This is the first post in a two-part series on perfectionism that you can find on our blog. There’s often a lot of confusion around the word “perfectionism”. A common misconception is that perfectionists hold themselves to high standards in every area or situation. People who are perfectionist can be that way in one or more areas including performance at work or school, organization, and physical appearance.


Perfectionism is often thought of as a positive quality despite the many negative impacts it can have. In fact, perfectionists are often viewed as being successful and high achievers but when it becomes a problem in your daily life, counselling can help you learn how to handle it.


What does it mean to be a perfectionist?

If you struggle with perfectionism, you probably have exceptionally high standards for yourself and others.

Perfectionism entails having exceptionally high standards for yourself or others. While having high standards is typically seen as a good thing, perfectionists have standards that tend to be beyond reach. If you’re a perfectionist your self worth is likely dependent on your ability to reach these standards. This can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of not being “good enough”.


What leads to perfectionism?

Curious as to how perfectionistic tendencies develop and how to change these?

While there’s no one answer for how perfectionism develops there’s a number of ways in which it can:

  • Personality traits: You tend to rate high on traits like neuroticism and conscientiousness and low on agreeableness. This is especially true for self-oriented perfectionists.
  • Reinforcement: You received implicit or explicit messages or instructions about things having to be a particular way. Being rewarded or praised for achievements can reinforce perfectionist behaviors. Likewise, being punished or criticized for not meeting certain standards can reinforce the belief that mistakes are not acceptable.
  • Modelling: Your parents or guardians likely modeled their own high standards and perfectionistic attitudes


Types of perfectionism

According to the authors of “When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough” by Martin M. Anthony and Richard P. Swinson, perfectionists fall into three types:

  • Self-oriented perfectionists: Individuals in this category are self-critical. They are hard on themselves and struggle to accept making mistakes. Standards are self-imposed and can lead to depression if unmet.
  • Other-oriented perfectionists: Individuals in this category tend to project their own standards onto others. As a result they may experience interpersonal difficulties and feel angry or disappointed when others fall short.
  • Socially prescribed perfectionists: Individuals in this category fear judgment and avoid it at all costs. Believe they must meet others expectations them that must be met in order to gain acceptance or approval. May experience social anxiety as a result.


Part two in this blog series will look at when perfectionism is problematic and how to overcome the problem of perfectionism. 

Do you fall into one or more types of perfectionism?

If this is sounds like you contact me now to get the support you need to cope with perfectionism.