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The connection between perfectionism and student life. An article for young people.

The connection between perfectionism and student life. An article for young people.

Written by
Lewis Orr
Jun 28, 2021

What is perfectionism?

“Perfectionism” is frequently mentioned by teachers and parents, but what does it actually mean? A perfectionist is a person whose self-worth is determined by whether they meet extremely challenging standards in their work. These are goals they have constructed for themselves. About 30%of the general population are perfectionists.[1]

The connection between perfectionism and student life

The extreme drive to do well can contribute to better grades at university and school.[2] However, these behaviours are not always helpful or healthy for that matter. The number of students considered perfectionists has been rising over the last three decades.[3] We are throwing this term around more in the world of student therapy and coaching.[4]

 

When does perfectionism become an issue?

If you are diagnosed with clinical perfectionism you are far more likely to experience other clinical mental health disorders. These include depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Sarah Egan, a senior research fellow at Curtin University, claims that “there are studies that suggest that the higher the perfectionism is, the more psychological disorders you’re going to suffer.”[5] These comments may feel weird, given that current culture tends to celebrate commitment to excellence, and the difference between this and extreme standards of perfectionism may be tough to find. To claim you are a perfectionist is even viewed in our culture as a false and evasive answer to that question at your job interviews: “What are your weaknesses?”

Good v. Bad perfectionism

Current psychology argues that there are adaptive (good) and maladaptive (bad) elements of perfectionism.

We have built a list below comparing the two:[6]

Three tips for perfectionists

Think you might be a perfectionist? Take a test.[7] We have written three of our top tips for managing perfectionism in your everyday life.

Try not to think “All or Nothing”

There is a tendency of perfectionists to envision the world as “All or Nothing”. That is- if what they are doing is imperfect, then it would be better to not do it at all. An example is when a student refuses to submit a task when it is “nearly” finished. When we give up, the rest of the world enjoys none of our hard work, and it is all for naught. We cannot throw in the towel- when we keep going, eventually we will succeed. We must not forget that doing something beats doing nothing, every day of the week!

Engage in self-talk- challenge the thoughts

The way the perfectionism works it that we have thoughts which tell us we are not good enough, or that our work is not good enough, and we give in. Talk to these thoughts! Challenge these thoughts! Make loud a new voice in your head: a voice which argues you are adequate, and that your work is worthwhile. This form of dialogue is essential to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the preferred method used by many health professionals to treat perfectionism.

Make time your friend

Those students who rate as perfectionistic tend to engage in more academic procrastination[8]- when we delay the completion of our tasks. Get working on tasks early as a student! Work out your own timeline which gives freedom for error. Ensure time is not the limiting factor. By waiting until the night before the deadline, you are torturing yourself, and you shouldn’t.

 There we are. We have made a few comments on perfectionism. Find out more: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Perfectionism


[1]https://www.masslive.com/real_learning/2010/07/meet_the_perfectionists.html#:~:text=While%20the%20general%20population%20contains,do%20you%20spot%20a%20perfectionist%3F

[2] https://theconversation.com/perfectionistic-students-get-higher-grades-but-at-what-cost-126558

[3] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-57603-001

[4]For example, check out this information on perfectionism addressed to current students at UNSW: https://student.unsw.edu.au/perfectionism.

[5] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise

[6]This list paraphrases the content of Renate Bulina’s “Relations Between Adaptive and Maladaptive Perfectionism, Self-Efficacy, and Subjective Well-Being” which cites work by Khawaja & Armstrong, 2005.

[7] https://www.idrlabs.com/multidimensional-perfectionism/test.php

[8]“Perfectionism and Academic Procrastination”, Jahidi et al. (2011). This was accessed through a link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187704281101929X

The connection between perfectionism and student life. An article for young people.

June 28, 2021

What is perfectionism?

“Perfectionism” is frequently mentioned by teachers and parents, but what does it actually mean? A perfectionist is a person whose self-worth is determined by whether they meet extremely challenging standards in their work. These are goals they have constructed for themselves. About 30%of the general population are perfectionists.[1]

The connection between perfectionism and student life

The extreme drive to do well can contribute to better grades at university and school.[2] However, these behaviours are not always helpful or healthy for that matter. The number of students considered perfectionists has been rising over the last three decades.[3] We are throwing this term around more in the world of student therapy and coaching.[4]

 

When does perfectionism become an issue?

If you are diagnosed with clinical perfectionism you are far more likely to experience other clinical mental health disorders. These include depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Sarah Egan, a senior research fellow at Curtin University, claims that “there are studies that suggest that the higher the perfectionism is, the more psychological disorders you’re going to suffer.”[5] These comments may feel weird, given that current culture tends to celebrate commitment to excellence, and the difference between this and extreme standards of perfectionism may be tough to find. To claim you are a perfectionist is even viewed in our culture as a false and evasive answer to that question at your job interviews: “What are your weaknesses?”

Good v. Bad perfectionism

Current psychology argues that there are adaptive (good) and maladaptive (bad) elements of perfectionism.

We have built a list below comparing the two:[6]

Three tips for perfectionists

Think you might be a perfectionist? Take a test.[7] We have written three of our top tips for managing perfectionism in your everyday life.

Try not to think “All or Nothing”

There is a tendency of perfectionists to envision the world as “All or Nothing”. That is- if what they are doing is imperfect, then it would be better to not do it at all. An example is when a student refuses to submit a task when it is “nearly” finished. When we give up, the rest of the world enjoys none of our hard work, and it is all for naught. We cannot throw in the towel- when we keep going, eventually we will succeed. We must not forget that doing something beats doing nothing, every day of the week!

Engage in self-talk- challenge the thoughts

The way the perfectionism works it that we have thoughts which tell us we are not good enough, or that our work is not good enough, and we give in. Talk to these thoughts! Challenge these thoughts! Make loud a new voice in your head: a voice which argues you are adequate, and that your work is worthwhile. This form of dialogue is essential to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, the preferred method used by many health professionals to treat perfectionism.

Make time your friend

Those students who rate as perfectionistic tend to engage in more academic procrastination[8]- when we delay the completion of our tasks. Get working on tasks early as a student! Work out your own timeline which gives freedom for error. Ensure time is not the limiting factor. By waiting until the night before the deadline, you are torturing yourself, and you shouldn’t.

 There we are. We have made a few comments on perfectionism. Find out more: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Perfectionism


[1]https://www.masslive.com/real_learning/2010/07/meet_the_perfectionists.html#:~:text=While%20the%20general%20population%20contains,do%20you%20spot%20a%20perfectionist%3F

[2] https://theconversation.com/perfectionistic-students-get-higher-grades-but-at-what-cost-126558

[3] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-57603-001

[4]For example, check out this information on perfectionism addressed to current students at UNSW: https://student.unsw.edu.au/perfectionism.

[5] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20180219-toxic-perfectionism-is-on-the-rise

[6]This list paraphrases the content of Renate Bulina’s “Relations Between Adaptive and Maladaptive Perfectionism, Self-Efficacy, and Subjective Well-Being” which cites work by Khawaja & Armstrong, 2005.

[7] https://www.idrlabs.com/multidimensional-perfectionism/test.php

[8]“Perfectionism and Academic Procrastination”, Jahidi et al. (2011). This was accessed through a link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187704281101929X