Head of Oxford High School, Judith Carlisle has championed the debate about “unhelpful perfectionism” with girls, parents and now a wider audience across the country.
Unhelpful perfectionism is a sort of fear of being found wanting, with many women and girls having an inner voice that says ‘I’m not quite good enough’. There is a fear of not having a go if there’s the possibility of failure. One strategy for overcoming unhelpful perfectionism is broadening and strengthening your sense of self-worth so that it is not just based on achievement.
At Oxford High, Judith’s campaign – the Death of Little Miss Perfect – is now firmly embedded in the DNA of the school. Teaching, assemblies and activities are planned to encourage the staff to spot and tackle this very female trait. In a high-achieving school such as OHS, there is now a recognition amongst pupils that the further you go in academia, there is less likely to be an answer that can be verified as correct or perfect. Girls are encouraged to ‘just go for it’ and that it is ok to learn from failure. Importantly, they are all encouraged to be kinder and more positive towards themselves.