1. You remember every mistake you ever made–even the time you threw the chair in kindergarten because you already knew that A is for Apple and you didn’t know why they didn’t seem to realize that A is actually for Ardent Avaricious Alligator.
2. You won lots of awards as a teenager for your ___ abilities. (fill in the blank: musical? debate? academic? athletic? other?) But you never felt satisfied because you knew how much better you could be.
3. You have trouble completing projects because they won’t turn out how you envision them and then you’ll be terribly disappointed in yourself and your suspicions of impostor-ism will be confirmed. You’ll have to move to a foreign country and join a cult.
4. When you do accomplish something, you raise the bar before you can appreciate what you’ve done. And you’re getting a little too old for the high jump.
5. You procrastinate until the very last minute on most things because you’re terrified of failure and you’re convinced that failure is likely because you really aren’t very smart. So you’ll have to move to a foreign country and join a cult.
6. You procrastinate until the very last minute on most things because if your work isn’t great, you have an excuse. You can say, “Heh. I’m a busy person. I don’t have time for such trivial pettinesses.” But what you’re thinking is, “OMG, I am a total failure now and for all time.”
7. You have to be the best, the smartest, the fastest and the right-est. All the time.
8. In five years you’ve painted your living room twelve times and the color still isn’t right.
9. Either you color code your clothes, alphabetize your books and need to control your visual environment or you live in clutter-town.
10. You don’t think that any of these signs are very funny.
What You Can Do About It
1. Make this your mantra: My worth as a human is not dependent on how much I achieve.
2. Distinguish between healthy perfectionism that looks like very high standards and aims for beauty, balance, justice, harmony and precision and unhealthy perfectionism that looks like anxiety, paralysis and worthlessness when faced with a task where you’re not guaranteed success. The former, you learn to love; the latter, you work to heal.
3. Make this your mantra: I learn more from failures than I do from successes. My failures will make a much more fascinating memoir.
4. Read Dweck’s book Mindset and practice having a growth mindset where you recognize that your intelligence isn’t fixed. Struggling with a problem and having to practice something to learn it builds brain cells.
5. Read Burka and Yuen’s book Procrastination for an in-depth explanation and for in-depth solutions.
6. Make this your mantra: A mistake is not the same as a failure.
7. Build a relationship with your inner perfectionist. Dialogue with him/her in your journal. Find out what s/he needs to feel safe and understood.
8. Find something fun that you can do that’s more about the process than the product.
9. If you’re a parent, make it a family project to try doing activities that challenge you. Have everyone in the family choose something they want to do but avoid because they suspect they’ll feel incompetent. Do the activities and then talk about what it was like. Appreciate the courage it took to look unskilled, inadequate and clumsy.
10. If your unhealthy perfectionism is so entrenched that these ideas aren’t helping, find a good therapist. If you’ve grown up in a seriously dysfunctional household, you may have felt pressure to be perfect as a way to get your parents’ attention and love. Those patterns can continue into adulthood and keep you from finding your true Self and your authentic voice.
To my bloggEEs: Looks like you’re starting to interact more and benefit from each others’ comments. Thank you for all of your thoughtful sharing and support. Tell us how perfectionism has been a part of your life and what you do to work with it. Let us know if you’ve found any helpful resources. For a detailed description of perfectionism, see this wonderful article by Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center.
This post is part of a blog hop with Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Click on this link to read many wonderful posts on perfectionism written by parents of gifted children and professionals.