I want to alert you to an excellent series of articles at Inside Higher Education, where Kerry Ann Rockquemore has been writing about academic perfectionism.
Many times people get confused because they think that perfectionism is really just a form of striving, being goal-oriented, having ambition, being driven and/or having high expectations for your career. All those things are great, but they are not perfectionism.Perfectionism feels completely different because it involves self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that are aimed at reaching an unrealistic goal (perfection).
The difference is simple: high standards allow us to stretch and feel a sense of accomplishment when we meet them. When perfection is the goal and external validation is required to know we’ve met the goal, it leaves us constantly feeling frustrated and disappointed, even when we’re doing an extraordinary amount of high-quality work.
The Costs of Perfectionism (identifying the symptoms)
Breaking the Cycle (how perfectionism works; and how you can intervene to disrupt that cycle)
Writing and Procrastination (how perfectionism manifests itself in writing and what to do about it)
Are You Overfunctioning? (focusing on teaching and service commitments)
Do You Measure Up? (on creating internal guidelines to measure yourself against, instead of focusing on external validation)
I highly recommend you read this series
Rockquemore’s advice is excellent. However, if you are the target audience for these articles you will find them hard to read. She doesn’t pull any punches.
She has lots of suggestions for dealing with the problems she identifies. All of them will take time and support. I agree with Rockquemore that you can build your own support network to do this work.
Perfectionism is one of those things you may want to work with a therapist or counsellor on. Only someone with appropriate training in psychology will be able to help you with the underlying issues. That said, the services I offer would complement that work, giving you practical tools to move your writing forward, identify your academic goals, and so on.
Edited Nov 19, 2015.