Expectations & Perfectionism – A Blog Post By Beth Elliot

I recently read a story about a family that set up their large, outdoor movie screen at the end of their neighborhood’s cul de sac. They invited everyone in the neighborhood to attend free movies on Friday. People stayed in their cars, like a drive-in movie theater, to adhere to the physical distancing. Another neighbor donated beer from his microbrewery to anyone who came. Another neighbor provided a free snack. 


It sounded like such a wonderful community and a lovely way to come together, however, the original family had to close it down because people began complaining. Their complaints? There was no free popcorn or soda. They didn’t like the movie choice. They wanted the family to set up a better sound system.


There are times when even the most loving community can have unrealistic expectations. Often, these expectations come from cultural norms like perfectionism. As the impact of the pandemic continues, UUCB will also have to consider their expectations. With fewer resources and so many changes, things are bound to continue to change. How can UUCB prepare to weather the next few years while still Connecting Bravely, Deepening Spirituality, Embodying Justice, and Always Loving?


The UUA is actively working to address the systemic impacts of White Supremacy Culture, including the ideas behind perfectionism. They shared some insightful perspectives from THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE from Dismantling Racism: A Workbook for Social Change Groups, by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, (ChangeWork, 2001).


You can follow the link to see the whole workbook, but here is the section on perfectionism.



  • little appreciation expressed among people for the work that others are doing; appreciation that is expressed usually directed to those who get most of the credit anyway
  • more common is to point out either how the person or work is inadequate
  • or even more common, to talk to others about the inadequacies of a person or their work without ever talking directly to them
  • mistakes are seen as personal, i.e. they reflect badly on the person making them as opposed to being seen for what they are — mistakes
  • making a mistake is confused with being a mistake, doing wrong with being wrong
  • little time, energy, or money put into reflection or identifying lessons learned that can improve practice, in other words little or no learning from mistakes
  • tendency to identify what ís wrong; little ability to identify, name, and appreciate what ís right


Antidotes: Develop a culture of appreciation, where the organization takes time to make sure that peopleís work and efforts are appreciated; develop a learning organization, where it is expected that everyone will make mistakes and those mistakes offer opportunities for learning; create an environment where people can recognize that mistakes sometimes lead to positive results; separate the person from the mistake; when offering feedback, always speak to the things that went well before offering criticism; ask people to offer specific suggestions for how to do things differently when offering criticism.


We must work together to let go of unrealistic expectations and the idea of perfectionism. We must lift each other up. Gratitude is a strong foundation for all church work. Finding ways to appreciate each other and extending grace and patience for when we make mistakes will make us stronger.


Be well,