Perfection TrapPut out the Perfection Fire Ignite your Passion & Pursue your Personalized Pathway to a Professional Health Career
Perfectionism is not just one thought, feeling, or behavior, like high goals or standards. It’s much more than that. It’s a problematic relationship with ourselves, in which we demand too much or are overly self -critical, and it’s also a problematic relationship with other people, in which we believe that those around us demand perfection and that we demand perfection from other people too.
The perfectionist trap that ensnares students with good grades in high school and in an interest in health care frequently starts with visit to their guidance counsellor. There’s invariably no introductory discussion about how the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has identified 12 factors integrated into holistic health and how they align with the student’s overall general attributes and areas of interest. Nor is the student informed that there are 30 self-regulated health professions in Canada. Everyone is familiar with family physicians and knows that nurses are front line providers of health care in hospitals. But now that they’re at the stage of linking interest with a career they need to get serious. They’ve been told by parents and teachers that the guidance counselor will steer them in the right direction.
Doctors are touted as being at the societal pinnacle of the health profession. That’s the perfect position the best and brightest should strive to become in contemporary society. Consequently, what’s touted as guidance is invariably a “prep” talk that’s all about how to become a doctor and the “med” school university route to get there. The student is forewarned that only the best and brightest, the “perfectionists” with dazzling GPAs and high - profile resumes are selected. The student is advised to enroll in a health science baccalaureate preferably in a top ranked university (the perfect university) that has an honours program and give serious thought to applying to a university that also has a medical school.
The student dutifully enrols in a science baccalaureate degree program supposedly linked to a graduate M.D. in medical school. They put on academic blinders and do whatever it takes to become “best in class”. They studiously avoid paying any attention to what are considered distractions that could risk them pursuing any other area in the post-secondary education stream that could impede or, heaven forbid, dissuade them from striving to be a perfect candidate for “med” school. And their parents may well be prodding them to get with it and keep at it. Having a doctor in the family frequently is seen as proof that they’ve been perfect parents who did their part to support a child who has a prestigious “M.D.” attached to their name.
The student focuses on taking all the right health care focused science courses in their undergraduate program that medical schools will supposedly look for to assess their eligibility for entrance. Whether or not they like any of those courses is irrelevant. What’s important is to keep one’s nose to the grindstone and get top grades. They attain a grade point average (GPA) that places them in the top ten percent of their graduating class. They obtain one of the “How to Apply to Medical School “ work-books and master the writing of an essay that will create a personalized profile that will please the medical school registrar. If they can afford it, they can retain a med school application coach and get prepped for a perfect interview. They’re then well positioned to submit a perfect application.
WHEW! I made it and am on the road to a perfect professional career if accepted to “med’ school. OH NO! I’m a failure they say prior to even getting started on a medical career if they’re among the 90% of applicants who aren’t accepted. What do I do with my life now because becoming a doctor was all I ever contemplated doing? I either ignored preparing for all other career opportunities during the course of my undergraduate studies or, if my interest in some other area of study or potential career was piqued from a course that was taken, it was quickly shut down.
After four years of university and $50,000 in debt they’re in shock by having to come to terms with the fact that they’re not a perfectionist. They’re a failure. But hold on. F.A.I.L. (first attempt in learning) is the route success in both a professional and personal life. Don’t believe it? Give a read to the best seller biographer Walter Isaacson’s “the Genius Biographies: Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs and Leonardo Da Vinci” for true to life accounts of how career failures were the keys to igniting their passions and succeeding in life. I also recommend you read my book Meaningful Memories for a personalized account of how my failure in the perfect profession of law with a prestigious LLB/JD enabled me to take a look at who I really was, ignite my passion and go on to excel in my professional and personal life.
Go to my web site at www.johngkelly.ca and click into the “About John” page for an overview of how that recollecting and then rekindling of my F.A.I.L.s into igniting my passion enabled me to develop my expertise and success as a professional career mentor. Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and get mentored on how to get out of or recover from the perfection trap and ignite your passion and create a pathway to a personalized professional health career.
 Thomas Curran, The Perfection Trap. Toronto. Scribner. ( 2023) at P.29
 John G. Kelly, Meaningful Memories. Altona Mn Friesen Press (2022).
John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling