Ten Traits Of A Perfectionist

I read an interesting article online this week that I thought aligned well with this series of teachings I’ve been blogging the past several days.  The article was written by a secular psychologist named Elizabeth Scott, PhD.  She specializes in mental health, psychology, and self-help.  Although her worldview is quite different than mine, I believe that the principles she’s teaching in this article are universally true and right.

Perfectionists Versus High Achievers

Perfectionists are a lot like high achievers, but with some key differences. The following are ten telltale traits of perfectionists that you may be able to spot in yourself or in people you know. Do any of these sound familiar?

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking

Perfectionists, like high achievers, tend to set high goals and work hard toward them. However, a high achiever can be satisfied with doing a great job and achieving excellence (or something close), even if their very high goals aren’t completely met. Perfectionists will accept nothing less than perfection. “Almost perfect” is seen as failure.

2. Being Highly Critical

Perfectionists are more critical of themselves and others than high achievers. While high achievers take pride in their accomplishments and tend to be supportive of others, perfectionists tend to spot mistakes and imperfections.

They hone in on imperfections and have trouble seeing anything else. They’re more judgmental and hard on themselves and on others when “failure” does occur.

Perfectionism3. Feeling Pushed By Fear

High achievers tend to be pulled toward their goals and by a desire to achieve them. They are happy with any steps made in the right direction.

Perfectionists, on the other hand, tend to be pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them and see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure.

4. Having Unrealistic Standards

A perfectionist’s goals aren’t always reasonable. While high achievers can set their goals high, perhaps enjoying the fun of going a little further once goals are reached, perfectionists often set their initial goals out of reach.

High achievers tend to be happier and more successful than perfectionists in the pursuit of their goals.

5. Focusing Only on Results

High achievers can enjoy the process of chasing a goal as much or more than the actual reaching of the goal itself. Conversely, perfectionists see the goal and nothing else. They’re so concerned about meeting the goal and avoiding the dreaded failure that they can’t enjoy the process of growing and striving.

6. Feeling Depressed by Unmet Goals

Perfectionists are much less happy and easygoing than high achievers. While high achievers are able to bounce back fairly easily from disappointment, perfectionists tend to beat themselves up much more and wallow in negative feelings when their high expectations go unmet. They struggle to move on when things don’t work out the way they had hoped.

7. Fear of Failure

Perfectionists are much more afraid to fail than high achievers are. Because they place so much stock in results and become so disappointed by anything less than perfection, failure becomes a very scary prospect. And since anything less than perfection is seen as a failure, it makes it difficult to get started on anything new.

8. Procrastination

It seems paradoxical that perfectionists would be prone to procrastination, as that trait can be detrimental to productivity, but perfectionism and procrastination do tend to go hand in hand.

This is because, fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all.

Procrastination can lead to greater feelings of failure, further perpetuating a vicious and paralyzing cycle.

9. Defensiveness

Because a less-than-perfect performance is so painful and scary to perfectionists, they tend to respond defensively to constructive criticism. High achievers, on the other hand, can see criticism as valuable information to help their future performance.

10. Low Self-Esteem

High achievers tend to have equally high self-esteem; that’s not so with perfectionists. Perfectionists tend to be very self-critical and unhappy and suffer from low self-esteem.

They can also be lonely or isolated as their critical nature and rigidity can push others away as well. This can lead to even lower self-esteem. Ultimately, this can have a serious impact on a person’s self-image and overall life satisfaction.


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