Perfectionism Psychology Theory | Assignment Collections |


The drive to look perfect, or even the belief that perfection is conceivable, is a common definition of perfectionism. It is often seen as strength rather than a weakness. The term “healthy perfectionism” may be used to describe or defend perfectionist conduct. Although it is frequently viewed as a good quality that improves your chances of achievement, it can also result in self-defeating ideas or actions that make it more challenging to accomplish goals. Stress, anxiety, sadness, and other issues with mental health could potentially result from it. Speaking with a therapist may be beneficial for people who seek perfection as a result of feelings of inadequacy or failure; doing so can frequently help individuals manage excessive self-criticism. The majority of individuals strive for achievement, yet striving for perfection is not always a sign of a perfectionist attitude. Perfectionists frequently think that nothing they accomplish is acceptable unless it is flawless (Hewitt et al., 2020). People could obsess about producing perfect work or continuously compare their work to the work of others, instead of being proud of their development, learning, or labor of love. Even when perfectionist individuals get their intended outcomes, they may still be dissatisfied. They might believe that they would not have needed to exert as much effort to achieve their objectives if they were actually excellent.

Understanding perfectionism

According to Smith et al., (2019), internal conflicts, such as the desire to prevent failure or strong criticism, are the main causes of perfectionism. Since perfectionist impulses have significantly increased among young individuals over the past 30 years, irrespective of their gender or country of origin, there is probably also a social element to it. According to Madigan, (2019), increased competitiveness in academia and the workforce, as well as the widespread use of social media and the damaging social comparisons it fosters, are all regarded to be contributing factors. Perfectionists have unreasonably high standards for both themselves and other people. They are extremely critical of errors and quick to point out flaws. Because they are afraid of failing, they often put off finishing a project. They ignore praise and fail to recognize their accomplishments. Instead, they seek affirmation and praise from particular individuals in their lives. There are three domains where perfection manifests. According to Ocampo et al., (2022), self-centered perfectionism means placing an impossible standard on oneself. Imposing unattainable perfection standards on others is referred to as other-oriented perfectionism (Smith et al., 2019). Perceiving unjustifiable standards of perfection in others is a component of socially mandated perfectionism (Madigan, 2019). In fact, perfection is an ideal and is not possible in the real world. When pursued to an unhealthy extreme, the pursuit of perfection can have detrimental effects, including procrastination, a propensity to shy away from problems, a rigid all-or-nothing mentality, harmful comparisons, and a loss of inventiveness.

Maladaptive perfectionism is frequently fueled by childhood trauma, a sense of worthlessness, low self-esteem, and fear of failing. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behavior, disordered eating, and even suicidal thoughts are frequently present alongside it. Demanding perfection is not the same thing as aiming for excellence (Osenk et al., 2020). Maladaptive perfectionists are failure-oriented, while adaptive or constructive perfectionists establish ambitious goals, uphold high moral standards, and strive tirelessly for their success. Adaptive perfectionists value challenges, advancement, and effective problem-solving (Ocampo et al., 2022). Their tendency toward perfection is a virtue, not a problem. People who are committed to an impossible, flawless ideal can succeed at a high level by letting go of the comparison attitude (Smith et al., 2019). They can achieve this by focusing on the current moment, developing self-awareness, talking to themselves with kindness, and confronting their own negative perceptions. The important thing is to understand that even if something is imperfect, it can still be meaningful.

Perfectionist characters

High achievers and perfectionists are very similar, but there are some significant differences. The characteristics listed below are those of perfectionists, which an individual may be able to see in them or in other individuals they may know (Madigan, 2019). The issue with perfectionism and the reason why someone would want to find out if they exhibit any perfectionist traits is that people who are perfectionists actually have a tendency to achieve less and experience more stress than average high achievers (Osenk et al., 2020). Being such a perfectionist is challenging since it is exceedingly difficult to achieve perfection or even to perform at one’s best. According to Harari et al., (2018), focusing solely on control is a feature of maladaptive perfectionism. As a result of their intense fussiness and obsession with making everything perfect, perfectionists may try to exert control over others or their environment. This can damage interpersonal connections and increase stress.

