Perfect Is The Enemy of Finished

One of the most common characteristics of individuals in gifted families is perfectionism. The ability to imagine wonderful things can be a strength. When a two-year old begins to walk, he can see how it’s done, but may be frustrated and angry that he can’t do it well. Nevertheless, she will keep trying until she masters the skill. Imagining a perfect world has been a challenge for every generation ever, fairly recently by John Lenin. When you go to the dentist or ophthalmologist, you want a perfectionist providing the services.

Unfortunately, perfectionism can be a problem, as well. In writing, it can cause hesitation or procrastination. In relationships, it can cause nagging or criticism. My own mother in her 90s wondered why none of her three children had become tech millionaires. I told her to look at what her children were doing – my younger brother was building low-income housing for the poor, I was teaching special education in public schools and technology in education at a nearby university, and my older brother was a database manager for a large corporation. We weren’t slackers! What my mother couldn’t see was the meaning our jobs gave our lives.

Artists and poets learn that the most perfect work of art is one that flows through their voice and addresses an issue everyone is concerned about. Trying to make a work perfect by other people’s standards is a recipe for failure.

In children, perfectionism can be crippling. I once tried to teach a class in crochet in a gifted summer class. One student was so upset when the first stitches were messy, she yelled and cried. Thankfully, I had the special ed background and could use the problem as a teachable moment. I validated her frustration and let the class know that it was okay to be frustrated. She was able to struggle through for a week, and was making regular stitches by the end of the week.

Psychology Today says there has been an increase in perfectionism in the last thirty years.(1)  Possible causes are competition and social media. I would add the invasion of visual media, such as television and movies. Especially in urban areas, standards are high. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to work in a job where everyone takes pride in their work and works above and beyond the actual requirements. Waitstaff gets complaints if their orders aren’t taken promptly, drinks delivered, orders correct, delivered to the right person, and there is no waiting ever. Teachers get complaints if students are not learning as fast as the other kids, regardless of ability or motivation.

In my retirement, I love to quilt andI learned a saying when I joined a guild. The ladies and gentleman have taught me that “perfect is the enemy of finished.” Boy, did that help! My first two quilts were technically pretty bad, but I gave one to a friend who loves the colors and designs. The other keeps the cats from scratching my sofa. I called the first one, “The Medallion Quilt From Hell,” and it probably wasn’t a good idea to work on it before and after my mom’s death. The second is called “Crappy Scrappy; a.k.a. ‘Do You Even Think About Color?’”  which is what my daughter said when she first saw the quilt. Now I can laugh when I see these quilts instead of noticing the flaws. I also ask my kids any time I want to give a quilt away and they have yet to refuse one of them. They, too, have learned to accept the imperfections. I hope I have taught them to accept their own imperfections as well.

This blog post is part of the Hoagies Blog Hop. www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_perfectionism.htm    

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1. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/perfectionism. Accessed 27 Oct 2018.

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Other Achievement

If you had asked me to write this post in 1989, I would have been much more prepared. I had a folder on “underachievement” about an inch thick because one of my children sometimes performed about four grade levels below his ability. Our family situation was dire. I was getting divorced, my children’s beloved farm was four hours away, we were living below poverty level, and I was searching for a job.

This child had been less than eager to perform the same as an older sibling, for one thing, and I knew that. It was his way of saying, “I am NOT him.” Still, I knew how his behavior would affect him in closing off options he might want later.

He was left in charge of his younger sibling far too often and had a good friend who disliked school. There was a stubbornness towards anyone he thought was a bad teacher. He was depressed because of the circumstances in his life and couldn’t concentrate even when I sat and helped him with his homework. I am guessing his self-esteem was low, because he seemed to feel he deserved to get average grades and that he was not that smart.

I consulted often with school social workers. They basically said, “He’s a kid. Let him be.” That was hard for me, but I did see that I needed to work on my relationship with him. We needed to have pleasant memories to look back on, not my harping on him to work harder. Not my being stressed because I was worried about him. So, I’m sorry, son, to write about you this way. It’s not from a lack of respect for you that I write. I just want people to know that you are one of the finest people I know, you have made a beautiful life for yourself and your family, and you know that achievement does not indicate a person is better than someone else.

All of the “other” that you were learning has led you to be compassionate, courageous, fun, hard-working, and still brilliant.

Under Achievers

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Utopian Fantasies

In a perfect world…

gifted people are able to earn money for working on their passions. They are treated as equals with other groups and respected for their abilities and/or disabilities.

population would be spread out over the land, so that everyone could be in touch with nature on a daily basis.

humans would be educated in all of the areas of growth, develop to their highest potential, and live in harmony.

people could transport without pollution. Leaders would calculate the cost of pollution as part of the price of material goods.  They would solve all problems diplomatically, without the military.

farmers would have farms big enough to support their families and generations that followed that wanted to farm.

teachers and social workers would receive recognition for the priceless work they do, and would not be subject to politicians’ ideas of what education means.

mental illness would be a treatable illness, and not be shamed.

people would recognize the spiritual nature of all living creatures and treat them with respect.

age would be considered when calculating the needs of individuals, but not in calculating their worth.

human growth would not destroy habitat, population would spread most in areas that could support it, and refugees would be given food, shelter, clothing, and water.

humanity would work together as a whole to solve global problems.

