Vol III, No 3 March 9, 2021
A Note on Perfectionism
by Heather Hanlin

I had an idea in my head for my illustration of the Trauma Tree for my post on traumatic growth. Having taken a few photos of some contenders, I found the “perfect” real life reference. 

(Yes, that tree is a real tree growing in the Texas Hill Country.) 
I then did a pencil sketch and filled it in with ink. Just as I was finishing the inking, I noticed a mistake I had made. I had spelled “trauma” as “trama.” Uh oh. Spelling is one of my weak spots; I just don’t see it. The whole idea behind sketching in pencil is to catch mistakes like that, too. So I had gone over it twice before I ever saw it. My husband suggested I use the illustration as it was and just own up to the mistake. 
But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t put out something I had worked so hard on as flawed! All kinds of uncomfortable feelings come up about that. 

So I fussed and fussed with it in GIMP to correct the error I had made. And now there are these little weird artifacts from the digital manipulation.
That’s where I had to close my eyes and just think “good enough, it’s good enough.” This is something I talk to my gifted clients about in the therapy room. Good enough is good enough. But accepting good enough can be so hard.

We gifted people can put such high standards on ourselves. Sometimes these standards require us to put in extra energy and do extra work, like my digital correction. And sometimes these standards can stop us from even trying something because we know we won’t hit the mark, so why bother? 

Because the belief is, “If it is perfect (if I am perfect), then no one can reject my work (reject me).” And, yet, I know that other people's perfect work is intimidating to me. Near perfection is harder to approach. Sometimes, it is easier to accept something a little dinged up, a little comfortable. To see the humanity in it, to see that others struggle just like I do. 

I heard once that Navajo artists believe that they have to create a deliberate imperfection in their work so their souls won’t get trapped in the creation. Whether this is true or not, I like the idea of an imperfect escape route. Because, truly, it is impossible to achieve perfect work. So why not embrace imperfection? Create deliberate flaws? There is so much more room in imperfection. And that’s why I decided that I will own up to my mistake, after all. Here, in this secondary post. Life has bumps and contours and scars and wrinkles, and that is what makes it interesting. Not perfection. 

Good enough is good enough

Good enough is good enough

Good enough is good enough
Heather Hanlin went into the clinical mental health profession after becoming frustrated trying to find therapists who understood giftedness for her two gifted/2e kids. A lifelong horse lover/owner, she has advanced training in Natural Lifemanship Trauma Focused Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (TF-EAP). She thinks horses and nature can teach gifted people in unique ways, especially socially and emotionally. This is her third career after doing theatrical costumes and being Mom to those gifted kids, including a brief stint homeschooling. The kids are now a teen and young adult. And they are doing quite well, even with her video game producer husband training them as his “gamer-larva.” Thank goodness the artist gene took hold in one of them. Actually, both are very creative. She lives with her 2e husband, 2e father-in-law, kids, and three cats, one of whom she suspects might be 2e as well. The horse lives elsewhere, for now.  

Heather Hanlin is an LPC Associate (Supervisor Reem Glasco LPC-S) near Austin, TX. https://heatherhanlin.wixsite.com/website
Online G3
Online G3 nurtures critical and creative thinking in a diverse community of gifted learners by providing a supportive and flexible online learning environment. By pairing passionate teachers with engaging and interactive academic content, G3 offers appropriate acceleration within an accredited, secular, and affordable education program.

G3 courses are designed to appeal to gifted learners who crave new challenges and believe that learning should be fun! Classes emphasize critical thinking and teachers encourage children to draw their own connections between ideas.

For more information on our programs, contact us!

As I sit here and write this month’s editor’s message, northern Illinois is in a lovely stretch of warm and sunny weather. The massive piles of snow from Ma Nature’s temper tantrum last month are quickly melting away, leaving ice-encrusted dirt hiding muddy lawns. When I go out for walks, I can smell thawing earth, my second favorite scent after petrichor. There’s more sunlight every day and I found myself planning my garden this morning.

After a long winter and even longer twelve months, it’s perfect.

Sigh. Perfection. Such a fraught topic, especially with gifted people. I know I struggle with perfectionism, made even worse by the fact that I’m a classically trained flutist. Perfection is just the start there, and you’re only as good as your last performance is real. Not terribly healthy, that. 

This month’s featured blogger is Heather Hamlin, and she walks us through her own thoughts and struggles with perfectionism. I could really relate to her post and I’m sure you will too. We’d love to hear what you think, so after reading her post, head on over to the GHF Forum and join us for conversation in one of the groups. 

Thanks for reading, and be well.


While in The GHF Forum, you can search for more in the GHF Writers’ Showcase. Go ahead and check out the various groups, upcoming events, choices, and member discounts available there, too.
Jen Merrill is a writer, music educator, and gifted-family advocate. The mom of two boys, she homeschooled one twice-exceptional son through high school while happily sending the other out the door every morning. Her book, If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?, struck a nerve with families; her second book, on the needs of gifted parents and selfcare, is in progress. In addition to writing on her longtime blog, Laughing at Chaos, Jen has presented at SENG, NAGC, and WCGTC.

Jen brings both her acquired wisdom and her experience as a teacher and mentor to her work in the service of parents, teaching them techniques and mentoring them into their own versions of success. Her goal is to support parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, because they are the ones doing the heavy lifting and are too often ignored, patronized, and discredited. It is her hope that her sons never have to deal with these issues when they raise their own likely gifted children.
Most of us have watched DIY shows on TV. Handy people invite us to watch their creative approach to their current project. Have you noticed that the bigger the project, the more help they need? These folks consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help.

