what is perfectionism? Meaning in simple words. How to get rid? Difference from a pedant. Is it good or bad to be a perfectionist?

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 them.in 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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