The All-or-Nothing Attitude

High achievers and perfectionists both have a propensity to set challenging yet lofty goals. Even if their extremely high goals are really not fully attained, a high achiever can be happy with performing a fantastic job and accomplishing goals or something close to

Being Highly Critical

High achievers are less judgmental of themselves and others than perfectionists are. Although high achievers show pride in their work and frequently lend a hand to others, perfectionists are more likely to notice errors and flaws (Osenk et al., 2020). They focus only on flaws and find it difficult to see anything else. When “failure” does happen, they become harsher and more critical of both themselves and other people.

Feeling Pushed By Fear

High performers frequently feel drawn toward their objectives and driven to fulfill them. Any progress made in the right direction is welcomed by them. On the other hand, the anxiety of not achieving their goals, on the other hand, drives perfectionists to strive for perfection and see anything less as a failure.

Setting unrealistic goals

The objectives of a perfectionist are not necessarily reasonable. Perfectionists frequently set their initial objectives out of reach, whereas high achievers can set them high and possibly enjoy the excitement of going a bit higher once goals are met (Harari et al., 2018). In the pursuit of their objectives, high achievers frequently experience greater success and happiness than perfectionists.

Concentrating on results only

High achievers may find that the pursuit of a goal is enjoyable on par with or even more so than the achievement of the goal itself. On the other hand, perfectionists only focus on the end result. They are unable to enjoy the growth and striving process because they are so focused on achieving the goal and escaping the terrible failure.

Getting Depressed over Unmet Goals

High achievers tend to be happier and more laid-back than perfectionists. High achievers can recover from disappointment pretty quickly, while perfectionists tend to beat themselves up more and wallow in bad emotions when their high standards are not really met (Osenk et al., 2020). When things do not really turn out the way one had hoped, they find it difficult to go on.

Anxiety about failing

High performers are less terrified of failure than perfectionists are. Failure becomes an extremely frightening idea for them because they put so much weight on results and are upset by anything less than perfection. It’s also challenging to begin anything new because anything less than ideal is regarded as a failure.

Statements used to assess perfectionism

Firstly, before moving on and discussing these statements about imperfection, I would definitely consider what causes perfectionism. According Smith et al., (2019), stressors, such as the need to avoid failure or harsh criticism, are the main causes of perfectionism. Since perfectionist impulses have significantly increased among many individuals over the past years, regardless of their gender or country of origin, there is probably also a social aspect to it (Osenk et al., 2020). Increased competitiveness in education and the workplace, as well as the widespread use of social media and the damaging social judgments it fosters, are all regarded as contributing factors.

Statements one and two express my understanding of perfectionism; I find it very satisfying to put in very little effort to a piece of work that I have. Keeping high expectations will always make me feel like a perfectionist and may make me feel bad when others succeed when I fail. I specifically feel satisfied when I value other individuals’ opinions over my own, especially when evaluating my personal performance. Item three is contrary to my perception of perfectionism. I do not really feel or dwell on my previous mistakes, but I would rather carry on with my daily life. Procrastination can be counterproductive to productivity, so it seems counterintuitive that perfectionists would be susceptible to it (Smith et al., 2019). However, the two tend to coexist. According to item five, I do not procrastinate in fear that my work will appear imperfect in front of other people. This is due to the fact that perfectionists frequently worry so much about doing something precisely that they become immobile and accomplish nothing at all out of fear of failure.

According Harari et al., (2018), to personal standards perfection, which states that any individual who engages in this practice should try to adhere to some set of standards to motivate them, I find it very hard to engage in some set of negative self-talk when I make a mistake. Item number 8 states that one may engage in this kind of self-talk to motivate themselves. Individuals with this kind of perfection are less likely to use some damaging habits to cope with stress that is brought by this kind of perfection. Self-critical perfection is another type of perfection that is more prone to an individual getting intimidated by the goals that they have specifically set for themselves rather than getting motivated. Individuals need to be satisfied with all the work they do rather than get disappointed. We do not actually need to get more worried. According to item 18, I do not get frustrated when others fail to live to my standards, but I get satisfied with my standards without minding how others view my standards. It is not perfect to experience some negative emotions if you cannot complete a task to the most desirable standards, but one would rather have high self-esteem than a perfect one, which is not so with perfectionists. Since perfectionists normally tend to be more self-critical and unhappy, they mostly suffer from low self-esteem.

