Perfectionism is complicated, difficult, important and quite common in bright people. In groups this month, we are taking about making mistakes, being wrong, messing up, trying things that feel scary and allowing mistakes to lead our learning. Students are being challenged to take on something new that has always felt a little scary to them. They are being asked “What have you wanted to do that you have always been afraid to try?”

Perfectionism has a few things to think about:

  • Healthy vs. Unhealthy perfectionism: It can be healthy to strive for your best. It becomes unhealthy when it prevents you from doing things, trying new things, or finishing work. It is healthy when you go above and beyond in something you love and you feel proud. It is unhealthy when you focus on the mistakes and negative self-talk dominates.
  • Black and White Thinking: Learn to see gray! Perfectionist see things as either/or. You are smart or dumb, good or bad, right or wrong. The world is full of gray. You are smart and there are things that you can learn better and things that are hard for you.
  • Intrinsic and Extrinsic: Intrinsic perfectionism is the unhealthy strive to do a perfect job for your own self. This can be hidden and very hard to cope with. Extrinsic perfectionism is focusing on what others think of you.
  • Social Perfectionism: The need for others around you to meet your unrealistic and high standards. We will be working more on how to work with others in the future. This is a root cause of frustration for many perfectionists and it is simply unfair to other people around you.
  • How to Make a Mistake: We talked about making a goal of making a small mistake everyday. Sometimes finding success in the act of messing up can be healing. Make a mistake everyday. Celebrate it. Document it. Notice that the world still appreciates you.
  • “Crazy Uncle” – Naming your negative self-talk. Give that voice in your head that is always talking down to you a personality, name and an image. Then you can talk back to it or dismiss it easier.

(and remember – it’s okay if there is a mistake in this post! I did my best and that is enough.)

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