Perfectionism In Gifted Kids

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Perfectionism in Gifted Kids

Perfectionism in Gifted Kids

Introduction The term perfectionism is used to describe a variety of issues, and most of the mental health profession perceives it as psychologically unhealthy. In actuality, perfectionism must be seen as a potent force capable of bringing intense frustration and paralysis, or incredible satisfaction and creative contribution, depending upon how it is channeled (Linda, 1998).

Perfectionists set high standards for themselves, and experience great pain if they fail to meet those standards. They are besieged with guilt and shame that few people seem to understand. Their unrelenting self-criticism appears maladjusted. Even when others applaud them, they often feel miserable, aware of how much higher they aimed. They may feel they have cheated themselves and others by not fully utilizing their abilities. Those who perpetually remain in this self-castigating state live unhappily ever after, and give perfectionism its bad name (Linda, 1993).

But this is only part of the story, albeit the one that receives the most attention. The extent of joy it is possible to experience is directly related to the intensity of the struggle in which one engaged to reach his or her goal. Perfectionists are capable of ecstatic heights, of being totally in Csikszentmihalyi's (1990) flow, unfettered by time constraints or the judgments of others, when the activity itself becomes the reward rather than a means to an end.

The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we can make happen. Such experiences are not necessarily pleasant at the time they occur. The swimmer's muscles might have ached during his most memorable race, his lungs might have felt like exploding, and he might have been dizzy with fatigue, yet these could have been the best moments of his life (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, pp. 5-6).

Gifted Children And Adolescents

Hamachek (Parker & Adkins 1994) describes two types of perfectionism. Normal perfectionists "derive a very real sense of pleasure from the labours of a painstaking effort" while neurotic perfectionists are "unable to feel satisfaction because in their own eyes they never seem to do things good enough to warrant that feeling". Burns (Parker & Adkins 1994) defines perfectionists as "people who strain compulsively and unremittingly toward impossible goals and who measure their own worth entirely in terms of productivity and accomplishment."

Hewitt and Flett (1991) devised the Perfectionistic Self-Presentation Scale (PSPS), which rates three aspects of perfectionistic self-presentation: advertising one's own perfection, avoiding situations in which one might appear to be imperfect and failing to disclose situations in which one has been imperfect.

Slaney(1996) created the Almost Perfect scale, which contains four variables: Standards and Order, Relationships, Anxiety, and Procrastination. It distinguishes between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. Both adaptive and maladaptive perfectionists rate high in Standards and Order, but maladaptive perfectionists also rate high in Anxiety and Procrastination. Perfectionism is one of the 16 Personality Factors identified by Raymond ...
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