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Good, Better, Best – Trouble With Perfectionism

Good, better, best
Never let it rest,
’til your good is better and your better best


Excellence is OK! We all want our children to strive for excellence. Quality work is a reasonable goal but perfectionism goes beyond excellence. It leaves no room for error. Since mistakes are unacceptable, perfectionism leads to unrealistic goal setting, feelings of inadequacy, sensitivity to criticism, persistent anxiety as well as procrastination.

What’s the Trouble with Being Perfect?

Perfectionism is an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, what could be wrong with someone wanting to do the very best job possible? However, the trouble with perfectionism is that it often leads to procrastination.

Take the writing of this article as an example. It has been on my “TO DO” list since early January. A newsletter on the topic of perfectionism, after all had to be perfect! Self-doubt crept in… Was I up to writing the perfect newsletter?? I didn’t think so. The more I thought about it, the more I worried about writing perfect sentences. I was seeking the perfect punctuation and prose in perfect sequence while also ensuring that everything was spelled perfectly. Eventually, I became aware that my inability to find the right words was impeding my ability to gain any writing momentum. I was so busy worrying about writing the right thing that I never got to write anything.

So here it is – days before I leave on holiday, I no longer have time to worry about perfection, I just have to do it! The cost of perfection to me was anxiety, self-doubt and certainly stress! Wouldn’t it have been better for me to capture the main thrust of my ideas and just written the newsletter?

This dilemma exists for students as well. Parents sometimes ask me about perfectionism while several others wished they had the problem! However, perfectionism is a double-edged sword. Grades and homework might be stellar but at what cost – anxiety for the student, stress for the parent and disruption everywhere.

If we do nothing and then pull out all the stops at the last minute and then think oh well we could have done better if we had more time. What a dangerous loop!

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