• Chris Wingate

Autistic perfectionism

Updated: Sep 1

I’ve been trying to come up with a blog post for awhile, since I’m technically supposed to be doing these once a week or so, but I’m running into a small problem, one which I think might be relatable to other high-functioning people with autism.

I’m talking about perfectionism—a trait hardly exclusive to autism, but one which I think many high-functioning autistic people struggle with in particular.

Perfectionism has been a growing trend in American culture in general, with a significant uptick in its prominence coming in the past decade or two. A Vox article on the subject mentions a study of college students since 1989, which has found a doubling of perfectionist tendencies among them. Autistic people, presumably, have not been magically skipped over by this growing trend—particularly with the growing number of autism diagnoses in the general population.

While I won’t pretend to speak for everybody, I think perfectionism is something that many higher-functioning autistic people deal with a lot, whether it’s in interactions with others, jobs they’re tasked with, something that is asked of them, etc.

I certainly struggle with this a lot, both in interacting with people and in writing. I constantly draft a lot of my writing, and there are times where I can’t write anything because I feel it has to be perfect or I’m not in the “right” mood to do so. Many other autistic people I know have a harder time with interactions, and they have to script out conversations in their head or have a template for a conversation before they go into it. Both, I posit, are good examples of perfectionism in autistic people.

I think that neurotypical people should attempt to keep this autistic perfectionism in mind when interacting with autistic people. You certainly shouldn’t infantilize neurodivergent people—you don’t need to set the bar really low for us—but be mindful of the fact that when we try to fit in we’re often trying to act in a ‘perfect’ way.

Like with the internet and how autistic people use it, I’ll write more on this in the future. I think there’s a lot more to be said about this, and this hardly breaks the surface, so be on the lookout for that.

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