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Quill

Musing about Perfectionism vs. Excellence

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I’m thinking out loud here and I want to discuss this with smart, thoughtful people so here goes: 

I was listening on audiobook over the past few days The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I actually bought this a couple of years ago when I had several credits on Audible and I hastily picked a couple books and this came up as a recommended for me. 

I do not love this book at all, though, to be fair, I don’t think this is one of the better books for listening over reading text. Certain words quickly become very annoying as I hear them repeatedly: shame, authenticity, whole-hearted living, connection...and perfectionism. 

In the book, the author attempts to make a distinction between perfectionism and “healthy striving.” She gives an example of needing to lose ten pounds. The perfectionistic self-talk is, “ugh! I’m fat. Nothing fits. Why did I make such a pig of myself?” While the “healthy striving” self-talk is something like, “I want this for myself. The number on the scale doesn’t dictate what I do.” (In her example, she still intends to lose the ten pounds, though.) 

I find this supposed distinction quite nebulous, in part because it is easy enough to rearrange words, but that does not mean it is distinct behavior. As I thought about this, I note that we humans rarely do anything with one pure motive or 100% altruistic concepts. I think, actually, the large majority of decisions we make and behaviors we choose are primarily done for social acceptance, accolades, admiration, kudos, rewards, etc. We may also choose a behavior out of pure motives, but if those social benefits arise from the behavior, it also reinforces it, making it only more likely we will repeat the desired “good” behavior. This is especially true as a child is growing up, because if they choose a “good” behavior for pure motives, they will nevertheless get a lot of social benefits, making it more likely that they will shape their own identity thusly: “I am a good person, so I choose pro-social behaviors.” 

Being an adult with high standards is very socially rewarding. Everyone loves the lady who can be counted on to do an outstanding job. Heck, if I go to a surgeon or a dentist, or even a hair dresser, I want a person with very high standards! And if they do have very high standards, they will enjoy many rewards. They will have more business, they will win awards and be well-paid. They will enjoy a good reputation. So even if, say, at age 18, a surgeon had a pure motive of wanting to become a surgeon because he or she wanted to snatch people from the clutches of death, improve their quality of life, use their expertise for difficult cases or indigent people, it is still true the excellent surgeon is going to garner tons of social perks that make it no longer the only reason to be a surgeon, if it ever was. 

Therefore, I am beginning to think “perfectionism” is largely a fictitious problem. What people call perfectionism is really just other misnamed vices, like pride or vanity. All the self-help-y books and materials warn against perfectionism - defining it as primarily driven by how people will perceive you - but the large majority of choices people make are driven by caring how others perceive you. Couching it as “healthy striving” simply by arranging some words to make it sound like it is “authentic” to you sounds like semantic clean-up to me. 

Hive opinions? 

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38 minutes ago, Quill said:

In the book, the author attempts to make a distinction between perfectionism and “healthy striving.” She gives an example of needing to lose ten pounds. The perfectionistic self-talk is, “ugh! I’m fat. Nothing fits. Why did I make such a pig of myself?” While the “healthy striving” self-talk is something like, “I want this for myself. The number on the scale doesn’t dictate what I do.” (In her example, she still intends to lose the ten pounds, though.) 

I think that is not a good representation of what perfectionism is. Your example is just negative self-talk which has absolutely nothing to do with perfectionism. 

I also don't think that motivation as anything to do with perfectionism or "healthy striving". Perfectionism is much more of a character trait than something one can choose to have or not, depending on motivation. I am quite a perfectionist at work, not for social recognition, but because doing a sloppy job or seeing other people do sloppy work makes me angry and unhappy, and because I cannot comprehend how people can be content doing a half-assed job. I care about the outcome, whether somebody sees me doing it or not, and I have high standards for my work. The same is true for the other perfectionists in my life. 

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Therefore, I am beginning to think “perfectionism” is largely a fictitious problem. What people call perfectionism is really just other misnamed vices, like pride or vanity.

No. perfectionism has nothing to do with pride or vanity. And perfectionism can absolutely be a problem when it paralyzes the person, and when not measuring up to impossibly high standards causes the person to have a negative self image. Perfectionism can be a problem when working in a team, because inevitably most team members' contributions will fall short of perfect , and the perfectionist has to either learn to accept substandard work, or will run herself ragged fixing everybody's parts (ask me how I know).

