Changing the Target: Dealing with Perfectionism

Hang out with gifted kids (or adults!) for a while and you'll likely notice there's a higher than average rate of perfectionism in the gifted culture.

I do a fair bit of speaking about gifted and 2e socio-emotional needs and development around the country.  And, without a doubt, someone will ask me the following question, "But how do we help the perfectionist kid get out of her own way?"  I often struggle with this question. . Not because I lack suggestions or insight into perfectionism, but because it's such a complex trait to tackle.  There is never a simple, two-minute answer.  But now, thanks to Lisa Van Gemert's book, "Perfectionism:  A Practical Guide to Managing 'Never Good Enough'", I have a simple 5 second answer:  Go Buy This Book.

The thing I most love about Lisa's book?  She doesn't shy away from the complexities.  She addresses the upsides and downsides of striving for perfection.  She considers why gifted individuals may be more prone to perfectionism than the neurotypical population.  She discusses the multitude of ways perfectionism can show up.  (No.  Perfectionism isn't just about the Hermione Grangers of the world).  She takes 156 pages to explore the multiple ins and outs of giftedness and perfectionism, and does so in such a way that she challenges the stereotypical understandings of what gifted means in the first place.

Beyond that, this book is FULL of practical tips and strategies.  Strategies that can be applied anywhere:  at home, in traditional education settings, in nontraditional education settings, during hobbies and activities, anywhere.  Each chapter ends with a quick cliffsnotes version of the chapter, pinpointing key takeaways and providing ideas for action steps to directly start implementing the things you've been reading.  Which, personally, I LOVE!

I'll be honest, I'm extremely wary when I see socio-emotional resources written by educators.  Maybe I'm just feeling protective of my field and want to make sure my grad school debt means something, but genuinely, I've seen educators miss the boat a bit when it comes to these topics.  My oldest son just spent some time with an educator who was discussing socio-emotional issues and he said, "Mom!  I couldn't believe it . . . she said **** and because I have 2 therapists for parents, I knew that was wrong, but think of all the other kids she talks to that don't know better?!"  

As such, I'd had "Perfectionism" sitting on my shelf (ok, my stack of books next to the bed . . . ok, my tumbling pile of books on the floor and halfway under my bed) for several months before I picked it up.  And I'm so glad I did.  Lisa nailed it.  She did her research.  She consulted mental health professionals.  She masterfully blended mental health awareness and strategies with her own educator experience, knowledge, and skills to create a fantastic resource.

So - how to deal with perfectionism?  My simple 5 second answer:  buy the book.



This post and review is one of many that GHF bloggers are providing this month.  Build up your own tumbling pile of books to be read by checking out reviews of other resources here.