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Re: [teacherartexchange] debilitating perfectionism


From: Diane C. Gregory (dianegregory_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Fri Jul 07 2006 - 06:21:40 PDT

Beth and all,

Stimulating discussion questions. I think many artists suffer from being too
critical of themselves or set their expectations too high. This can lead to
never completing anything. A good discussion about the process of art and the
process of growth and development would be a healthy discussion. Perfectionism
can cripple good ideas. Setting reasonable goals and making steady progress
toward a self-identified goal can be exhilarating. It puts a smile on any

Helping students set reasonable expectations for themselves is a great role for
the art teacher. Students can write out their goals, set timelines for
reaching their goals, and establish some short and long term benchmarks when
they can see for themselves how far they have come. When students see their
own progress they feel great. This in itself becomes motivating. I get goose
bumps just thinking about it!

When introducing this concept to students, I recommend using a word that sounds
less lofty. Perhaps "growth" or "development" or even "progress." Ironically,
to me, achievement sounds like something I could never attain. This would be
the opposite of what I think you want to communicate.

Also, I would make sure that students knew that this "achievement" concept would
could be self-determined through self-evaluation. Students could set their own
goals and determine when they had attained them. The word achievement, to me,
says someone else is going to determine whether or not this is good or not.
When I think someone else is going to evaluate it, my perfectionism attenae go
way up, and then I am more likely to set unrealistic expectations or goals. This
of course becomes self-defeating and sets most people up for possible failure.
The word growth or development soothes my own savage critical beast. I wish I
could follow my own advice. :-)

Thanks for sharing. I think I might want to try something like this in my own
class this fall.



Quoting Elizabeth Heisey <>:
> Have we already talked about perfectionism? I hate
> perfectionism and what it does to students sometimes.
> Wikipedia says perfectionism is an 'unhealthy belief
> that anything less than perfect is unacceptable.'
> I think I want to include this as one of my
> assumptions about art which we discuss the first week.
> It seems the truth lies more in something like this:
> Achievement in art is healthy growth where any of many
> various kinds of improvement are acceptable.
> So there is perfectionism or there is achievement. A
> discussion of the two contrasting ways of thinking
> seems like a good point-counterpoint. Maybe we can
> stave off this tendency.
> What do you all think?
> Beth
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