Striving for excellence is different from perfectionism, because the person striving for excellence realizes that perfect may be unattainable and settles for excellent. This means the inevitable small mistakes don't cause crisis and despair. Striving for excellence simply means doing the best job the person possibly can. In a sense, the measuring stick is the process, not the result. A perfectionist can learn to temper her perfectionism and attain healthy striving (ask me how I know that, too).

ETA: To give  a simple example for the difference: if a perfectionist find an inconsequential mistake in a printed exam, she will feel compelled to reprint all the copies and beat herself up over not having found the mistake despite careful proof reading or berate her team members for not catching the mistake. (Or make the secretary unstaple 400 exams, take out a page, insert a new one, and restaple everything.)

The striving-for-excellence person who managed to conquer her perfectionism will shrug, recognize that the mistake is inconsequential, be content making a verbal announcement in case a student brings it up, and only resort to redoing the exam if the mistake is changing the meaning of the problem.

Edited by regentrude
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29 minutes ago, Quill said:

Therefore, I am beginning to think “perfectionism” is largely a fictitious problem. What people call perfectionism is really just other misnamed vices, like pride or vanity.

 

I would describe perfectionism as an OCD version of striving for excellence among myself and relatives. Where for example getting an Olympic gold medal for swimming/running is still not good enough because he/she didn’t improve on his/her personal best time. It can be very demoralizing to never live up to your (general) own perfectionist standards because those standards are par excellence/extreme.

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38 minutes ago, Quill said:

 

Therefore, I am beginning to think “perfectionism” is largely a fictitious problem. What people call perfectionism is really just other misnamed vices, like pride or vanity. All the self-help-y books and materials warn against perfectionism - defining it as primarily driven by how people will perceive you - but the large majority of choices people make are driven by caring how others perceive you. Couching it as “healthy striving” simply by arranging some words to make it sound like it is “authentic” to you sounds like semantic clean-up to me. 

I can't buy into that theory at all.

Personal example--I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to keeping the house clean and tidy. It has nothing to do with pride or vanity. We're introverts and very, very rarely have company except for close family and old friends--all people I've known for at least thirty years, and certainly don't feel any need whatsoever to impress. So no, there's no caring about how others perceive me or my housekeeping habits. It's really very simple--I like the house to be neat and tidy because it makes me feel cozy and calm and enhances my ability to rest and relax. It really is that simple, and I suspect other areas of/types of perfectionism can be explained similarly.

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8 minutes ago, regentrude said:

I think that is not a good representation of what perfectionism is. Your example is just negative self-talk which has absolutely nothing to do with perfectionism. 

I also don't think that motivation as anything to do with perfectionism or "healthy striving". Perfectionism is much more of a character trait than something one can choose to have or not, depending on motivation. I am quite a perfectionist at work, not for social recognition, but because doing a sloppy job or seeing other people do sloppy work makes me angry and unhappy, and because I cannot comprehend how people can be content doing a half-assed job. I care about the outcome, whether somebody sees me doing it or not, and I have high standards for my work. The same is true for the other perfectionists in my life. 

 

 

No. perfectionism has nothing to do with pride or vanity. And perfectionism can absolutely be a problem when it paralyzes the person, and when not measuring up to impossibly high standards causes the person to have a negative self image. Perfectionism can be a problem when working in a team, because inevitably most team members' contributions will fall short of perfect , and the perfectionist has to either learn to accept substandard work, or will run herself ragged fixing everybody's parts (ask me how I know).

Striving for excellence is different form perfectionism, because the person striving for excellence realizes that perfect may be unattainable and settles for excellent. This means the inevitable small mistakes don't cause crisis and despair. A perfectionist can learn to temper her perfectionism and attain healthy striving (ask me how I know that, too).

Right, but by doing excellent work, you do get social recognition, even if it’s just the general good reputation of people saying, “Oh, if regentrude does that job, it will be top-notch!” 

I also don’t understand how people can do a half-assed job, but do you not think there is a pride and judgement aspect to that? Are you not feeling some level of, “Bob is not producing as well as he could. He is lazy/clueless/a slob/negative thing.”

I also care about the outcome, whether it is witnessed or not, but I still benefit from doing a great job. Caring about the outcome garners praise and other social benefits because everyone in a community of people is happy about a good outcome. 

I don’t know that “perfectionism” means the person actually expects flawlessness of themselves. 

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6 minutes ago, Pawz4me said:

I can't buy into that theory at all.

Personal example--I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to keeping the house clean and tidy. It has nothing to do with pride or vanity. We're introverts and very, very rarely have company except for close family and old friends--all people I've known for at least thirty years, and certainly don't feel any need whatsoever to impress. So no, there's no caring about how others perceive me or my housekeeping habits. It's really very simple--I like the house to be neat and tidy because it makes me feel cozy and calm and enhances my ability to rest and relax. It really is that simple, and I suspect other areas of/types of perfectionism can be explained similarly.

