Every parents hopes that their child strives to be the best that one can be. Yet when a gifted child takes a on a perfectionistic streak, association with suicide, eating disorders, substance abuse and depression becomes higher. How does one identify if perfectionism has become a problem?
What is Perfectionism?
Perfectionistic children or adults truly believe that their self-worth or self-esteem depends very much on their capabilities to produce something – rather than who they are. These children are usually bright and gifted children who are very used to producing good results and earning praises of others. Self-evaluation comes very naturally to them after the completion of any activity or event that they are expected to perform well in.
The issue starts when their self-evaluation falls short of their expectations: Their self-evaluation believes that they have not done extremely well and this does not match the expectations they have of themselves.
Thus, they will start to believe that their products are more important than who they are and set extremely high standards for themselves to meet. Once they are unable to overcome an issue, this shakes their self-belief badly. They will withdraw and respond with tears and anger as this only fuel a hidden suspicion they have of themselves: they are not as good as they think they are and are really ‘worthless’.
Differences between Healthy Striving and Perfectionism
How do you know if your child is striving healthily? Your child will put in effort to strive for achievable goals. Emotionally, they will feel hopeful and are engaged in learning. They are energetic and enjoy learning. For a perfectionistic child, the same learning brings about fear of failure and fear of humiliation. Learning is forced and they don’t feel joy in learning anymore.
Issues with Perfectionism
Perfectionism is really a sense of control that child thinks he/she has over their lives. They truly believe if they let go, their grades will fall and everyone will finally see that they are not as great or worthy as others think they are. Hence, they will set higher goals and it will increase over time; they are never satisfied with their performance.
There are many factors that contribute to this cycle: spoken and unspoken expectations of parents and teachers, rivalry and even constant praises about their smarts contribute to “self-worth=great product” belief. Their ego and pride are derived from these and any mistakes made represents a frightening sense of loss of self-control.
When your child focus so much on being perfect, this paralyses your child’s creativity by making them risk adverse to trying out new things. Your child may also waste too much energy worrying about trivial matters such as focusing on what others think about them instead.
How Can Parents Help?
Your child need to know that they can still succeed in life without being perfect as long as they treat themselves with compassion and there is no need to worry about how others look at them. In the next few posts, we will be looking at specific issues that occur with these children and how to overcome them.