The curse of perfection

One of the hardest aspects of being gifted is the tendency to think that perfection is expected.  Most of the gifted kids I work with, as well as the gifted adults I know(including me) get caught in a web of perfectionism.

This trait has some positive aspects.  It is perfectionism that compels a gifted individual to excel.  It is also the perfectionism that results in a higher level of quality in the things they produce.

But there are a lot of negative aspects as well.  Perfection often leads to an unwillingness to take risks, problems engaging fully in a task for fear of failure, and situation-specific depression related to feelings of inadequacy.

So what’s a parent (or an adult) to do…

For me, I think it starts with identifying the inaccurate thinking that most gifted people engage in.  Many people associate perfection with intellect, and a lack of perfection (and that is perfect with a capital P) with failure.  There is no grey area in between the two extremes.

I’ve interviewed many children and adults on this issue. The consistent theme throughout the interviews is that making a mistake, any mistake, makes them feel like a fraud – like they can’t be smart, talented, or whatever, because if they were, they would not make mistakes.

WOW! Talk about pressure. This is truly faulty thinking at work.

Once kids identify their own mistaken thought patterns, the next thing I teach is how to “self-talk” more accurate depictions of their competency.  By teaching this strategy, gifted individuals can begin to take control of their thoughts and redirect themselves towards a more functional way of looking at the world.

So, step 1 – identify faulty thinking;

Step 2  – replace it with logical, fact based ideas.

This strategy takes time…but it really works.  Try out – on yourself, or your kids!

2 thoughts on “The curse of perfection

  1. Great post! I definitely suffer from the fallacy of perfectionism. I have been able to overcome is slowly by adopting what I call Operation: Inhibition Annihilation. Basically, O:AI is all about me trying to push myself to do things I would never have been able to do when I was comfortable living a quiet, reward-free life. Since I adopted O:AI a year ago, I have started a new, lucrative job and expanded my blogging platform! Thanks for reminding me to keep it going.

    1. Andrea

      Thanks for the great blog.

      Hi Jonathon, Did you develop this yourself? I’m wondering how you address:
      1. Overexcitability (Dabrowski). People who already have intensities seem to get overwhelmed if a difficult problem is at hand, ie they get even more overexcited to a point where it feels and looks like panic ( or negative stress).
      2. Executive Skills. Many gifted don’t know how to or are unwilling to break down a difficult task into smaller, achievable goals. If they are able to or someone helps them, they often then see the project as “boring” or “tedious.” Thanks.

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