Perfectionism and Ways to Manage It

October 31, 2017

by Qiao Li, Coordinator

The tendency to be a perfectionist is within all of us. As I start writing this blog, I find myself typing and deleting, starring at the screen trying to brainstorm the perfect sentence to write. Perfect sentence to write? That sounds oxymoronic!

Perfectionism is often branded as a positive stereotype, whereas if a person is a perfectionist, he or she must already mastered their school/work, they are going above and beyond and do not require additional help – much like the positive stereotypes associated with the needs of a gifted student.

Perfectionism is defined as the disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable. When in reality being perfect is just a myth, people who struggle with perfectionism are left with doubts and unacceptability. Perfectionists often experience self-criticism, anxiety, and isolation, which can lead to lack of confidence, low self-esteem, and sometimes depression.

Gifted children – who exhibit competitive qualities, highly self-critical, and have a high standard for excellence – are prone to struggle with perfectionism. They crave the perfect feedback from their teachers and parents; they take great pride in being known by their peers as the person who knows the answer to everything; they believe, based on their experience, that learning should always come easy; and they are good at anticipating expectations and try to live their lives by the approval of others.

Perfectionism manifests itself in multiple ways, and the struggle can be a lifelong challenge. It is important to recognize the debilitating qualities of this trait, but trying to manage it or even overcome it, is certainly possible.

These are some of the techniques people have shared:

  1. Value the journey

In so many cases, people put a tremendous amount of effort working toward their goal. Just because you fall short of your own expectations, does not mean you did not learn anything or you are a failure. The lessons and skills you learned along the way are valuable and can be applied to other tasks in the future.

Take exercising for example. It is one of the best ways to give value to progress. You may not be able to run a marathon in one week, but every time you run, you can feel the muscle ache and know that you are getting ever-so-closer to your goal. The end does not justify the means. The journey matters.

  1. Meditate

Meditation is a great opportunity to catch up with your thoughts and regulate imagination. Rather than allowing your imagination to conjure the worst possible outcomes when you feel you have let yourself or other people down, take a mental “time out” and meditate. Meditation increases sensory awareness, and helps with self-regulation. It is a moment to practice leaving behind self-doubt and judgement to just focus on the power of now.

  1. Practice self-compassion

When you feel overwhelmed with intense emotional stimuli, take a moment to practice breathing, and relive your favorite moment of the day. Take pride in small achievements of the day – did you make your bed this morning? What acts of self-care did you do? Asking positive mindset oriented questions can shift your mental state and lift you out of the dark place. Fill in the blank and remind yourself that “I am worthy of___.” No one is best at everything, all the time. Recognizing your potential and allowing yourself to learn from mistakes is a great way to practice self-compassion.

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