Perfectionist: who is it and how to stop being one?

Perfectionists are complex people. It is difficult to live and work with them, but they themselves have a hard time. Many problems that accompany the desire to achieve ideality prevent you from being happy. This article will tell you about the basis of perfectionism and what to do if you or someone close to you suffers from perfectionism.

What it is?

In modern psychology, perfectionism is seen as a belief structure in which a person is sure that the ideal exists and strives for it with all his might. For him, the imperfect result of actions is equal to failure, total failure. In practice, this means a neurotic attitude to what is happening. A perfectionist differs from a procrastinator in high diligence, but the results of his work rarely suit him.

There are several types of perfectionism. They differ in direction.

  • Self directed — a person constantly strives to become consistent with his own ideas about the ideal.
  • Aimed at others — a person makes excessive demands on others, trying to make their actions and relationships ideal.
  • Aimed at the world around — this is a special form in which a person professes the philosophy of idealism, is convinced that everything in the world should be exceptionally correct.
  • Social — a person has a strong need to conform to imposed social norms and certain standards, to meet the expectations of others.

The theme of perfectionism is widely disclosed in art and philosophy, and is often touched upon in business trainings.. It can manifest itself in different ways. Most often, a person seeks to bring any of his actions to an ideal correspondence with his own ideas about how everything should be in reality. At the same time, increased attention to details and trifles is shown. If something goes wrong, then the perfectionist may show aggression or depression.

The standards that a person with perfectionism sets for himself are always very high. Therefore, satisfaction with the result is usually not achieved. Mistakes and failures are perceived extremely painfully.

Criticism is perceived as a uniform catastrophe. Neither oneself, nor others, nor the world around, nor reality with perfectionism can be adequately perceived by a person.

What is a perfectionist?

A perfectionist is a person who strives for perfection in everything he does. The essence of the definition in simple words is best understood with a concrete example. The average person and the perfectionist are given the same task at the same time. They have minimum requirements, a deadline for submitting work. Both employees know that early delivery will result in earlier payment for the work.

An ordinary person outlines a plan, thinks it over well and begins to act, making adjustments in the course of work, depending on the situation. The work is not smooth — it slows down, then accelerates. But by the deadline, the specialist manages to pass it and is quite pleased with this fact and with himself.

What does a perfectionist do? He corrects the plan many times at the initial stage, trying to bring it to perfection, he reworks it again and again to provide for everything. But it usually doesn’t work, the perfectionist gets nervous, worries, changes plans again, and this is how almost all the allotted time passes. When the deadline is very short, the perfectionist increases the pressure on himself and most often does not have time to turn in the work on time. He is given extra time, during which he brilliantly implements the best of his plans. The customer is generally satisfied, but next time he will try to turn to an ordinary specialist, to a more reliable contractor.

As for the perfectionist himself, and after the delivery of the work, he continues to worry and scroll through the plan in his head, realizing that he could do even better. This fact makes him feel unsatisfied, unhappy.

Is it possible to distinguish a perfectionist from an ordinary person outside of work? It’s possible. Perfectionists strive for beauty and perfection in everything, often bringing it to the development of a syndrome. Such people adore walks in nature, they can admire the beauties of the world for hours. But to one degree or another, it is common to everyone. The following signs will indicate a perfectionist:

  • a person is always critical of his actions, dissatisfied with them;
  • human expectations, goals and plans are grandiose, sometimes they are completely unattainable;
  • small mistakes can put a person out of action for a long time, make him worry, suffer;
  • there is no confidence in oneself and one’s abilities: even with considerable experience in a particular area, a perfectionist, before starting a business, experiences internal torment about whether he will cope with the task;
  • often comparing yourself to others, almost always not in your favor.

Perfectionists, according to psychologists, need help. Their behavior is on the verge of disorder, and if there is no help, then it is likely that sooner or later the person will simply step over the invisible border between the norm and paranoid disorder, and then treatment will be inevitable.

Comparison with pedantry

Perfectionism is often confused with pedantry. These concepts are indeed similar, but the differences between them are significant. There is a huge difference between a pedant and a perfectionist. First of all pedantry is an inborn or formed at an early age character trait. Perfectionism is not a personality trait but a well-founded mental deviation.

The pedant acts intentionally, his desire to refine the little things is his usual behavior, a formalism in which he is fully aware. A perfectionist often has no control over his desire for perfection, he just feels that way.

The pedant is demanding of himself, but when he misses, he is calm, order is important for him, but his violation will not cause a violent internal reaction. The pedant will simply calmly begin to restore order. His house is always clean, at work he follows instructions, he is very tidy.

