Gifted Guru Lisa Van Gemert Speaks to Academy Parents About Perfectionism


Laurel Springs School’s Gifted and Talented Academy recently held an exclusive presentation on perfectionism for Academy parents led by Lisa Van Gemert. The author of Perfectionism: A Practical Guide to Managing Never Good Enough and longtime gifted advocate is recognized globally for the resources and best practices she provides audiences around the world as well through her website, Gifted Guru.

Through her presentation, Perfectionism: An Occupational Hazard of Giftedness, Ms. Van Gemert provided parents with a historical perspective on the lens through which perfectionism is viewed by experts, how the phenomenon manifests and its consequences, as well as methods to implement to make perfectionism work for the individual.

While it used to be common for people to be identified simply as being either a perfectionist or not a perfectionist, Lisa notes the trait is multifaceted and instead exists on a bell curve. Although many recognize perfectionism when students will attempt to perform extra credit if they don’t receive a perfect grade on a test or assignment, there are a number of ways in which perfectionism presents itself in those affected:

  • Aggravated Accuracy Assessment – Focusing on mistakes and spending inordinate amounts of time repeating work in an attempt to perfect it.
  • Risk Evasion – Avoiding doing something if it can’t be done perfectly on the first attempt.
  • Controlling Image Management – The fixation on how others view them. Controlling Image Managers often pretend to not want something in order to avoid having their image tarnished.
  • Procrastinating Perfectionism – Putting off turning in assignments because receiving a zero for not turning it in isn’t as negative as earning a less than perfect score.

The Consequences of Perfectionism

  • Stress (which can affect not only the individual but those around them)
  • Underachievement (often caused by not completing assignments)
  • Decreased social acceptance
  • Avoidance of other interests

Perfectionism Isn’t Always a Problem

While some experts believe all perfectionism to be negative, some psychologists believe that perfectionism can be placed in two separate categories: adaptive (works for the individual) and maladaptive (hinders an individual’s progress). To determine what type of perfectionism affects the child, Lisa provided the following questions:

  • Do you receive pleasure from working hard?
  • Are your standards based on personal desire as opposed to outside pressure?
  • Are you capable of relaxing and being satisfied with your effort?
  • Is your work mastery rather than grade-oriented?

Big Ideas & Specific Strategies for Managing Perfectionism

  1. Excellent is Good Enough
    Critical to send the message that there are other factors that determine success and “an A- is as good as an A+.” Lisa recommends assigning all tasks a rating from 1 to 5. Accomplishing a level-one task (e.g., making the bed) requires only that it’s complete. A level-five task is when something physically, emotionally, or mentally significant is at stake. While most perfectionists might believe all school-related tasks would be a five, most really would grade a three.
  2. It’s About the Journey
    Referencing The Odyssey, Lisa stresses the development of determination, perseverance, grit, and other traits that allow children with perfectionist tendencies to experience positive growth in both academics and in their personal lives.
  3. Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy
    While Lisa recognizes that the harder one works, the harder it is to give up on something, she notes the importance of learning goal disengagement and it’s only common sense to withdraw from a goal that isn’t proving to be fruitful.

We encourage readers to visit Lisa’s website for more helpful information regarding perfectionism and gifted education. Click here to download a free chapter of Lisa's book, Perfectionism: A Practical Guide to Managing "Never Good Enough."

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Contact our Admissions team today at 1-800-377-5890 to learn more about how Laurel Springs School's Gifted & Talented Academy can help your family.

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