DR. WALLACE: I'm 15, and I study for three to five hours a night. My problem is that I'm a perfectionist. I get really good grades, but I have trouble continuing something when I mess up, so I study hard because I want to get a perfect grade on every test in school. But away from school, I tend to give up when I can't get something right immediately, because I'm used to being successful with my studies.
I have been told to envision in advance what I'm doing away from school, but whenever I try to do this, I end up seeing myself doing it wrong in my mind's eye. This is especially true when I recently enrolled in a dance class on Saturdays and tried to learn a new dance routine. I have really been struggling to make any meaningful progress, and I've been at it almost two months!
Is there any way I can get over my ongoing battle with perfectionism? I'll admit it's pretty tiring some of the time — well, most of the time. See? I had to explain that last thought to you perfectly! — Desperately Seeking Perfection, Syracuse, New York
DESPERATELY SEEKING PERFECTION: It's an asset to set high goals and to try very hard to meet them, but the reality is that not one of us is truly perfect, no matter how hard we try. People improve their skills by performing them over and over, using muscle memory and course-correcting along the way. The more they perform and practice, the better they become and the more confidence they gain.
Making mistakes is really just a part of the learning process and should not be looked at as failure at all! Rather, think of your mistakes as moving you closer to your end goal. You will learn from these mistakes. Everyone suffers from frustration at times, but those who have determination find that what was once frustration often turns into success.
Keep your spirits high, and when you stumble in a dance routine (and you will), smile and do it again and again until you feel comfortable with your routine. Once you hit the stage, you'll be able to refine your moves to the point of "meaningful progress," as you put it!
WE EAT TOO MUCH FAST FOOD!
DR. WALLACE: Our entire family is overweight because we eat too much fast food and because my mother and grandmother both have part-time jobs outside our home. They are in the habit of picking up fast food, like hamburgers and fries or pizza, on their way home. I keep telling them we are eating too much fast food, but my grandmother laughs and tells me she would buy the groceries if I wanted to learn to cook! I'm 17 and can cook a few basic things, but I've never tried to cook a whole meal for a family before. My sister is only 15, so she can't cook either. What can I do to get them to cut down on bringing home the fried chicken, double cheeseburgers and stuffed-crust pizza all week? — Health-Conscious Teen, Nashville, Tennessee
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS TEEN: First of all, you must be responsible for your own diet! Ask your mother for a small "food allowance," and buy some healthy food to eat regularly. Try to recruit your younger sister to see if she is willing to eat healthy with you. I've found in recent years that many teens and young adults in their 20s are very interested in nutritious eating and overall physical health.
When you have time on the weekends, read a few cooking blogs on the internet, and also seek out another family member who can cook. Perhaps you have an aunt or uncle who knows how to cook well? If not, discuss this with your friends at school, and ask each of them if they have a parent who is a good cook. Once you find one, see if you can volunteer to help prepare a meal one evening in their home. Explain to this adult that you would like to learn how to cook for your own family since they are too busy working to have time to cook healthy, home-cooked meals.
I trust you'll find a mentor who can help you learn this valuable skill and perhaps even help you to cook your first meal for your family!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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