Then that would be “striving for excellence,” not perfectionism. I am speaking about perfectionism as a negative. 

I like a neat house, too. I don’t think that is negative. 

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8 minutes ago, Quill said:

Right, but by doing excellent work, you do get social recognition, even if it’s just the general good reputation of people saying, “Oh, if regentrude does that job, it will be top-notch!” 

I also don’t understand how people can do a half-assed job, but do you not think there is a pride and judgement aspect to that? Are you not feeling some level of, “Bob is not producing as well as he could. He is lazy/clueless/a slob/negative thing.”

I also care about the outcome, whether it is witnessed or not, but I still benefit from doing a great job. Caring about the outcome garners praise and other social benefits because everyone in a community of people is happy about a good outcome. 

 

But one is not a perfectionist because of the social recognition!  One can be perfectionist about things no other person  ever sees. 

And yes, of course I feel judgmental when somebody does not put in the effort. But I do not choose to be perfectionist just so that I can feel superior.

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I don’t know that “perfectionism” means the person actually expects flawlessness of themselves. 

Then you clearly are not a perfectionist if you do not know the painful feeling of inadequacy if one does not measure up to one's high expectations.

ETA: I am 50 and still remember the one single spelling mistake for which I ever lost one point in school. And how mortified I was when I forgot my art supplies once in 4th grade. 

Edited by regentrude
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7 minutes ago, Quill said:

 

I don’t know that “perfectionism” means the person actually expects flawlessness of themselves. 

As the parent of a child who tends towards perfectionism......that' is actually EXACTLY how she feels.  She completely expects herself to be perfect, flawless, never screw up ever.  

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3 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

As the parent of a child who tends towards perfectionism......that' is actually EXACTLY how she feels.  She completely expects herself to be perfect, flawless, never screw up ever.  

This! That's the kid for whom getting an A- will cause tears and self doubt and a major crisis because it is perceived as a failure.

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2 minutes ago, regentrude said:

This! That's the kid for whom getting an A- will cause tears and self doubt and a major crisis because it is perceived as a failure.

Yes.  

 

This is why college was such a learning experience for her, she had to learn that being less than perfect isn't a failure, it's a normal part of life.  It's a VERY hard lesson for a perfectionist to learn.  

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2 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

This is why college was such a learning experience for her, she had to learn that being less than perfect isn't a failure, it's a normal part of life.  It's a VERY hard lesson for a perfectionist to learn.  

Super hard! That's why it is so important they get the gift of a challenge that brings them to the limit so they have to temper their perfectionism.

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I am a perfectionist, and it's an internal drive for me, not a desire to live up to a social standard. I do expect myself to be flawless, and the fact that I never am does make me feel inadequate, and it is paralyzing when I face starting a task.

Desire for excellence .... yes, I have that, too, and it's a good quality. I am glad that I have that drive. But perfectionism stinks, and I hate the affect it has on me.

 

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I am a perfectionist, and it's AWFUL.  It's seriously paralyzing, and when I can't be perfect, I utterly give up.  I am very much all or nothing, and if it can't be perfect, there's no point in bothering at all, which is really problematic with things like housework.  And it absolutely destroys your self image.  I don't think it's at all the same thing as having high standards. 

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And the flip side of perfectionism, for me, is that when I can't do something well, I give up. Or I don't even try. Or I procrastinate until I create a problem. And I beat myself up the entire time, because I know I am failing. Perfectionism doesn't mean actually keeping things perfect or doing things perfectly. Because there is the feeling of constant failure or the threat of failure, and with that looming, it's hard to accomplish things.

It's an internal thing, not an external thing. If you came into my house, you would not think, "A perfectionist lives here."

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The difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence may not be the most externally obvious distinction, but the internal difference can be huge.
Assuming all perfectionists achieve excellence would be a mistake. FlyLady addresses this quite well. Perfectionism can lead to procrastination: why tackle a project you know could fail? A far healthier mental attitude is to do the best you can with what you have and do it now, recognizing that even an imperfect result can be an improvement.

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Just now, Storygirl said:

And the flip side of perfectionism, for me, is that when I can't do something well, I give up. Or I don't even try. Or I procrastinate until I create a problem. And I beat myself up the entire time, because I know I am failing. Perfectionism doesn't mean actually keeping things perfect or doing things perfectly. Because there is the feeling of constant failure or the threat of failure, and with that looming, it's hard to accomplish things.

