There are advantages to perfectionism, as it usually helps one to succeed despite adversity, and it drives us to do better. But the question is always: At what cost?
Numerous studies have been done about the causes and effects of perfectionism on one's relationships with oneself, others, and especially with parenting our children.
It's one of those traits that can be both a blessing and a curse and that you really need to have a healthy balance and learn how to harness it properly so it doesn't become a monster.
Perfectionism is a characteristic that runs in my family and I think, like many other people in the past, it wasn't something that anyone thought was a problem or knew how to do deal with as my father grew up or as I grew up. It was kind of laughed as cute and funny and quirky and "something they'll grow out of". I don't think perfectionism was widely understood at least it certainly wasn't in our family, not to be hard on my parents or their parents, it's just a fact.
But today, I sit here with a lot of personal awareness under my belt (and mind you, certainly not enough) to understand that perfectionism is part of my nature and something that I don't want to nurture but want to learn how to balance out and be forgiving and loving to myself and those around me.
The last couple weeks has brought this to the forefront of my parenting as I've watched my big girl really take this head on. She received a couple of Disney princess blankets for her birthday which she adores. She loves princesses and it was just such an exciting thing for her to get those gifts. But then I started noticing that when I would put her to sleep she would want to see the picture of the princess in its entirety and therefore need to straighten out the blanket. I didn't think anything of it until it started disrupting our bedtime routine. After I laid with her for a bit and got ready to get up and leave her to fall asleep she would some nights stand up as if she was wide awake, even though seconds before she looked half asleep, all for the purpose of fixing her blanket.
So I started to tell her that it's not okay to make her blanket perfect or anything perfect and that it's okay and not to worry about it, and that after I get up, she has to stay in bed, all that stuff. Well, it worked in the moment, but only sometimes, and I could sense a raging storm, as I watched her get ever increasingly intent on making it perfect. The I started discussing with my husband what we should do about it. How do we get her to just chill out about it? So, we came up with "if you keep spending so much time with your blanket, it means that you aren't ready for a fancy blanket like that and we'll have to put it away until you are older". That kind of worked, for a little bit, and just really in the moment.
Then, at some point, I just had to talk to her. I told her how I understood her need for the picture to be perfect, and that she wanted to see the princess faces, but that nobody and nothing is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and even if we try to do something right, it's never going to be perfect. I asked her, "Do you know who the only one is that's perfect? Only Hashem - G-d - is perfect." Hashem created us and so we can be almost perfect, or just be really good at something, but Hashem doesn't want us to be perfect. Our job is to not be perfect and to just try to do our best. I even went so far as to say "even I can't be perfect!"
Once I said that to her, it was like a lightbulb went off for her and the truth is that it went off for me too. Our conversation allowed both of us to be more accepting and tolerant and for me to take stock and realize that no situation or schedule will ever be perfect. Not only will i make mistakes, but those around me will make mistakes too, and that I WILL be able to adapt to those changes and new circumstances. Sure enough, my daughter started saying, I'm going to make my bed, but not perfect. When she was with me and I was making my bed, she said, "You can't make it perfect, mommy!"
After that, she didn't even want the princess blankets anymore. They were too hot and now that she didn't "need" them in that obsessive way, she has been able to allow herself to just be comfortable in her bed and barely even bothers to make her bed anymore :) Trust me, I'd much rather have a messy bed than a perfectionist daughter. And now, when I notice that she is trying to get something just right, I remind her, "Don't worry, it doesn't need to be perfect. Who's the only one that is perfect?" And she knows now, "Only Hashem is perfect."
Just to name a few interesting articles that I noticed on Perfectionism: