Perfectionism is a tendency for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards. Perfectionists are meticulous and strive for perfect and the best in all they do. Since achieving a state of perfection within any aspect of life is an impossible goal perfectionists set for themselves, exhibiting perfectionism can have negative effects on the psyche of the individual.

Perfectionism is also the tendency to set unrealistically high standards for performance of oneself and others, along with the inability to accept mistakes or imperfections in matters of personal appearance, care of the home, or work; may be accompanied by an obsession with completeness, purity, or goodness. The perfectionist orientation has two components: impossibly high standards, and the behaviors intended to help achieve the standards and avoid mistakes. The high standards interfere with performance, and perfectionist behavior becomes an obstacle instead of a means to achieving the goal.

Perfectionism creates mental pressure when mistakes are made and the resistance to asking for help from others in fear of revealing one’s true, imperfect self. Studies have shown that the personality trait of perfectionism is linked to poor physical health and an increased risk of death. According to many psychologists, perfectionism may be the ultimate self-defeating behavior. It turns people into “slaves of success” but keeps them focused on failure, resulting in a lifetime of doubt and depression. It also has been shown to wind up undermining achievement in the modern world.

Components of Perfectionism

Since it is difficult to establish the “perfect” definition for perfectionism, it can be summed up in three components.

  • The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others) that are personally demanding, in the context of the individual.
  • Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.
  • Experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standards, yet continuing to go for them despite the huge cost to you.

The Perfectionism Paradox

Many individuals think of perfectionism as something positive. It is often seen as the pursuit of excellence, setting high standards, and working hard to challenge one’s self. People often have good reasons for being perfectionists. They may say that it allows them to be efficient, organized, or prepared for anything. Although having high standards and goals may help us achieve things in life, sometimes these standards get in the way of our happiness and can actually impair performance. This is has been described as being the paradox of perfectionism.