It's an internal thing, not an external thing. If you came into my house, you would not think, "A perfectionist lives here."

SO MUCH THIS!   I am the world's worst housekeeper, but the root is perfectionism, and self hatred is constant.

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1 minute ago, Terabith said:

SO MUCH THIS!   I am the world's worst housekeeper, but the root is perfectionism, and self hatred is constant.

Yup. It's horrible.

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36 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

And the flip side of perfectionism, for me, is that when I can't do something well, I give up. Or I don't even try. Or I procrastinate until I create a problem. And I beat myself up the entire time, because I know I am failing. Perfectionism doesn't mean actually keeping things perfect or doing things perfectly. Because there is the feeling of constant failure or the threat of failure, and with that looming, it's hard to accomplish things.

It's an internal thing, not an external thing. If you came into my house, you would not think, "A perfectionist lives here."

 

This. The inability to do it perfectly leads to paralysis. 

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53 minutes ago, regentrude said:

But one is not a perfectionist because of the social recognition!  One can be perfectionist about things no other person  ever sees. 

And yes, of course I feel judgmental when somebody does not put in the effort. But I do not choose to be perfectionist just so that I can feel superior.

Then you clearly are not a perfectionist if you do not know the painful feeling of inadequacy if one does not measure up to one's high expectations.

ETA: I am 50 and still remember the one single spelling mistake for which I ever lost one point in school. And how mortified I was when I forgot my art supplies once in 4th grade. 

I have a similar memory, about crying my eyes out the first time I did not get a 100% on a test. But it seems to me I did get the idea somewhere that, since I was smart in school and my parents and teachers were very approving at my perfect gold star papers, that this is what I should be able to able produce. So, if a kid tends in the perfectionistic direction, then he or she often has that reinforced. So the reinforcement through praise, rewards, admiration, etc. makes the perfectionistic behavior more likely. 

I’m not saying one chooses to be perfectionistic in order to feel superior. I’m saying its going in the opposite direction: “I’m working hard and producing outstanding results and if Bob over there would just get his head out of his ass and work hard too, then he wouldn’t do such a mediocre job.” 

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I second what everyone is saying here. Perfectionists give up rather than try and not meet their own standards. Or they take forever on things that don't deserve or really require the amount of time they give them and the time causes a huge amount of stress and feelings of inadequacy in and of itself. Perfectionism sucks.

I get really frustrated because I feel like so many people don't really get perfectionism. As the parent of a kid with major perfectionist tendencies, I got really mad last year because a parent of an OCD kid shared this thing from The Mighty, which is a mental illness advocacy page, that basically made out like perfectionism is a positive thing - not like OCD. I was like, geez, yeah, they're different, and OCD is really serious, but perfectionism is not a walk in the park either. Like, it's not enough that the general public thinks perfectionists are perky and awesome or are great workers and that it's a trait to envy, but mental health advocates also have to poop on perfectionism as no biggie either? Ack, so frustrating.

In one of the worst cases of kid perfectionism I've seen, I had a student years ago who stopped working for about four years. She just stopped. She wouldn't do anything. She was smart and really good at talking her way around stuff, but in a year of having her as a student, I think I saw her start maybe a dozen assignments and she never finished one. Not once. She was massively stunted in her skills because she had stopped being willing to try anything because she knew it would never meet her standards. It was so difficult to watch.

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2 minutes ago, Quill said:

I have a similar memory, about crying my eyes out the first time I did not get a 100% on a test. But it seems to me I did get the idea somewhere that, since I was smart in school and my parents and teachers were very approving at my perfect gold star papers, that this is what I should be able to able produce. So, if a kid tends in the perfectionistic direction, then he or she often has that reinforced. So the reinforcement through praise, rewards, admiration, etc. makes the perfectionistic behavior more likely. 

I’m not saying one chooses to be perfectionistic in order to feel superior. I’m saying its going in the opposite direction: “I’m working hard and producing outstanding results and if Bob over there would just get his head out of his ass and work hard too, then he wouldn’t do such a mediocre job.” 

This presumes that perfectionists get lots of great work done. That's simply not my experience. My experience is that perfectionists struggle to get anything done at all. And that when they do finish something, yeah, it's often amazing work. But it's one thing... you're not seeing how they don't get anything else done as a result of the time suck that went into the one thing. Or the background of constant struggle.

