Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Perfectionism in the Gifted

I was recently given an article by Dr. Suzanne Perry entitled "The Hidden Gifted Learner: The Gifted Perfectionist." In this article, Dr. Perry discusses four manifestations of perfectionism in gifted learners. I can't seem to find the article online and, more unfortunately, am not sure from where the article came. It nicely summarizes behaviors or attitudes that develop when perfectionism becomes unhealthy, so I will discuss the four types here.

All or Nothing Mindset - This student cannot handle exposing themselves as having flaws in a particular area. They will either turn in a perfect product or nothing at all. Being criticized for lack of effort is less painful than the possibility of someone criticizing their intellect or ability.

Procrastination - Putting off assignments means that the emotional fallout from what they perceive as inadequate performance will not last as long as if they'd started sooner.

Paralyzed Perfectionism - Fear of failure prevents these children from attempting anything they perceive they cannot master at their first attempt. These children opt for "safe" activities and will probably underachieve relative to their abilities. They may be top students, but will become so by avoiding challenging coursework.

Workaholics - These children feed off of rewards and praise. They drive themselves to go beyond even excellent work to always make sure they will place far ahead of everyone else.

Even though this article is written about childrren, I suspect many adults can identify. Further, I can imagine one person manifesting different behaviors in responsse to different situations.

Overcoming overly perfectionistic behavior is difficult, but Joanna Fletcher has some excellent suggestions in Perfectionism: Bane or blessing?


Anonymous said...

Man, I recognize this both in my spouse and in our child - several of those "perfectionism flavors," as it were.

Now I'm wondering if it's genetic or environmental, or both.

loonyhiker said...

I have had to stop myself from expecting perfectionism in order to get things done. I'm feeling more comfortable with this but I hope I'm not settling for mediocre productivity.

Live and Learn the Hard Way said...

I have seen a number of these types of perfectionism in my SO and I. It has been something that we both struggle with from time to time, and it often interferes with getting things done, or done on time.