Adjusting the Aim from Perfectionism to Excellence

When asked at a conference I recently attended what I see as the most common issues played out in parent/child relationships today, it takes me no time to identify perfectionism as one of the top three.  For that reason,  I decided to post notes below from a presentation I gave at our school’s conference for parents last summer. During the slower pace of the summer months, I encourage you to read through the information below to determine if any of it applies to you or your children.  Addressing this one somewhat complex issue will go a long way in establishing growth and helping your children realize their potential.  Plus it will go a long way in guiding your children to comprehend the unconditional love of Jesus, which is not rooted in our performance but in His perfection. What is perfectionism?             “‘Good enough’ may be good enough for other people, but it’s never good enough for me.”             “When I make a mistake, I feel like a failure.” Perfectionists either perfect themselves to death or they give up and barely try at all. Perfectionists respond to life’s challenges either by over performing or under performing. A perfectionist rarely tries to be perfect in all things. Instead they choose areas or an area to be perfect in. They can be a perfectionist with studies and a slob in their room or they can be a perfectionist in their sport and put little effort into studies. Some will only try at things they know they can be good at. Everything else is off limits. A perfectionist connects being perfect with their...

Recovering from Perfectionism

 When I look back on my life, I see a series of lessons God has orchestrated to grow and change me, and in hindsight I value these lessons deeply. This summer has been no exception, when God used an emergency eye condition and distorted vision to clarify the eyes of my  heart. Releasing Free to Parent, the book my daughter Erin and I recently wrote,  has made me realize how far I still need to go in addressing certain deceptions that I stubbornly hold onto. Over and over, God patiently reveals to me what needs fixing and slowly my heart is gaining freedom from fallacies such as: Perfectionism. And my deep need to please others. As well as my fears over the criticism that will inevitably also come as a result of writing and releasing a book. It’s no accident that this book was completed during a time of major challenges in my own life, complicated with significant challenges in the publishing process. It’s no accident that we wound up delivering (in order to get it done in time for our school’s Paideia conference) an imperfect work still in need of some edits and minor revisions. It’s a frightening proposition for a person like me to release such a book, especially to my own school community. Yet that is exactly what God had me do in order to address my fears of never being quite “good enough.”  He did this  by testing my willingness to step out and offer up a book that was “not quite ready enough.” It’s a fallacy to think we can’t act until conditions are...

Is your Child a Perfectionist?

Perfectionism is about trying to be flawless, without fault.  The problem is that it is unreachable and can get in the way of growth. Perfectionists often face life by either over-achieving or under-achieving: The overachieving perfectionist can wind up with deep seated anxiety and profound discouragement because  her goals continually remain out of reach. The underachieving perfectionist feels utter helplessness and settles for low effort hiding his fear of failure with an “I don’t care” mask. My youngest daughter gave early indications that she was an overachieving perfectionist. She grew frustrated and crumpled her artwork each time it did not look just right.  She would ask, “Is it possible to be perfect?” I pondered the studies indicating perfectionism was fostered by parents (we likely were part of the problem) but I also believe it to be a natural bent for some kids, like Alisa.  She certainly was not the stereo typical youngest child, competing fiercely even with her older siblings. With her own peers, only the highest outcomes were acceptable in everything she set out to do. Our concerns were buried in the delight we found in her achievements.  What parent doesn’t enjoy success with their children.  In time however, we began to see signs of deep seated anxiety. As soon as she reached one goal, her joy was short lived, as she would soon begin to drive herself to still a higher goal.  Failure to Alisa was getting second place at the State swim meet or failing to break a state record in her best events or not getting the highest score on a math exam.  She authentically...

What happened to Carly?

Sitting on the edge of her dorm room bed, Carly pondered her next steps.  She yearned for a “restart” button that would send her back to the very first day of class, when she had started out with high aspirations. With only two weeks left, not only was her first year of college almost over but her ambitions to become a nurse were also finished.  Unless she found a school that would accept her dismal transcript, she was likely done with college all together. How had it all gone so wrong in just her first year?   Her heart pounded rapidly as anxiety once again threatened to choke her heart.  And how could she tell her parents about the letter from the registrar?  Her influential father had paved the way for her, convincing the admissions officer that Carly’s high school transcript really did not reflect the student she would be in college. Carly has promised her parents that she would rise up and work hard, that paying for her college tuition would not be a waste. She crumpled up the letter, and threw it across the room at the pile of dirty clothes littering the floor. Not invited back! How fair was that? Didn’t they understand that she, as a freshman, needed time to adjust – time to get used to the expectations and pressure of college? No one seemed to care enough to hold her accountable. Sure, she got morning wake up calls from her mom, but after a brief exchange of words, she habitually rolled over and went back to sleep, too exhausted from the night before. Besides,...