This also presumes that perfectionists have a sense of others' work as less than theirs. This also isn't my experience. My perfectionist ds can be critical, but he also doesn't think his work is better than others. His ability to see and judge the work of others in relation to his own is really skewed. He often thinks his is worse. Or he sees that others finished something decent quickly and he beats himself up because he doesn't think he can do that or meet his own standards in that time frame.

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46 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

The difference between perfectionism and striving for excellence may not be the most externally obvious distinction, but the internal difference can be huge.
Assuming all perfectionists achieve excellence would be a mistake. FlyLady addresses this quite well. Perfectionism can lead to procrastination: why tackle a project you know could fail? A far healthier mental attitude is to do the best you can with what you have and do it now, recognizing that even an imperfect result can be an improvement.

The book, though, was not talking about this. It was making a distinction between perfectionism and “healthy striving.” I’m saying I think that is a false distinction. I don’t think you change it from “bad” perfectionism to “healthy striving” by saying you want the good outcome for “authentic” reasons. 

Thinking one can’t get the house perfectly clean and therefore doesn’t clean anything is inferiority. It’s obvious that it’s not a healthy outlook. 

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get really frustrated because I feel like so many people don't really get perfectionism. As the parent of a kid with major perfectionist tendencies, I got really mad last year because a parent of an OCD kid shared this thing from The Mighty, which is a mental illness advocacy page, that basically made out like perfectionism is a positive thing - not like OCD. I was like, geez, yeah, they're different, and OCD is really serious, but perfectionism is not a walk in the park either. Like, it's not enough that the general public thinks perfectionists are perky and awesome or are great workers and that it's a trait to envy, but mental health advocates also have to poop on perfectionism as no biggie either? Ack, so frustratin

This is coming close to what bothered me in this book. It was making what I view as largely a semantic distinction between what perfectionism and “healthy striving” is. It was not talking about perfectionism as an OCD-related disorder. It was talking about it like thinking you have to do/have/look a certain way for approval and fitting in. 

I’m thinking this term is just problematic. 

See this article: http://thebygracefoundation.com/blog/2017/10/3/the-difference-between-excellence-and-perfection (Try to look beyond the religious aspect if that’s not your thing.) 

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7 minutes ago, Quill said:

I have a similar memory, about crying my eyes out the first time I did not get a 100% on a test. But it seems to me I did get the idea somewhere that, since I was smart in school and my parents and teachers were very approving at my perfect gold star papers, that this is what I should be able to able produce. So, if a kid tends in the perfectionistic direction, then he or she often has that reinforced. So the reinforcement through praise, rewards, admiration, etc. makes the perfectionistic behavior more likely. 

I’m not saying one chooses to be perfectionistic in order to feel superior. I’m saying its going in the opposite direction: “I’m working hard and producing outstanding results and if Bob over there would just get his head out of his ass and work hard too, then he wouldn’t do such a mediocre job.” 

It's actually nothing like that.  When my kid gets wrapped up in her perfectionism, it's an entirely self centered enterprise.  "Bob over there" never enters her brain.  It's all about her screw up and nothing else.  It's as if one little mistake on her part is THE END OF THE WORLD.  Her mistake will actually bring about the destruction of whatever the goal is.  The goal cannnot be achieved unless every step happens exactly as it's supposed to.

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I haven’t read the replies, but as I understand it, perfectionism is in large part a fear of failure, when failure is defined as not living up to the standard the perfectionist sets for herself. So the options are to not try, because you are afraid you can’t meet the standard, or to push through the anxiety and do the thing. 

The flip side, the healthy outlook, is to approach a task as acquiring a skill. It won’t be perfect the first time, but with practice, one can reach a high level of skill in the thing. So you enter into a task with that mindset. 

Off to read the replies...

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20 minutes ago, Quill said:

The book, though, was not talking about this. It was making a distinction between perfectionism and “healthy striving.” I’m saying I think that is a false distinction. I don’t think you change it from “bad” perfectionism to “healthy striving” by saying you want the good outcome for “authentic” reasons. 

Thinking one can’t get the house perfectly clean and therefore doesn’t clean anything is inferiority. It’s obvious that it’s not a healthy outlook. 

Healthy striving seems like an accurate term. Even if you're a perfectionist, you still need to clean your house. Or try for good health. There are healthier thinking patterns, so that you can celebrate small achievements rather than be all or nothing. I find inferiority-superiority to be terms that judge, rather than help.

