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MCAT CARS Skills—The Problem With Perfectionism

Session 28

This week, we dive into an article about perfectionism. As always, we’re joined by Jack Westin, the MCAT CARS tutor. If you’re looking for some more CARS help, go to medicalschoolhq.net/jackwestin to unlock an exclusive discount for the MCAT CARS course they’re offering. Jack Westin is launching another course on May 9, 2019. Check them out if you’re interested in joining.

Link to article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/11/how-perfectionism-can-be-destructive/574837/

When the psychologist Jessica Pryor lived near an internationally renowned university, she once saw a student walking into a library holding a sleeping bag and a coffee maker.

She’s heard of grad students spending 12 to 18 hours at a time in the lab. Their schedules are meant to be literally punishing: If they’re scientists-in-training, they won’t allow themselves to watch Netflix until their experiments start generating results. “Relationships become estranged—people stop inviting them to things, which leads them to spend even more time in the lab,” Pryor told me.

Along with other therapists, Pryor, who is now with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, is trying to sound the alarm about a tendency among young adults and college students to strive for perfection in their work—sometimes at any cost. Though it is often portrayed as a positive trait—a clever response to the “greatest weaknesses” question during job interviews, for instance—Pryor and others say extreme perfectionism can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.

What’s more, perfectionism seems to be on the rise. In a study of thousands of American, Canadian, and British college students published earlier this year, Thomas Curran of the University of Bath and Andrew Hill of York St. John University found that today’s college students report higher levels of perfectionism than college students did during the 1990s or early 2000s. They measured three types of perfectionism: self-oriented, or a desire to be perfect; socially prescribed, or a desire to live up to others’ expectations; and other-oriented, or holding others to unrealistic standards. From 1989 to 2016, they found, self-oriented perfectionism scores increased by 10 percent, socially prescribed scores rose by 33 percent, and other-oriented perfectionism increased by 16 percent.

A person living with an other-oriented perfectionist might feel criticized by the perfectionist spouse for not doing household chores exactly the “right” way. “One of the most common things couples argue about is the proper way of loading the dishwasher,” says Amy Bach, a psychologist in Providence, Rhode Island.

[04:11] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1:

When the psychologist Jessica Pryor lived near an internationally renowned university, she once saw a student walking into a library holding a sleeping bag and a coffee maker.

Jack says:

The student is maybe going in for a long study session. Make sure to visualize what you’re reading. Picture out the scene and imagine what’s happening. So here, imagine a student walking into a library with a sleeping bag and a coffee maker in their hands. So they’re probably going to do a lot of work in the library. This probably shows an idea that the student is going to work hard. It doesn’t say it directly, but that’s what it’s trying to comply. This is something you need to pick up on as a reader. If you read it too quickly or not paying attention, you’re not going to get the author’s point. This is going to hurt you when you get to the next paragraph.

[05:52] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1:

She’s heard of grad students spending 12 to 18 hours at a time in the lab.

Jack says:

She is referring to Jessica Pryor.

[06:13] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2:

Their schedules are meant to be literally punishing: If they’re scientists-in-training, they won’t allow themselves to watch Netflix until their experiments start generating results.

Jack says:

The schedules of the students are supposed to be punishing. But there’s some reward after you’ve done something good.

[06:48] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3:

“Relationships become estranged—people stop inviting them to things, which leads them to spend even more time in the lab,” Pryor told me.

Jack says:

Jessica is painting the picture of what happens when the students are studying for so long. The key here is “sacrifice.” You’re sacrificing your social life and pleasures for work or lab time. It seems the author is painting this in a negative way. But we’re still not sure where this is going. But the word that’s used here is “punishing” which gives a negative connotation.

[08:10] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1:

Along with other therapists, Pryor, who is now with the Family Institute at Northwestern University, is trying to sound the alarm about a tendency among young adults and college students to strive for perfection in their work—sometimes at any cost.

Jack says:

They’re warning us again that this is not good.

[08:51] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2:

Though it is often portrayed as a positive trait—a clever response to the “greatest weaknesses” question during job interviews, for instance—Pryor and others say extreme perfectionism can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.

Jack says:

It’s showing us that perfectionism is detrimental to your mental health. This resonates with many students studying for the MCAT who are worried when they get their questions wrong. That worry can lead to depression potentially. Focusing more on the things you’re weak on is going to increase that kind of anxiety. Overall, it’s good to be on top of it. But you can’t let it affect your mental health.

[10:28] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1:

What’s more, perfectionism seems to be on the rise.

Jack says:

They’re painting a picture that we’re getting worse at this.

[10:38] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2:

In a study of thousands of American, Canadian, and British college students published earlier this year, Thomas Curran of the University of Bath and Andrew Hill of York St. John University found that today’s college students report higher levels of perfectionism than college students did during the 1990s or early 2000s.

Jack says:

They’re giving us some data that perfectionism is increasing.

[11:15] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3:

They measured three types of perfectionism: self-oriented, or a desire to be perfect; socially prescribed, or a desire to live up to others’ expectations; and other-oriented, or holding others to unrealistic standards.

Jack says:

Don’t write this stuff down. But you are responsible for it. They will ask questions about this. The way to get around this to picture what these are. Have some imagination of what this entails and you’re going to know enough to get the questions right. You don’t need to write it down.

[13:03] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4:

From 1989 to 2016, they found, self-oriented perfectionism scores increased by 10 percent, socially prescribed scores rose by 33 percent, and other-oriented perfectionism increased by 16 percent.

Jack says:

They defined the three types and shows that all three of them increased over this time period. It seems that the socially prescribed is much higher, significantly increasing more than the other ones. But you should know they’re all increasing.

[13:55] Paragraph 5, Sentence 1:

A person living with an other-oriented perfectionist might feel criticized by the perfectionist spouse for not doing household chores exactly the “right” way.

Jack says:

They’re giving us an anecdote of one specific type of perfectionist.

[14:35] Paragraph 5, Sentence 2:

“One of the most common things couples argue about is the proper way of loading the dishwasher,” says Amy Bach, a psychologist in Providence, Rhode Island.

Jack says:

The author here is talking about arguing with a spouse. They’re saying that perfectionism can not only affect your own health but relationships as well. That is the big idea.

Jack has noticed that the more relaxed students are, the easier they take the MCAT, and the better their scores. So just take it easy!

Links:

Link to article:

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/11/how-perfectionism-can-be-destructive/574837/

medicalschoolhq.net/jackwestin

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