Seminars help overcome perfectionism

As university students, we’d all like to pass our midterms and ace our finals, but when stress and anxiety gets to a level that is distracting, not motivating, students face a serious problem–usually one that centers on perfectionism.

The University Counselling and Student Development Centre has come up with a solution for this surprisingly common student problem. Starting Oct. 12, the centre will offer a series of workshops entitled "Overcoming Perfectionism."

Over four weeks, participants attend eight two-and-a-half-hour-long groups sessions. The program is coordinated by Natasha Kutlesa, a second-year PhD intern in Counselling Psychology.

"The need for workshops such as Natasha’s is critical in a university setting," said senior counsellor for the Centre Patrick Grassick. "Perfectionism is endemic in universities, and can eventually escalate to a level where it not only impairs performance, but has a negative effect on many areas of a student’s life, not just their academics."

Grassick also stressed that it is the impossible standards that perfectionists set for themselves that differentiates them from average students. High standards are extremely important for motivation, but the illogical and unrealistic beliefs of perfectionists create problems by making individuals tense, anxious and distracted. It was proven that high achievers enjoy academic success, while people who score high on perfectionism tests do poorly in school, said Grassick.

"The fear of mistakes and failure creates the largest problems for perfectionists," said Kutlesa. "Agonizing over trivia and irrelevant details that do not really affect the quality of projects and assignments is another key indicator of perfectionism."

Eventually this form of perfectionism can lead to a binding procrastination.

"Procrastinating provides an excuse for perfectionists to avoid handing in assignments, therefore not risking receiving a less than excellent grade," explains Grassick. This trait of perfectionism explains why many capable students constantly underachieve.

Another area of life commonly affected by perfectionism is personal relationships.

"The simple fear of a relationship that won’t work out properly stops many perfectionists from ever establishing relationships, leaving them lonely and possibly depressed," Grassick said.

The numerous problems facing perfectionists have far-reaching effects.

"The workshops we are offering will hopefully give students some tools to handle these problems, and help to make them more aware of the many negative effects perfectionism has on their lives," Kutlesa said.

The workshops will endeavour to teach people more about perfectionism through a program that combines educational materials, relaxation technology and techniques for self-talk. The course costs $10 and students can register by phoning the Counselling and Student Development Centre at 220-4082.

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