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18 minutes ago, Quill said:

I have a similar memory, about crying my eyes out the first time I did not get a 100% on a test. But it seems to me I did get the idea somewhere that, since I was smart in school and my parents and teachers were very approving at my perfect gold star papers, that this is what I should be able to able produce. So, if a kid tends in the perfectionistic direction, then he or she often has that reinforced. So the reinforcement through praise, rewards, admiration, etc. makes the perfectionistic behavior more likely. 

 

A real life example. When I was in high school, I was able to get full marks for math exams sometimes. I thought the teacher was just being kind when grading even though looking through the scoring guidelines that were given, I did deserve my 100%.

My DS14 often thinks he doesn’t deserve his A+ and other high scores. He thinks he was lucky or the teacher is too kind. He actually gets embarrassed by attention. He was actually a target of parents’ envy when in public school. 

Being a “gold star” student actually meant being a target in school. Luckily engineering school was much better where being the top student in a subject doesn’t make me an envy target.

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30 minutes ago, Quill said:

This is coming close to what bothered me in this book. It was making what I view as largely a semantic distinction between what perfectionism and “healthy striving” is. It was not talking about perfectionism as an OCD-related disorder. It was talking about it like thinking you have to do/have/look a certain way for approval and fitting in. 

I’m thinking this term is just problematic. 

See this article: http://thebygracefoundation.com/blog/2017/10/3/the-difference-between-excellence-and-perfection (Try to look beyond the religious aspect if that’s not your thing.) 

So I read your link, and it is making pretty much the same distinction as Brene Brown, from a Christian viewpoint: she posits that pursuing excellence *is* different than perfectionism.
So your quibble would appear to actually be with the semantics between 'healthy striving' and 'pursuing excellence', which kind of seem like the same thing to me.

ETA: I haven't read this Brene Brown title, however, so she may not nail perfectionism as well in it as she does elsewhere. 

Edited by KathyBC

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I've never thought of perfectionism as driven by desire for social recognition, the perfectionism I see around me tends to be more anxiety driven.

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2 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

As the parent of a child who tends towards perfectionism......that' is actually EXACTLY how she feels.  She completely expects herself to be perfect, flawless, never screw up ever.  

And then proceeds to beat themselves up or obsess over solutions or waste enormous amounts of time over getting to that standard they probably can’t achieve.

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The thing that the book/blog/opening post are calling perfectionism isn't perctionism. It's . . . pinterestism.  I'm sure it has an actual name from before Pinterest, but I can't think of it right now. Vanity, maybe. 

Although the example of someone who wants to lose 10 lbs calling herself fat could be perfectionism. 10lbs overweight is not fat. If she tries a strict diet and then gives up in despair because she eats 15 calories more than her allowed count on the second day . . . 

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1 hour ago, Storygirl said:

And the flip side of perfectionism, for me, is that when I can't do something well, I give up. Or I don't even try. Or I procrastinate until I create a problem. And I beat myself up the entire time, because I know I am failing. Perfectionism doesn't mean actually keeping things perfect or doing things perfectly. Because there is the feeling of constant failure or the threat of failure, and with that looming, it's hard to accomplish things.

It's an internal thing, not an external thing. If you came into my house, you would not think, "A perfectionist lives here."

Hello, self!  I didn’t realize I had changed my screen name to Storygirl.

 

More seriously, I’m sorry you’re struggling with this too 😞. It’s a tough thing to manage even as an adult.

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1 hour ago, Quill said:

I’m not saying one chooses to be perfectionistic in order to feel superior. I’m saying its going in the opposite direction: “I’m working hard and producing outstanding results and if Bob over there would just get his head out of his ass and work hard too, then he wouldn’t do such a mediocre job.” 

A person who is striving for "healthy excellence" would feel the same.

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48 minutes ago, Quill said:

This is coming close to what bothered me in this book. It was making what I view as largely a semantic distinction between what perfectionism and “healthy striving” is. It was not talking about perfectionism as an OCD-related disorder. It was talking about it like thinking you have to do/have/look a certain way for approval and fitting in. 

In no connotation I have ever seen does the bolded meet the definition for perfectionism

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I consider myself a very lazy perfectionist.  I know how I want things done, I am just too lazy to do it.  But at the same time, I know that for the most part others won't do it to my standards.  So, a lot of times, I just don't do it at all.  Bc if it can't be done 100%, then why bother at all?

My husband is also perfectionist and he actually does it the way it should be done.  But it takes him foooooreeeveeer to complete a project.

Neither of us think about pride or social acceptance.  We just know what we want.  Sometimes we achieve it, sometimes we don't.  As a matter of fact, I have no external currency, which makes it really hard sometimes to achieve a goal.  Like I need to loose 40 lbs and I've been "trying" for at least 6 yrs.  I've lost zero.