This blog post is a part of Hoagies’ Blog Hop. Click on the image below to see other posts.

 

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The Need to Learn

For me, one area of difficulty in getting along with other adults is just plain conversation. I find that most people make small talk about what they did that day or how bad/good the weather is. Not me. I like to jump in on a deep conversation, philosophy, psychology, politics, science, technology or art (music, art and literature). I love to pick other people’s brains when they know more than I do. Not that I don’t like small talk. I have learned over time that it is small talk that binds our relationships daily. Where you got your haircut or that nice dress, how the family is doing, what has happened since the last time I saw you. These are all things that are important in maintaining a friendship. However, the friends I really enjoy are the ones who know the latest in news or their field of study.

One year, my daughter went on vacation with a friend’s family. She returned, saying, “I’m so glad you’re my mom. I missed our intelligent conversations.” Those who do not have a continual need for cognitive stimulation can’t understand that it is a need. I remember being told not to push my children when they were pulling me.

I became fascinated by quilting as a child because my grandmother was a quilter. Once my nest was becoming empty, I gave it much of my time. Sewing and quilting are relaxing to me, and I love going to quilting retreats where we talk about everything sewing for days. I have friends that love sewing, friends that love music, friends that love current events, friends that knit, friends that are knowledgeable about spiritual matters, and friends that write poetry. Each one is dear to me because of their talents, and I am grateful for them.

It’s important to seek out new friends and relationships throughout our lives. As I approach old age, I appreciate making younger friends. My mother outlived most of her friends. She loved the other nurses and talking about medicine. Growing up, I was expected to know what she was talking about, her nursing books were available to us if there was something we didn’t understand, and we learned to name body parts without embarrassment. Both parents loved music and made sure we got a good education in that area. We all read often and I would sometimes sneak my brother’s science fiction books. I still love Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. In short, there were few topics we weren’t interested in. My love of learning continues into old age and I am not content to sit and sip tea without a book in my hand. Finding others like myself is always a joy.

hoagies relationships love and laughterThis blog is part of the Hoagies Blog Hop.

http://www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_relationships.htm

Things I Wish I Knew Back Then

Mistakes in my past litter my path like leaves in the fall. For those of us that “know” we’re right, the first thing I wish I knew in my youth was that other people’s ideas are just that — other people’s ideas. They aren’t wrong if they disagree with me. They just have a different viewpoint. The reverse is true, as well. My ideas are not wrong just because I disagree with someone else. On the other hand, I have a right to my opinions and don’t have to be flexible to the point of changing my opinion to please others. I can voice my opinion and drop it. Even more radical, I can keep my opinion to myself.

Other things I wish I had known:

  1. I am gifted and that gifted people often have intensity of emotions. My temper has been a pitfall throughout my life. Every hobby I take up becomes more of an obsession. Also, being gifted does not make me better than other people, just different.
  2. I came to Dabrowski’s theory late in life and had been through several positive disintegrations by then: divorce, death, depression, and empty nest. Looking back, I can see them clearly as signs of emotional growth, but at the time it felt like disaster.
  3. Being stimulated is a need in gifted individuals, not a fault. It’s okay to have lots of interests, although it does make for a messy house. I am ashamed of bad behavior I exhibited in school because of under-challenging teachers and wish I had asked the teacher for some extra projects to work on in my spare time. I also would have understood my mother better when she needed to move the furniture every few months or paint a room in the house every year.
  4. Perfectionism can be harmful. I was so discouraged with my drawing ability, I never gave it a try. The same is true of my writing. My children have inherited some perfectionism, for better or worse. My oldest recently did an Ironman triathlon. My daughter works out regardless of her schedule. My middle child has trouble sleeping if he can’t get all the computers ready for the start of school.
  5. Perfectionism can be good. We can use our ideals to lead a better life than if we just give up. We can hold ourselves to a higherstandard and be happy if we make progress in that direction. We can improve our skills if we so choose.
  6. Family stories can give us insights into our personalities. I wish I had known how much I would want to learn about my family. I would have listened to my father and mother more and talked less. Depression, anxiety, alcoholism, religion, dementia, poverty and wealth all influenced my genetic script.
  7. Music, writing, reading, and art are essential to my life. Time alone is good. Time with friends is good. Time with relatives is priceless.
  8. Pets are like children, especially when your nest is empty.
  9. Being sensitive is not always a strength.
  10. The worth of a human being is unrelated to their intelligence.hoagiesiwishiknew

This blog is part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop. Please click on the link to see the next post.

