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Is Perfectionism Genetic? (Plus Solutions)

This Wall Street Journal article is old, but still worth checking out. It reports on twin studies showing that some young kids seem to have a biological predisposition to perfectionist behaviors like getting unreasonably upset if their shoelaces are different lengths, or to "[idolizing] the bodies of models and celebrities."

However, the article is quick to point out that environment factors outweigh the possible genetic ones.

7 Secrets Book CoverThe article also points out some useful solutions, including:

1) Exposure Therapy: "Make small mistakes and do not fix them," she says. Tie your shoes unevenly. Leave a comma or a period out of a paper. "People are not big fans of this at first," she concedes. "But they do learn that a small mistake doesn't make a whole project worthless." A recovering perfectionist herself, Dr. Przeworski says she is crocheting a blanket that is full of dropped stitches." I recommend a similar technique and love her blanket!

2) Using Timers to Delimit Projects: 'I decide on a reasonable time and when the timer is up, I move on.' As a result, she says, 'I get more done and the quality is actually far better than when I uses was going cross-eyed picking every word apart.'" If this works for you, that's fine. I recommend a somewhat different use of the timer in which you, in effect, us it to practice nonperfectionism.

For those who struggle with perfectionism, my book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific includes what is probably the most in-depth discussion of it and its solutions you'll find anywhere.


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