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Perfectionism isn't centered on the awesomeness of doing a great job.

It's centered on the complete and utter failure of not doing every single aspect of the job exactly right 100% of the time.  

 

It's not centered on how right it is.

It's centered on how wrong the mistakes are.  

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18 minutes ago, KathyBC said:

So I read your link, and it is making pretty much the same distinction as Brene Brown, from a Christian viewpoint: she posits that pursuing excellence *is* different than perfectionism.
So your quibble would appear to actually be with the semantics between 'healthy striving' and 'pursuing excellence', which kind of seem like the same thing to me.

ETA: I haven't read this Brene Brown title, however, so she may not nail perfectionism as well in it as she does elsewhere. 

I don’t think I understand what you mean by the bolded. I think “healthy striving” and “pursuing excellence” are the same thing and they are both positive. But I don’t think people choose actions based distinctly on a positive “healthy striving” or a negative “perfectionism.” I don’t think people do things with such simplistic, one-sided motives. 

For example, suppose my friends were coming over and I made an individual cherry tart for each guest. I want them to be happy and have something that tastes wonderful and they go home feeling happy and satisifed. BUT! If it is successful, I am also going to have the social benefit that people will say, “she made these tarts and they were soooooo delicious!” Or, “count yourself lucky if Quill makes those cherry tarts!” If I make the tarts again in the future, I will still want the friends to be happy and eat something yummy, etc., but I also do it because the social benefits are pleasant and I want more of them/want them to continue. See? 

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57 minutes ago, Quill said:

This is coming close to what bothered me in this book. It was making what I view as largely a semantic distinction between what perfectionism and “healthy striving” is. It was not talking about perfectionism as an OCD-related disorder. It was talking about it like thinking you have to do/have/look a certain way for approval and fitting in. 

I’m thinking this term is just problematic. 

See this article: http://thebygracefoundation.com/blog/2017/10/3/the-difference-between-excellence-and-perfection (Try to look beyond the religious aspect if that’s not your thing.) 

Perhaps it bothered you because of how incorrect the definition of perfectionism is.  

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As a perfectionist and the mother of a child who tends toward perfectionism (it took a lot of work over many years to temper this in her though it still sometimes rears its ugly head), I don't see it as driven by a desire for social recognition but as an internal drive. I am very hard on myself. I remember every "mistake" and beat myself up over them way longer than other people remember them...actually other people probably don't even notice many of the things I beat myself up over. Perfectionism sometimes keeps me from trying things I might enjoy or enjoying things I try. 

Like someone else mentioned, I only feel like I can relax if my house is perfectly clean. We rarely have visitors so it has nothing to do with social recognition.

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19 minutes ago, maize said:

I've never thought of perfectionism as driven by desire for social recognition, the perfectionism I see around me tends to be more anxiety driven.

I agree that it is anxiety driven. But there is an origination of that anxiety in being right, being the best, being above reproach. So there is this anxiety that if one is not good/excellent/perfect, then love and acceptance will be withdrawn. 

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2 minutes ago, Quill said:

For example, suppose my friends were coming over and I made an individual cherry tart for each guest. I want them to be happy and have something that tastes wonderful and they go home feeling happy and satisifed. BUT! If it is successful, I am also going to have the social benefit that people will say, “she made these tarts and they were soooooo delicious!” Or, “count yourself lucky if Quill makes those cherry tarts!” If I make the tarts again in the future, I will still want the friends to be happy and eat something yummy, etc., but I also do it because the social benefits are pleasant and I want more of them/want them to continue. See? 

I don’t see how this is unhealthy. People enjoy accolades, and that’s perfectly fine. 

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1 minute ago, Quill said:

I agree that it is anxiety driven. But there is an origination of that anxiety in being right, being the best, being above reproach. So there is this anxiety that if one is not good/excellent/perfect, then love and acceptance will be withdrawn. 

For my kid, it's not about love and acceptance being given or withdrawn.  

 

It's about being RIGHT.  The clearness of North, South, East, and West.  Following the directions exactly as listed step by step with no deviation and anything that inhibits that step by step process indicates utter failure and the entire project is completely doomed.

 

It's either perfect........or it's wrong.

Do, or do not, there is no try.