All this may not be a perfectionist. He reacts painfully to mistakes and mistakes, easily falls into aggression or feels a complete breakdown.

In principle, he does not know how to enjoy life, he hardly adapts to changing external conditions. It is difficult for him to build relationships with friends and members of the opposite sex. He does not know how to rest, developing in himself the habit of constantly working. They may not follow this instruction, be late and fail, but they are afraid of making a mistake and being criticized.

Pedants are quite happy if they manage to achieve success in small goals. Perfectionists do not set such goals either, their projects are always grandiose, and therefore they deprive themselves of intermediate joy. A pedantic person is almost not interested in what they think or say about him behind his back, while for a perfectionist it is very important what impression he made. Condemnation can permanently «knock out of the saddle.»

Form is important for a pedantic personality. It is the form, and therefore he double-checks the completed task a hundred times. For a perfectionist, only the content matters — what the form is filled with, and therefore he often violates the terms, conditions, and agreements.

Both those and others show an increased tendency to anxiety disorders, suffer from stress more often than others, and are in the “psychological risk zone”.


A grouchy inner critic always sounds in the head of a perfectionist, and this somehow affects his behavior. The gender differences are minor, but they do exist.

In men

Perfectionist men may come across as self-confident, all-powerful people, but in fact they are very sensitive to criticism and pointing out mistakes. They take on complex projects, but often delay with the start, they cannot figure out where to start the business so that everything is perfect — both the process and the result. A perfectionist man strives to be competent and knowledgeable in many areas of knowledge at once, while he rarely succeeds in reality.

The desktop of such an employee can always be in perfect order, or it can be littered with papers and garbage. In relationships, such men also tend to adhere to some internal ideas about how things should be, and therefore it can be incredibly difficult to build real, trusting relationships with them.

Any deviation from their ideal can lead to the fact that a man’s mood deteriorates, resentment or even aggressiveness appears.

Among women

Ladies with perfectionism are sensitive to the smallest flaws in their own appearance, they strive to bring it to perfection, which often pushes them to constant debilitating diets and plastic surgery. The same approach is applied in everything — in cleaning, cooking. Minor details take on unreasonable weight and often overshadow the original purpose. In a relationship, such ladies tend to impose their ideas about the ideal partner, it is difficult to please them. Building full-fledged relationships with them, a family can be very difficult due to the fact that you have to constantly adjust and match their ideal models of the world.

Both of them have other common features.

  • Perfectionists find it difficult to make decisions — this applies to the choice of clothes, and the choice of action strategy.
  • Things that have been started are not always completed. The first failure or an unexpected obstacle, the existence of which was not foreseen in advance, can stop.
  • The presence of «black and white» thinking. A perfectionist wants everything or nothing. They often use words and phrases such as “I must”, “I must”, “you must”, “it is your duty” in everyday speech. There are no compromises.
  • Fear of everything new. A person actually tries to limit everything new, leaving only more or less comfortable zones of the familiar, where the risk of making a mistake is lower.
  • Low or decreased self-esteem. Even if success is achieved, a person continues to talk only about those mistakes and shortcomings that he made in the implementation process, not noticing that, on the whole, he completed the task quite successfully.
  • The person is often anxious depression, a feeling of devastation, dissatisfaction with the world and oneself.
  • Often perfectionists trying to compensate for internal imbalance and reconcile themselves with the world by overeatinguse of alcohol, drugs.


Psychologists believe that The roots of neurotic perfectionism lie in childhood. If a child interacts with parents in the face of their constant criticism and disapproval, then he subconsciously begins to strive to become ideal. But at the same time he is afraid of responsibility, constantly scolds himself. He grows up and becomes a person who habitually continues to “hear” inside the critical voice of mom, dad, grandmother or teacher.

If in childhood the child was shown love and admiration depending on the results of his activities, the likelihood of developing perfectionism also increases.. In this case, the baby begins to strive for the ideal also because in order to deserve what he has a full and unconditional right to — love.

He not only strives for his own ideality, he sincerely believes that everyone around him and the world should treat him in the same way. If this does not happen, and in most cases this is exactly the case, confusion, loss, rejection appear, which can lead to the loss of life values, guidelines and degradation.

Less often, perfectionism develops already in adulthood. Rather, this is an exception, possible with a strong and prolonged stress, in which a person accepts these attitudes as a means of avoiding discomfort.

Good or bad?

Don’t call perfectionism a disease. This is a disorder that has both pros and cons. Let’s consider them in more detail.

Let’s look at the positives first.