Your project is your child's education, with the goal of helping them learn what they need to become independent adults. Our kids may engage in higher education, trade school, careers, volunteer work, or go down a host of other paths, but our job is to help them be as prepared as possible to reach for their goals.

Homeschoolers do not DIY with only their own wits and limited materials. Homeschool parents are some of the most resourceful people in the world. They consult experts, refer to source materials, explore options, and enlist help. Sound familiar?

I often speak about the approach of Leading with Love and Kindness within the contexts of being the president of a non-profit and as a teacher. I know that it can sound a little much. People may ask, is this guy in some weird cult?  So, I want to explain what I mean. Let’s start with explaining that this phrase is my goal and aspiration that I am trying to practice and get better at every day. It is a difficult practice to develop and over time the difficulty level ebbs and flows.

The word "love" is a loaded word. Uppercase LOVE is how I feel about my wife, son, family, and closest friends. They have my heart and my deepest trust. But, lowercase love is different to me; it refers to my view of the world. This type of love refers to my desire to see each person’s humanity first. Some may choose to use a different word than humanity which is more spiritual, but for me, it is seeing another as a beautiful child who brings with themselves their biological, cultural, and social experiences from birth to now. I don’t know where others have come from, their experiences, their traumas and joys. I try my best not to assign value to others, but to work with their behaviors. I choose to assume that others are doing the best they can with the tools they have in how they interact with the world.

Being an activist and professional in the gifted community, I have learned to adjust for giftedness. I continuously update my understanding of how the effects of giftedness impact the community at large and our interactions with each other and ourselves. In short, I generally expect from others in the community the traits of intelligence, introversion, intensity, and over-excitability. Applying my worldview of love is both invaluable and challenging at times, working in our community. We drill down for deep dives, we feel strongly, we know surely, we expect more, we get angry, we get self-righteous, we get defensive, we lash out, we have existential doubt, we get hurt, we withdraw. Yes, Mr. Marley, we can experience that all in one night.

Here is where the kindness comes in for me. By using this worldview, I try to interact with others and myself with as much patience as possible, tempering my expectations, frustrations, and defensiveness. I try not to undercut my feelings, but try to move to a constructive place where I depersonalize my experiences as quickly as I can – sometimes that’s moments, weeks, or years. By depersonalizing, it allows me to open my ears and myself to try to have a balanced, non-defensive view of an experience. It is okay to be both “right” and “wrong” in a situation. This is hard, so instead, I try to be proud that I am working through a process as best as possible. I try to allow myself and the other person to save face.

I found an important skill and it may sound odd. Treat each day as if it is Groundhog Day. I get this expression from the Bill Murray movie, where he has to relive the same day over again until he gets it right. No matter what, he wakes up in the same bed, at the same time, with Sonny and Cher singing, "I’ve Got You, Babe." In this movie, Bill Murray is the only one aware that he is reliving this day, starting fresh with everyone else. At first, he uses it to get out all of the things that he shouldn’t do, but in time, he comes around to using his time to accomplish positive things, care for others, and enjoy his hobbies.
The use of Groundhog Day allows me to start fresh each day, forgive myself for all those things I would painfully regret tomorrow, and start over. I get to try to do today a little bit better than I did yesterday. I also learn to allow others to do things a little bit better. In essence, I learn to forgive myself and others so that I can move on and live life more joyfully.

Part of Leading with Love and Kindness is to live as an example of it. I work to adjust myself, reset my expectations, which changes my interactions with others. I share my philosophy with others. I want them to understand my actions and sentiment. Sometimes my actions can be misconstrued. My hope is that others learn to treat themselves in a kinder way. In time, people pass it on. It is sincere and contagious.

I don’t consider myself Love and Kindness woke. Having the aspiration doesn’t make me perfect. I allow myself to keep working towards that goal. Please share with me how you aspire to do the same or similar things. What are your experiences? What are your challenges? 

I know that in the end, I will be good at Leading with Love and Kindness.

Fortunately, it is not the end yet.
We Hope You Enjoy This GHF Press Latest Release!
Is giftedness a myth? What is a gifted child? Why is giftedness such a hot-button issue? Where does the fear and dislike of “gifted” come from? Come on an adventure and learn how Mrs. Einstein, newspaper articles from the 1920s, and the San people of the Kalahari Desert can help us understand what gifted is—and is not.

In an easy-to-read style, Gifted Myths explores these and other stories on the history, science and lived experience of gifted and twice-exceptional families.

Gifted Myths is a must-read for parents, educators, and professionals who work with gifted and twice-exceptional children.
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GHF connects all sorts of people who love gifted learners. We offer both family and professional memberships to support and encourage adults working to create new ways of educating gifted learners. Our members educate gifted and twice-exceptional kids, whether it's traditional homeschooling, running homeschool co-ops and micro-schools, finding a fit in public, private or charter schools, or a combination. Many write to foster understanding of gifted and twice-exceptional learners, mentor students one-on-one, teach online classes, provide services specifically designed to meet the social and emotional needs of gifted and twice-exceptional learners, and more. All are finding their way on the gifted and 2e path, and we hope to provide community for us, across the lifespan. Wed love for you to join us.

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