The Strength of the Mind

Because they need stimulation and variety in their everyday life, many gifted adults have a hard time meeting life partners. They also have a hard time making friends who are intellectually and creatively stimulating. They are passionate about a cause and single-minded in their pursuit of that cause. Often, their feelings of being right makes them appear stubborn or opinionated. Existential depression can occur when life events pile up or a situation becomes untenable.

In work, they are aware of nuances that their superiors can’t see and have a hard time with bosses who can’t even imagine what they are talking about. Emotional sensitivity may cause them to be hurt by the slights of others. Sensory awareness may make it hard to concentrate when the room is too hot, noisy or tense. Perfectionism is often another characteristic of gifted adults, causing them to demand excellence from themselves and others.

Appreciation of the fine arts often causes them to reject popular music or media, becoming out-of-sync with popular culture. Reading is an essential pastime, with piles of books waiting to be read about a multitude of topics.

Activity in many organizations may or may not be balanced. Individuals who are gifted may not be aware of it. Others just think they are odd.

Gifted children are asynchronous in their development, exhibiting cognitive skills far in advance of their physical and emotional abilities. So too, are gifted adults, often appearing much younger than their age. Language and memory in these individuals may test as average, when it actually has declined. Depression can occur in the early stages of dementia when the individual realizes they are losing their memory.

Here are some further resources if you would like to learn more or think you may be gifted.

The Davidson Institute

High Ability

Daily Worth

SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)

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This blog is part of the May 2018 Hoagies Bloghop, You may access this Bloghop by clicking on the graphic or here: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_adults.htm.

Academics Are Important, But…

There is so much more to life than academic learning. I have been studying creativity this year on my blog, Wallin’s Wave, and I am always amazed at how much of life is made up of routines. If it were just routines that met our needs, we would all be happy most of the time. What brings great joy into our lives is change; changing stimulation to be precise. The more gifted a person is, the greater their need for stimulation that is challenging.  “An extreme need for constant mental stimulation is one important difference.” (1)

In addition, Lovecky notes, “The thought processes of extraordinarily gifted children tend to be more complex than those of other gifted children. “ This can become a problem when our children try to establish a relationship with same-age peers. My son’s best friend said my son’s problem was that he was too smart. He could explain that he was always thinking too much and that caused problems. Luckily, for my son, there was a gifted program in our school district that did meet his needs.

Finally Lovecky writes, “Exceptionally gifted children usually show early and unusual perceptiveness about issues and other people.” To those who have a sensitive and caring nature, such events as school massacres, war scenes, weather catastrophes, and death can cause crippling anxiety. Parents need to help students find a way to contribute to the healing and feel reassured that they will be safe most of the time.

With such intense needs, parents can feel overwhelmed and under-prepared. I have posted before about the traits of a healthy family (https://lwallin.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/intelligence-and-emotions/). For my family, there were many traits of giftedness: perfectionism, “unusual alertness, even in infancy, rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly, excellent memory, unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age, advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas, enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles, often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler, deep, intense feelings and reactions, highly sensitive, thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful, idealism and sense of justice at early age, concern with social and political issues and injustices, longer attention span and intense concentration, preoccupied with own thoughts—daydreamer, learn basic skills quickly and with little practice, asks probing questions, wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area), highly developed curiosity, interest in experimenting and doing things differently, puts idea or things together that are not typical, keen and/or unusual sense of humor, desire to organize people/things through games or complex schemas, vivid imaginations (and imaginary playmates when in preschool).” (2)

Without such knowledge, most of us make mistakes in meeting our children’s needs. I thought my first child would be happy rocking in an infant seat while I canned food from the garden. Yeah, for about 10 minutes! Trying to make the second to conform to expectations was not what I should have done either. My third never experienced quiet times without business because, well, third, but also I went back to work half time.

What would I teach them now? To get enough sleep, not take life too seriously, tell others what you need, take time out for just thinking, and follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell would say. Stand up for yourself. You may or may not enjoy school, but it will teach you how to tolerate boredom, which may occur in your job later. You may or may not have a lot of friends your age, also preparing you for work. Read everything you can about social skills, especially dealing with difficult people. Forgive, forgive, forgive.

hoagiesbeyondacademics

 

This post is part of Hoagies Blog http://www.HoagiesGifted.org/blog_hop_beyond_academics.htm

  1. Lovecky, D. V., “Hidden gifted learner: The exceptionally gifted child,” Understanding Our Gifted, Open Space Communications. March/April 1992, May/June 1992. http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10130 accessed 2/23/18.
  2. Common Characteristics of Gifted Individuals, https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/my-child-gifted/common-characteristics-gifted-individuals, accessed 2/23/18. Reproduced there by permission from: Webb, J., Gore, J., Amend, E., DeVries, A. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children.Tuscon, AZ:  Great Potential Press, www.greatpotentialpress.com.