Living with perfectionism, and the science of never being satisfied.

Perfectionism -- self portrait. (Roni Rosen/Flickr)

Perfectionism — self portrait. (Roni Rosen/Flickr)

Everybody knows a perfectionist.  Or two, or three, or four.  Or many more.  That person who’s so incredibly hard to please.  Who’s never quite satisfied.  Who always wants to tweak it a little more.  The Steve Jobs type.  It may be you.  Driven to that never quite achievable goal of perfection.

It can make great things happen.  It can drive people crazy.  It can be rocket fuel, and a real problem.  New science is looking at the sources of perfectionism.  Where it comes from.  What’s genetic, what’s not.

This hour, On Point:  the science and psychology of perfectionism.

-Tom Ashbrook


Thomas Greenspon, author of Moving Past Perfect: How Perfectionism May Be Holding Back Your Kids (and You!) and What You Can Do About It.

Amy Przeworski, assistant professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University. She writes a blog for Psychology Today called “Don’t Worry, Mom.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal “She earned a Ph.D. from MIT and an M.D. from Harvard. “But I also wanted to be the best mother possible,” says Dr. Silvers, so she worked part-time, not full-time, emergency-room shifts to maximize her time with her children, ages 3, 5 and 8.”

Huffington Post “She keeps her room super neat and she folds her socks and underwear “just so” in her dresser. She can’t seem to do anything less than 100%. I think she feels compelled to be perfect. She was adopted when she was 14 months old from China.”

Globe and Mail “It dawned on me that I was trying to be the perfect mom and perfect employee but I’m not. I’m okay with that. At least, I’m trying to be. Sure, the particulars of an important conversation might keep me awake at night and a typo may set off a stream of self-berating, internal dialogue. But this assumption that every part of our life – from our work to our children to our homes – must be impeccable dooms us to constant disappointment. Isn’t it time we kicked the perfectionism habit?”

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