In a 2014 study by York University, the desire for perfection, typically placed on those with professions that call for the utmost precision, such as attorneys, doctors, and architects, was referred to as “socially dictated perfectionism.” (Dahlenburg et al., 2019).  These occupations were associated with more depressive thoughts, stress, and a higher risk of self-harm and suicide. Individuals who are subjected to high cultural or societal expectations and attempt to fulfill these unattainable goals are also subject to socially enforced perfectionism. For instance, parents may hold their children to high academic requirements. Teenagers and adults who experience pressure to achieve the kind of body society deem “ideal” may, as a result, exhibit symptoms of socially mandated perfectionism.

There are various indicators that must be looked for in order to determine the degree of perfectionism. According to Harari et al., (2018), there is no always room for error because they are always the first to correct mistakes as soon as they recognize them. They have a very clear idea of how things should be carried out. They are often misunderstood because they are so particular about how things are done. Anything that is out of place or does not follow their strategy will not be accepted. Because of this, people frequently have a very difficult time finding the right people to work with; other people may find it difficult to work with others at all. Their strategy is all-or-nothing. Either they execute everything flawlessly, or you do not really. The end outcome is everything. What transpires in between and what it takes to accomplish the goal are irrelevant to you. Just make sure the goal is reached; or else, you’ll feel frustrated and heartbroken.

According to Dahlenburg et al., (2019), the perfectionists are really harsh on themselves as they get pretty hard on themselves whenever something goes wrong. They are usually quick to criticize themselves and feel awful about a mistake for a very, very long time, whether it was their fault or just one minor item. When their objectives are not met, they experience depression. They frequently reflect on outcomes that did not go as planned. They frequently consider, “What if?” Most significantly, they believe that if they do not succeed, it must all be someone else’s fault.

They hold themselves to very high standards. Whatever they decide to pursue, they will set high standards for themselves. These goals can occasionally cause them unending anguish. To get to them, one might have to shatter a neck. They eventually start to feel constrained by these standards as they put off working on desired objectives out of concern that they will not be able to accomplish those (Dahlenburg et al., 2019). To wait until the “proper” time to do anything, they put it off. They always hold off on working on their objectives until the “perfect” time. To produce their finest work, one should only begin when they are “ready.” But sometimes it seems like this “readiness” never materializes. Sometimes people wait forever to complete a task, but it never comes.

A 20-item questionnaire

    YES NO N/A
1.        Do you enjoy creating something with little effort? x    
2.        Do you consider other people’s opinions more important than your own when evaluating my performance? x    
3.        Can you frequently reflect about past mistakes?   x  
4.        Do you think you are capable of pursuing your own objectives? x    
5.        Do you put off finishing your task out of concern that others will find it lacking?   x  
6.        Do you criticize yourself when You make a mistake?   x  
7.        Do you pay more attention to your faults than to your strengths?   x  
8.        Do you think others expect you to be completely perfect? x    
9.        Do you think people expect you to make no mistakes? x    
10.    Do you frequently feel content with the work you do? x    
11.    Do you frequently become overly concerned with the outcome even when working on a task you have enjoyed?   x  
12.    Does stress caused by attempting to complete work to a high standard harm your mental health?   x  
13.    Do you solely aim for excellence in your work? x    
14.    Do you really think that only the best will do?     x
15.     Are you not defined by what other people think of you?   x  
16.    Do you often find yourself comparing your appearance to society’s ideal of beauty?   x  
17.    If you cannot complete your projects before the deadline, do you feel bad about it?   x  
18.    Do you find it upsetting when others do not meet your expectations?   x  
19.    If you cannot complete anything to a perfect standard, do you feel bad about it?   x  
20.    Do you regularly doubt the accuracy or quality of the work you produce?   x  


Conclusively, individuals who have a history of exceptional achievement may experience overwhelming pressure to live up to their prior accomplishments, according to the aforementioned 20-item questionnaire. They frequently exhibit perfectionism as a result of this. When kids are regularly rewarded for their achievements, they may grow up feeling under pressure to continue doing well, which can also lead to perfectionist inclinations. If someone feels they may have perfectionism-related qualities, realize that perfectionism-related behaviors and behaviors can be altered. With the aid of a dependable, sympathetic therapist, it is possible to develop healthier attitudes about your standards and aspirations. Therefore, people can overcome perfectionism by using techniques like positive self-talk and refraining from comparing themselves to others. It might also be beneficial to employ strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), such as confronting unfavorable thoughts. By engaging in mindfulness exercises, people may also discover how to concentrate on the now without dwelling too much on the past or the future.



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