Perfectionism is a common characteristic of children that are first born. First borns feel the pressure to perform from their parents in taking care of their younger siblings, being an example to their siblings, and their parent’s higher expectations. Parents of first borns form higher expectations and standards as a result of not knowing what is permissible and not permissible when raising a child. There is more paranoia naturally when you want to get something new right the first time! A parent for example may be overly attentive or protective with their one year old child if they fall or sustain a bruise or scratch. The first born child reacts to their parent’s over-sensitivity through being “More aware and alert of falling” as opposed to the second or third born child. In this case parents tend to be more relaxed because they have been around the block a few times to know that kids having accidents is normal.
What is the difference between “Perfectionism” and “Excellence.” As outlined in Kevin Lehman’s infamous book “The Birth Order: Why You Are The Way You Are”, there are several differences between the two:
1) A Perfectionist may become easily discouraged and give into a self-defeated pattern of giving up when a mistake is made. A person of excellence will learn from the mistake and will choose not to give up.
2) A Perfectionist views a mistake as terrible; however, a pursuer of excellence learns from the mistake and uses the information learned to do a better job.
3) Perfectionists place their value on how well they perform, Pursuers of excellence base their value on who they are or more importantly their identity is placed in Christ.
4) Perfectionists abhor criticism and try to avoid it at all costs; however, Pursuers of excellence do not hide from criticism and they allow the mistakes to fade from memory.
5) Competition can be healthy whenever your self- esteem is not based on being first. A perfectionist will become angry if they are not in first place as opposed to a pursuer of excellence who is still joyful and has a healthy self -esteem even when they finish second, third, or fourth.
Changing your mindset or attitude about mistakes can make a huge difference between success and failure. Failure happens only when you give into discouragement and give up not when a mistake is made.