  • Perfectionists cannot be lazy by definition. They are hardworking, take themselves and their actions seriously, and are able to find their mistakes where others deliberately do not want to see them. Increased ability to be demanding of oneself.
  • It is important for perfectionists to constantly learn and improve their skills, they strive to develop, improve, personal growth is important to their field they are able to bring their skills to the level of real mastery.

But there are downsides as well.

  • exactingness often reaches pathological proportions, and criticality is not always justified and commensurate with the degree of the mistake made. Self-esteem is reduced, and this prevents a person from perceiving himself, others and his place in the world adequately and objectively.
  • Criticism perceived painfully, delivers suffering and experiences. In this regard, the level of irritability is always increased, tediousness and obsessive states may appear.
  • But the main disadvantage, perhaps, lies in the inability to set normal, achievable goals. Contemplating distant and unattainable event horizons, perfectionists do not pay attention to what really should be paid attention to at the moment, and therefore their goals often suffer a crushing failure.

How to get rid?

If you are a perfectionist, you will not be able to stop being one in an instant. It is not necessary to treat this condition if there are no associated disorders, but correction is needed. It is best to seek help from a specialist — a psychologist or psychotherapist, since it is necessary to deal with the disorder with a clear understanding of its causes. Some recommendations will also help.

  • Analysis of the situation. Write down on a sheet of paper the advantages that your perfectionism gives you, and the disadvantages and inconveniences that it brings for you. Evaluate the influence of each factor, consider carefully how it affected your personal life, career, study, health. The data obtained will help to draw up a correct plan for correction and finding balance. If the “distortion” is observed in the personal, devote more time to work, if at work, force yourself to take time for rest and personal.
  • «All or nothing» doesn’t work anymore. This principle should be diligently and diligently eradicated in oneself. It will not be possible to overcome it immediately, but even small advances are already a step towards correction. You cannot do everything one hundred percent. This is your new rule. Leave yourself the right to a couple of mistakes a day, to a clear distinction between work and personal time. As soon as the first one ends, leave everything as it is and go to rest.
  • Conscious mistakes. Knowingly making small mistakes can help overcome guilt. You know how to act, but allow a different course of action, give yourself the right to make mistakes in the little things. The main thing is not to scold yourself, because the mistake was deliberate. Think of it as an exercise in humility and self-acceptance.
  • Praise yourself often for your accomplishments. Make it a rule to sum up such results every day. Praise yourself for what you managed to do, for small progress towards a big goal, please yourself with something at your leisure. Gradually, praise will become a healthy habit, and the level of self-criticism will naturally decrease.
  • Work with your goals and priorities. Don’t let your to-do list get overloaded, it’s better to do less but better. Distribute goals in time, take on the most important ones first. When doing any task, set yourself rigid time frames and deadlines that will help you to cope with any task gradually.
  • Focus more on the process. Your focus should be on the process, not the result. Forget about the main goal, focus on the part of the work that you are doing now. Treat failures and failures as experiences and opportunities to grow, not as an excuse to get depressed or start looking for terrible flaws in yourself.
  • Give up the desire to control everything. Many events cannot be controlled by you personally, and therefore let them float freely, stop imposing your will, dictating your conditions and making demands. Any of your feelings, including laziness, greed and other unpleasant traits, have every right to exist. Regulate them, but do not suppress them, striving to get closer to a certain ideal.
  • Boost your self-esteem. This is the hardest thing for perfectionists to achieve. But nothing is impossible. Every day, take care not only about your business, but also about your appearance, body, health, give up bad habits. Adjust the daily routine so that there is enough time for sleep and rest. Use meditation techniques, auto-training.

Important! Perfectionism does not need to be diligently fought, you need to learn how to live with it so that its negative aspects are minimized.

Suitable Professions

Since perfectionists tend to have an increased attention to detail and detail, professions that require such quality are recommended for them, for example, accounting, architecture, and scientific activity.

When choosing an occupation, such people should remember that teamwork is quite difficult for them, but individual projects are exactly what they need, in which it will be easy for a perfectionist to reveal their potential and show mastery of knowledge. Perfectionists make excellent programmers and interface developers, analysts.

In the absence of correction, managerial work is undesirable.

To be under the supervision of such a leader will be scary for most normal people, they simply will not be able to withstand the pace set by the boss. If a person is aware of his frustration and does everything to minimize the negative, then over time he will be able to take over the management of projects.

It is difficult for perfectionists to work in the field of art and culture, where little things do not play a role, only the author’s thought, idea, flight of fancy is important. They usually make bad actors or writers, journalists and musicians. But striving for the ideal will be very, very useful in certain types of economic activity, in planning, analysis. Undesirable for a perfectionist are such professions as a teacher, a doctor. But its features are perfectly used in design, drawings, and design activities.

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