Degrees to Anywhere: students and perfectionism

Reading Time: 3 minutes UVU’s recurring speech series, Degrees to Anywhere, returned on Nov. 15, 2023, with speakers Alicia Turner and Anna Tibbitts.

Alicia Turner speaks at UVU's Degrees to Anywhere speaker series.Reading Time: 3 minutes

Alicia Turner and Anna Tibbitts spoke about the hardship of perfectionism in the life of students in a Degrees to Anywhere speech on Nov. 15, 2023. Turner, a UVU alumni and former Utah Jazz account manager, and Tibbitts are founders of the podcast “Popping Perfectionism.” The duo shared their experiences and insights with students about life after graduation.  

Turner kicked off the discussion by narrating her nonlinear journey post-graduation. From aspirations of being a professional soccer player to an unexpected mission for The Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints and subsequent divorce — her life took unpredictable turns. 

“Super nonlinear, a wild roller coaster,” Turner emphasized. The unexpected path led her to the Utah Jazz, where challenges ensued, including accidental rebrand leaks and subsequent termination. Despite the setbacks, Turner found fulfillment in managing Airbnb properties, showing that life rarely follows a linear trajectory. 

Tibbitts, hailing from a small town in Utah, shared her own unique path. From playing rugby to interning for UVU’s president and working at Crumbl Cookies, her journey was marked by unexpected shifts. 

“We’ve done our time. Right, we’re back at UVU. We’re back where we started,” Tibbitts reflected, emphasizing the unpredictability of life’s journey. Both of them acknowledged that embracing change is a crucial aspect of personal and professional growth. 

The duo’s transition to podcasting in the form of “Popping Perfectionism,” started during a UVU communications class. 

“We did a chapter on perfectionism, and it was this thing that I just had never thought about,” Tibbitts explained, highlighting the pivotal moment that sparked the idea for their podcast. The initial challenges, including staticky audio and mic imbalances, highlighted their lack of technical expertise. 

Reflecting on their podcasting journey, Turner and Tibbitts emphasized the pivotal role of content. “If it exists in you, it exists in someone else,” Turner declared. Despite technical challenges, the podcast’s success stemmed from the relatability and resonance of its message. 

The podcast’s growth journey, marked by improved equipment, a dedicated producer and collaborations with industry partners, showcased the rewards of persistence and continuous learning. “We now have a producer, we have a studio,” Turner shared, illustrating the evolution of their podcast. The duo’s plans for the future include expanding their reach into consulting and workshops, as well as addressing perfectionism in the workplace. 

Turner and Tibbitts also highlighted the broader applicability of UVU experiences beyond the classroom. “Just because something is messy doesn’t mean it’s not good,” Tibbitts affirmed, encouraging students to embrace the messy and unpredictable nature of life. The duo stressed the unique power students hold, urging them to leverage their status to seek mentorship and explore potential career paths. 

They also talked about research from The Hardin Group, in which 1300 working professional participants aged 25 to 55 were exposed concerning trends. Turner highlighted key findings. “86% of the population believed that their work is impacted by perfectionist expectations.” She emphasized the consequences, stating, “66% believed perfectionism leads to fear of failure and conflict avoidance.” The repercussions extended beyond individuals, with “68% believing that perfectionism leads to burnout and 46% believing perfectionism causes high workplace turnover.” A notable revelation was that a staggering “92% of the respondents considered themselves perfectionists.” 

Turner questioned the implications: “If all of these things are true, then the workplace is a place that people are afraid of. It’s a place that induces anxiety and depression. It’s a place that has a lot of high turnovers, which is expensive.” The narrative painted a grim picture of work environments dominated by perfectionism, fostering fear, anxiety and high turnover. 

Transitioning to Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism, the duo debunked common misconceptions. According to Brown, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best.” Turner clarified, “Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame.” The shield of perfectionism, designed to shield from pain, ultimately restricts genuine human experience. 

Shifting gears to their podcast “Popping Perfectionism,” Turner and Tibbitts discussed their journey from a UVU communications class to podcasting success. They emphasized authenticity, with Turner stating, “If it exists in you, it exists in someone else.” Their podcast, born from technical challenges and persistence, evolved into a platform for addressing perfectionism’s impact. 

The duo introduced their solution: connectionism. Defined as the belief that moments of pain, vulnerability and uncertainty are opportunities for increased relational intimacy, connectionism opposes the isolating nature of perfectionism. “Connectionism is the belief that the parts we don’t love about the human experience are the lifeblood of human connection,” Tibbitts explained, encouraging a shift from perfectionism to embracing imperfection. 

As the event concluded, Tibbitts and Turner invited the audience to take a quiz to identify their perfectionist tendencies and offered a practical perspective on the challenges of perfectionism and the potential for a more connected post-graduate life.