help him/her to understand their being is separate from the work they make.

  10. Avoid comparisons to others such as siblings and friends.

  11. Encourage and support your child’s passions and interests. Provide time for creative activities and risk taking.

  12. Don’t let study interfere with eating and sleeping.

  13. Encourage relaxation strategies.

  14. Always seek counseling if you notice depression, feelings of worthlessness.

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Standing in the Shoes of your Perfectionisit

Inquiry and Simulation based Activity

In the first part of the lesson faculty and parents will participate in an inquiry based lesson where they look at different clues (items) and attempt to discover their symbolic meaning for the perfectionist child. Each clue represents a different negative impact of perfectionism on the developing student. Once they believe they have to correct meaning they may flip over the clue card explaining the clue.

Recongizing the Perfectionist Child

The second part of the lesson is an simulation -based activity where parents and faculty will experience the frustrations of attempting to do a task "perfectly" but lacking the tools to complete the task. Perfectionist students tend to feel that they want to complete a task and do it perfectly but they may feel that their work isn't good enough or that they aren't smart enough to figure something out. Also attempting to chase this goal of "perfect" can be overwhelming for most students facing this issue. So this is your opportunity to simulate that frustration. Parents and faculty will be attempting to create a cube out of clay. The cube they will be creating has exact measurements, but the participants will not be provided with a ruler to make sure they are exact. The participants will also be given a strict time limit in which to complete the task. After the timer buzzes, be sure to debrief with the participants. Asking questions such as:

  • Were you able to do what was asked?

  • How did this make you feel?

  • In what way do you believe this activity relates to the experiences of Perfectionist student?

Video Resource for Parents and Faculty

Are Perfectionists Big Failures?

Discussion Questions for Faculty and Staff

1.What are some common behaviors and characteristics of students who are perfectionists?

2. How do students who are perfectionist affect others, such as friends, teachers, etc.?

3. Based on the pros and cons of perfectionism, do you consider it a trait that you would like to have? Why or why not?

4. How can we give gifted students who are considered perfectionists, the support they need to deal with the problem?

5. What is perfectionism?

6. If you, as a teacher, have a student who is a perfectionist, and that student is doing exceptionally well in you class, but you notice that the student is stressed out quite often, would you encourage the student to keep pushing him/herself or would you discourage the perfectionistic behavior? Explain