What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by the relentless pursuit of flawlessness and high standards, often accompanied by self-critical and overly critical evaluations of one’s performance. It can drive individuals to achieve great things but can also lead to significant stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Am I a perfectionist?

You may be a perfectionist if the many of the below characteristics resonate with you.

Characteristics of Perfectionism

  1. High Standards:
    • Setting excessively high and often unrealistic standards for yourself and others.
    • Striving for excellence in every task, no matter how small.
  2. Fear of Failure:
    • An intense fear of making mistakes or failing to meet these high standards.
    • Avoiding tasks or challenges due to fear of not being perfect.
  3. All-or-Nothing Thinking:
    • Viewing situations in black-and-white terms; something is either perfect or a failure.
    • Difficulty accepting any outcome that is less than perfect.
  4. Self-Criticism:
    • Being highly critical of oneself when expectations are not met.
    • Experiencing feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
  5. Procrastination:
    • Delaying tasks due to fear of not being able to complete them perfectly.
    • Spending excessive time on tasks to ensure they are done without any flaws.

Types of Perfectionism

  1. Self-Oriented Perfectionism:
    • Imposing high standards on oneself and striving to meet them.
    • Associated with high levels of self-criticism and stress.
  2. Other-Oriented Perfectionism:
    • Imposing unrealistic standards on others and being highly critical when they do not meet them.
    • Can lead to strained relationships and social conflicts.
  3. Socially Prescribed Perfectionism:
    • Perceiving that others have high expectations for oneself and feeling pressure to meet them.
    • Often associated with feelings of helplessness and depression.

Consequences of Perfectionism

While perfectionism can drive individuals to achieve and excel, it can also have several negative consequences:

  1. Mental Health Issues:
    • Increased risk of anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders.
    • Chronic feelings of dissatisfaction and low self-worth.
  2. Physical Health Problems:
    • Increased risk of conditions related to chronic stress, such as hypertension and gastrointestinal issues.
  3. Impaired Performance:
    • Procrastination and avoidance of tasks due to fear of imperfection.
    • Decreased productivity and creativity due to excessive focus on details.
  4. Strained Relationships:
    • High expectations and criticism can lead to conflicts with others.
    • Difficulty accepting and appreciating others’ efforts and contributions.

Managing Perfectionism

  1. Set Realistic Goals:
    • Establish achievable and realistic standards for yourself.
    • Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
  2. Practice Self-Compassion:
    • Be kind to yourself when things do not go as planned.
    • Recognize that making mistakes is a part of learning and growth.
  3. Challenge Negative Thoughts:
    • Identify and reframe all-or-nothing thinking and unrealistic expectations.
    • Focus on progress and effort rather than perfection.
  4. Seek Support:
    • Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your perfectionistic tendencies.
    • Join support groups or communities that promote healthy attitudes towards achievement and self-worth.

Online Therapy for Perfectionism

Understanding and addressing perfectionism can lead to a healthier and more balanced approach to achieving goals and maintaining well-being. Our qualified psychologists, therapists and counsellors here at Counselling Psychology Online provide bespoke therapy online for those with perfectionist traits. To arrange an assessment session with one of our online psychologists or therapists, contact us here. Answers to the most frequently asked questions about our therapies, fees and online therapy can be found on our FAQ page.