Sunday, January 20, 2019

Perfectionism - Not a Positive

Perfectionism is often prevalent among our law students. It is not surprising that so many law students strive to be perfect. Our society goads them on. When they were in high school and college, they were the cream of the crop. They were taught that they needed to get all A grades, excel in athletics/debate/other activities, and be the president of organizations to get into the best college and the best graduate school. From the time they were very young, their parents pushed them into a plethora of after-school and weekend activities to pad their future resumes.

In their lives before law school, they could aim for perfection because they were typically heads and shoulders above their competition in getting good grades, garnering awards, and more. Now that the best and the brightest are among the best and the brightest, perfectionism can undermine their efforts and exacerbate a lot of negative traits. Perfection is impossible. Missing perfect leads to self-criticism, fear of failure, unrealistic expectations of self and others, and misery.

I wrote about the dangers of perfectionism in my October 20, 2018 post entitled Are you being sabotaged by perfectionism? The January 2019 issue of Law Practice Today has an article on Reining in Perfectionism showing the negatives of this trait when practicing lawyers fall into its grip. The personal and professional toll can be devastating.

We need to help our students achieve their academic potential, but we need to help them excel rather than aim to be perfect. (Amy Jarmon)

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