The Pursuit of Perfection: Vice or Virtue in Judaism?

Chazal exhort us to strive for ever higher goals. It says in ( כג : א )
תנא דבי אליהו רבה לפיכך יהיו אומרים כל אחד ואחד , מתי יגיעו מעשיי למעשה אברהם יצחק ויעקב
– ( When will my deeds equal those of my forefathers)? Likewise, the concept of shleimus ( ” שלימות ” ), which can be translated as perfection , is also an honored goal in chazal . On the other hand, clinical experience and research indicates that perfectionism is often associated with serious emotional disorders (Blatt, 1995 ; Flett & Hewitt, 2002; Sorotzkin, 1985, 1998) which, in turn, eventually results in lower levels of achievement.

 

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Quest for Perfection: Avoiding Guilt or Avoiding Shame?

Cognitive researchers have found perfectionism to be a major feature in obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression (Beck, 1976; Burns, 1980; Burns & Beck, 1978; Ellis, 1962; Meichenbaum, 1974; McFall & Wollersheim, 1979). Several cognitive styles are characteristic of those who strive compulsively and unremittingly toward goals beyond reach and reason (in contrast to a healthy pursuit of excellence: see Hamachek, 1978 and Pacht, 1984).

Note: This article is quite technical and is best suited for those with an academic background in psychological theory.

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Understanding And Treating Perfectionism In Frum Adolescents

This article will examine issues unique to the treatment of frum adolescents, with a focus on a problem prevalent in this population, namely perfectionism, which often leads to anxiety, depression and other emotional disorders (Blatt, 1995). Perfectionism is also associated with obsessive – compulsive individuals who seek perfection with regard to self – control and self – restraint, and with narcissistic individuals who nee d to see themselves as perfect (Miller, 1996). Chronic back pain and other somatic conditions have also been attributed to the stress associated with perfectionistic tendencies (Sarno, 1998).

Read more: Treating frum perfectionists