It’s late. It’s late and I’m tired and my body is threatening an all-out revolt if I don’t slow down. It’s firing a warning shot right now with the beginnings of a sore throat. I’d best listen or I will certainly pay the price. Of that I am certain.

It’s the untold toll of perfectionism, both good and bad. Bad perfectionism is what gifted adults struggle against. You know what it is, I certainly don’t need to describe what you live every day. Good perfectionism is…well, I have a heavy dose of it. It’s just part of me. I’m playing piccolo in our village summer band. There is no hiding when you play picc. There’s only one, it’s very noticeable, and Stars and Stripes Forever is pretty much required. So perfectionism kicks in to protect me from myself. I will play my parts perfectly so as to not embarrass myself. I have done that in the past, it is ugly.

We waited a year after moving in, but my husband and I are painting every last square inch of our home this summer, room by my God are we done YET room. Good perfectionism makes me fix the mistakes that probably only I can see, because if I see them again and again and again I’m going to be ticked I just didn’t fix them in the first place. And lemme tell ya, we’re rolling over paint jobs that were most certainly not done by perfectionists. It’s been a long year.

Of course, good perfectionism can descend into bad perfectionism quicker than you can blink. It’s kind of like a cantaloupe smelling like summer in the store, only to immediately give off a stench like my sons’ laundry basket by the time I get it home. So I work at that. I’m no longer a professional or even semi-professional flutist, so I give myself a rare bit of leeway. Good enough just is, for a change. And when I see roller strokes on the wall, I just remind myself that the universe was created from imperfection, I can live with a few funky spots. And hang some pictures.

Finally, as I do more and more writing, I find myself with an angel perfectionist and a devil perfectionist sitting on each shoulder. As I type, one is whispering that this is really a throw-off post and it’s not worth reading and if you’d started earlier maybe you could have written something of quality. The other is gagging that one, allowing me to finish the post before I fall asleep sitting up. They both have their place, it’s simply up to me as to which one succeeds.


Jen writes over at Laughing at Chaos, where she almost always but not quite writes something of quality. She is the author of If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional, to be published by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Press summer 2012. She is in dire need of a vacation, a personal assistant, and a massage therapist on call.


2 thoughts on “Good perfectionism

  1. I need to find my angel perfectionist and kick her into gear! I think I’ve been spending way to much time lately listening to the devil. Also, with the stress of raising and educating a houseful, I think I’ve become a …what do they call it? Defeated perfectionist? As in, I know I won’t succeed so I don’t bother trying. *Definitely* need to work on that one. And even thought it kills me to click “post” on this silly comment where I don’t know the right vocabulary, I’m going to kick my perfectionist devil to the curb and do it anyway. 😉

  2. Thanks for the reminder that there is an upside to Perfectionism. It is so easy to see the trouble it gets me into, but not always so easy to acknowledge when it helps me achieve great things.
    Your story of repainting because you know the details WILL bother you in the future reminds me of the home theatre system at my house. We have spent far more money on that thing than I would have done on my own because my husband designs components of the darn things for a living. He spends his days looking for flaws in video and audio processing. He cannot come home and relax watching tv without an excellent system at home because he cannot untrain his brain to look for the flaws he gets paid to fix.

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