Understanding perfectionism: It’s not unique to Mormon culture
Perfectionistic ideals within the Mormon culture come from misunderstandings of church doctrine, according to both Kris Doty, a former professor of social work at UVU, and Matthew Draper, psychologist and professor of behavioral science. It’s not necessarily that the doctrine is wrong, it’s just that a person’s interpretation of the doctrine is inaccurate. Deter F. Uchtdorf addressed this issue during a session of the LDS General Conference in 2015.
“It is a most wondrous thing, this grace of God. Yet it is often misunderstood. Even so, we should know about God’s grace if we intend to inherit what has been prepared for us in His enteral kingdom,” Utchdorf said.
Culture plays a crucial role in what standards will be stressed within a certain community of people. The ideal of perfectionism in Japan or Korea is different from the one that is stressed among college aged students in the U.S. or stay-at-home moms in Utah County. But, the pressure to be prefect is universal.
Perfectionism is normally considered to be a negative personality trait or thought process that needs to be changed. But, it can also be a healthy trait when applied in moderation. Draper wrote in his research paper titled Grace as Psychotherapy: Suggestions for Therapists with Latter-day Saint Clients, Issues in Religion and Psychotherapy, good perfectionism can fuel confidence, good self-worth and self-image.
But, normal perfectionism can become a negative trait when a person starts to set themselves up to achieve unrealistic high standards. Individuals who suffer from neurotic perfectionism, the tendency to set unrealistic high personal standards in every situation and being motivated by an intense need to avoid failure, have a lessened ability to feel compassion for themselves and others.
Perfectionistic ideals are not unique to Utah County or Mormon Culture. People all over the world of various ethnicities and religions suffer from simple misunderstandings that can create perfectionistic ideals.
Shelly Harris, a deaf studies sophomore, believes that there is a standard of perfectionism in the county. Born and raised in San Diego, Harris sees how different Utah County and Mormon culture are from other cultures. For example, she mentioned that there seem a lot of people at UVU are always dressed up and try look ‘perfect’ every single day. Casual jeans and a sweatshirt doesn’t seem to be good enough.
“We expect a lot of ourselves, but we are also expecting a lot from other people as well,” Harris said.