McLean Noble Blog

Perfectionism and Giftedness

BY JULIANA PULLA, M.Ed. (Cand.)

Were you identified as having a gifted exceptionality or know somebody that’s gifted? Have you noticed traits of perfectionism with being gifted?  Experts in the field have been arguing about the connection between giftedness and perfectionism for quite some time.

What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a characteristic where the person continuously sets very high self-expectations and surpasses high personal goals[1]. There are two types, healthy and unhealthy perfectionism.

Healthy Perfectionism:

  • Doing the best you can with the time and tools you have–and then moving on
  • Setting high personal standards with a gentle acceptance of self
  • Managing behaviors to not interfere with daily life


Unhealthy Perfectionism
:

  • Emphasizing and/or rewarding performance over other aspects of life
  • Perceiving that one’s work is never good enough
  • Feeling continually dissatisfied about one’s work–which can lead to depression, anxiety, and other physical symptoms
  • Feeling guilty if not engaged in meaningful work at all times
  • Having a compulsive drive to achieve, where personal value is based on what is produced or accomplished
  • Becoming consumed by one’s mistakes and believing that other people have high expectations of one’s abilities[2].

Is Perfectionism and Giftedness Related?

This is a very tricky question as researchers have opposing views on the topic! Some researchers believe that perfectionism is a big concern for gifted students1. There are no clear answers, only proposed theories. One theory suggests that gifted students achieve higher academic achievements due to their giftedness[1]. Another theory explains that gifted students are often given compliments on their achievements, which encourages them to continue setting high expectations for themselves[1].

However, experts on the other side of the argument strongly believe that perfectionism and giftedness are not connected. They have examined studies on this topic and discovered that perfectionism is not a trait of gifted students.

What Can I Do as a Parent to Encourage Healthy Perfectionism in My Child?

  1. Highlight the effort, rather than the outcome
  2. Try not to set high and rigid standards for your child
  3. If goals are not met, don’t withhold affection, support, and encouragement
  4. Practice self-talk with your child to manage perfectionistic behaviors
  5. Model a healthy approach to achievement

For more information about supporting perfectionism with gifted children at home, click the link from the National Association for Gifted Children[3] below.

https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents

[1] Stricker, J., Buecker, S., Schneider, M., & Preckel, F. (2020). Intellectual giftedness and multidimensional perfectionism: A meta-analytic review. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2), Pp. 391–414. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-019-09504-1

[2] Hong, R. Y., Lee, S. S. M., Chang, R. Y., Zhou, Y., Tsai, F.-F., & Tan, S. H. (2017). Developmental trajectories of maladaptive perfectionism in middle childhood: Maladaptive perfectionism. Journal of Personality, 85(3), Pp. 409–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12249

Juliana Pulla, M.Ed. (Cand.)

Juliana Pulla

M.Ed. (Cand.)

Juliana is a graduate student pursuing School and Applied Child Psychology at the University of Calgary. She completed her undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, where she double majored in Psychology and Global Studies. Juliana is studying under Dr. Noble this summer to learn as much as she can regarding child and adolescent assessments. Her goal is to become registered as a Psychological Associate with the College of Psychologists of Ontario.

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