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Perfectionism

(10 Posts)
OneInEight Sat 18-Aug-18 11:03:56

Any tips on how to help your child overcome perfectionism. ds1 has been totally unable to complete any of his GCSE art work in the last term because it is never as good as he wants it to be. Ironically, he is really good at art (according to his art teacher who presumably knows). He says he also has the same problem with creative writing but is still managing to do factual subjects. He has always had a strong competitive streak but his perfectionism has only become debilitating in the last year. Any ideas or tips on how to help him please. For full information he has AS and is very rigid thinking to add an extra layer of complexity into the issue.

OP’s posts: |
Walkingdeadfangirl Sat 18-Aug-18 13:07:35

Probably won't help...

My DC is like this and as a consequence we avoided all creative subjects for GCSE. But obviously English and creative writing was unavoidable and he got very upset and basically shut down when it came to writing essays.

The only work around we found was to copy other peoples stories. He literally memorised, word for word, half a dozen high quality essays that were likely to cover any creative writing question and just reproduced them in the exams.

Luckily he has the ability to do that. It has got him through the exams and we will see on Thursday how well it worked, hoping for at least a 7.

He is so happy to be able to concentrate on factual subjects for A-Level next month.

Have no idea what we would have done if he had to do Art.

OneInEight Sun 19-Aug-18 12:33:32

Thank you for the reply. The simplest solution would be to stop art and this would not really matter (well apart from him saying he was thinking of architecture later on). But I can see this problem severely impacting him jobwise - not going to be exactly employable if he can never finish a task because it is not done as well as he would like.

OP’s posts: |
Walkingdeadfangirl Sun 19-Aug-18 15:54:57

OneInEight, I would probably agree that stopping Art might be the only solution.
As for the future can you not see the positives? In subjects like Maths, Physics, Accountancy, Engineering, Chemistry there are definitive, objective answers and when you reach the solution the task is complete, you can't improve on a correct equation. Perfectionism in these areas can give you a very good job.

My DC loves programming (maybe its like your Art problem), he always thinks anything he writes can be better and often will never get anything finished because he can never write the 'perfect' code.
Just last month he was coding a game and having spent maybe 100 hours getting it close to finished he reached the limit of what the language could do. So he deleted his whole work and is now learning a new language to write a 'better' program.

Does you DC keep draft copies of his work or does he rip them up? Would it be possible to submit a work in progress for Art (as he sees it) and then keep perfecting the image further in his own time? How does he react under time pressure, eg what would he do if he only had 4 hours to complete a drawing?

User19992018 Mon 20-Aug-18 15:31:11

I would suggest reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson.

I'm not sure if he has AS how this will impact his thinking but Manson writes a lot about thought loops that are destructive and shows that perfectionism is not a trait that actually achieves perfection - if anything it takes away from it. People who reach the top of their game are the ones who see only results at the end of their endeavours, not failure and are willing to 'fail' over and over and over again in the pursuit of excellence. Most people aren't willing to go through this mind-numbing tedium. (Think Ed Sheeran on his guitar - endless practice to get that good or any other high-achiever).

Or he could try reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell that talks about success and the mechanics behind success.

That might be better - but well - both would cover a lot of bases.

If he's good at art, it's a shame to stop. He needs to work out strategies about how to overcome the perfectionism, not give up (IMHO).

I'm a recovering perfectionist myself so looked at this topic alot! :D

Keel Tue 21-Aug-18 01:38:48

My daughter is the same OP and also does art! Very exasperating. We've had battles where she had ripped pieces of work up as she didn't think they were good enough. User has done good suggestions and I did try counselling and hypnotherapy which helped a lot. (My daughter also had anxiety and ptsd issues relating to other things). Just hoping it's not all going to start up again in year 11. Good luck!

MrsRubyMonday Tue 21-Aug-18 02:19:27

@Walkingdeadfangirl isn't that likely to get him flagged for plagiarism? It would have been better to get him to write essays and have them marked and then memorise those.

OP, I used to be in your son's shoes. Then I got sick, and when the choice was hand in substandard work or hand nothing in, I decided something was better than nothing. Talk to him, remind him that by submitting nothing, you've automatically got zero. So you don't lose anything by putting something in even if it's not what you want, anything over a zero is improvement.

Otherwise, would he see a counsellor/talk to a teacher? He needs to address the reasoning behind this, if it's school related a teacher may be able to recommend something, otherwise a professional can talk him through the thought patterns.

TJsAunt Tue 21-Aug-18 10:33:28

DS suffered something v similar in creative writing at the end of primary school. It was getting started that was the problem - the blank page seemed to overwhelm him. So the strategy for creative writing was simply to work out a couple of killer first lines and then he would manage to get going to a point.

I'm not sure how you translate that for art though? Maybe encourage him to make lots of rough sketches that can be thrown away? then maybe that helps build momentum for the real thing?

With DS it was key to nip it in the bud. As a very young child (so maybe age 5) he spent an entire lesson unable to start drawing his picture and it was made worse by people being busy around him and by the passage of time. he had to be encouraged to make some kind of mark on the paper straight away and then he could chip away at it after a fashion. Perhaps being able to work in a more private space like a sideroom rather than the main classroom would help?

Walkingdeadfangirl Tue 21-Aug-18 15:19:58

@MrsRubyMonday but is it illegal plagiarism? All his teachers in all his subjects encouraged and in fact provided 'perfect' answers for the pupils to study and learn. No where on the exam paper did it say your answers had to be all your own work, and it did say your answers could be imagined.

hmcAsWas Thu 23-Aug-18 23:50:09

He needs to see someone. He would benefit from counselling / guidance. Perfectionism is linked to depression - get him professional help before this impacts on his mental health

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