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1 minute ago, Donna said:

As a perfectionist and the mother of a child who tends toward perfectionism (it's took a lot of work over many years to temper this in her though it still sometimes rears its ugly head), I don't see it as driven by a desire for social recognition but as an internal drive. I am very hard on myself. I remember every "mistake" and beat myself up over them way longer than other people remember them...actually other people probably don't even notice many of the things I beat myself up over. Perfectionism sometimes keeps me from trying things I might enjoy or enjoying things I try. 

Like someone else mentioned, I only feel like I can relax if my house is perfectly clean. We rarely have visitors so it has nothing to do with social recognition.

But what is the impetus for the intenal drive? For me, it was/has been approval and feeling worthy or care. “If I am not good/excellent/beneficial, I will be rejected. Therefore, I must be as good/excellent/beneficial as I can be so I will be cared for.”

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3 minutes ago, SamanthaCarter said:

I don’t see how this is unhealthy. People enjoy accolades, and that’s perfectly fine. 

That’s exactly my point. That is exactly what I didn’t agree with in the book. 

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2 minutes ago, Donna said:

As a perfectionist and the mother of a child who tends toward perfectionism (it took a lot of work over many years to temper this in her though it still sometimes rears its ugly head), I don't see it as driven by a desire for social recognition but as an internal drive. I am very hard on myself. I remember every "mistake" and beat myself up over them way longer than other people remember them...actually other people probably don't even notice many of the things I beat myself up over. Perfectionism sometimes keeps me from trying things I might enjoy or enjoying things I try. 

Like someone else mentioned, I only feel like I can relax if my house is perfectly clean. We rarely have visitors so it has nothing to do with social recognition.

Perfectionism does have some element of social acceptance to it. A perfectionist thinks people can see the same failures she sees in herself, or if they don’t, they would reject her if they knew. So it does have social implications in that it can feed into an inferiority complex. 

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2 minutes ago, Quill said:

But what is the impetus for the intenal drive? For me, it was/has been approval and feeling worthy or care. “If I am not good/excellent/beneficial, I will be rejected. Therefore, I must be as good/excellent/beneficial as I can be so I will be cared for.”

OMG, I WISH I knew.  She's 23, I still can't figure it out.  

 

I *think* its some internal black and white....what's right is right, what's wrong is wrong and grey doesn't exist.  

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7 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

 

For my kid, it's not about love and acceptance being given or withdrawn.  

 

It's about being RIGHT.  The clearness of North, South, East, and West.  Following the directions exactly as listed step by step with no deviation and anything that inhibits that step by step process indicates utter failure and the entire project is completely doomed.

 

It's either perfect........or it's wrong.

Do, or do not, there is no try.

Heh. I love that quote. It’s on my fridge. 

49F260E2-3159-4693-A9C1-80C48761F09C.jpeg

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2 minutes ago, Quill said:

Heh. I love that quote. It’s on my fridge. 

😁

 

I figured that would catch some folks. 

 

That's exactly how she actually thinks.  Don't just TRY to do it, do it exactly as I say....or do not.  

 

If you really understand all the nuances of that quote.....that's perfectionism.  

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5 minutes ago, Quill said:

For example, suppose my friends were coming over and I made an individual cherry tart for each guest. I want them to be happy and have something that tastes wonderful and they go home feeling happy and satisifed. BUT! If it is successful, I am also going to have the social benefit that people will say, “she made these tarts and they were soooooo delicious!” Or, “count yourself lucky if Quill makes those cherry tarts!” If I make the tarts again in the future, I will still want the friends to be happy and eat something yummy, etc., but I also do it because the social benefits are pleasant and I want more of them/want them to continue. See? 

 

After I make the first batch of cherry tarts, I would be thinking that I should have used better tasting cherries and feed my first batch to my husband while making a second better batch for my guests. Before my guests arrived, I would be fretting that I should have done a better cherry tart even though I used better ingredients on the second batch.  That’s provided I didn’t hunt the Internet and asked the hive if my cherry tart recipe was good enough and is there a better recipe before and after making my first and second batch.

If my guests praised my cherry tart, it would probably send me into an internal panic that I have to make a better cherry tart (or any other tart) next time I have guests.

It is not approval from others that perfectionist crave in general. It’s approval from himself/herself (internal). People can praise the perfectionist sky high and the perfectionist would still have feelings of imperfection.

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3 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

OMG, I WISH I knew.  She's 23, I still can't figure it out.  

 

I *think* its some internal black and white....what's right is right, what's wrong is wrong and grey doesn't exist.  

Ok, your posts are scaring me! My dd is 10 but everything you've said about your dd sounds just like mine! I feel like I'm peering into the future here! 😱

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