Perfectly Miserable: The Psychology of Perfectionism


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Perfectionism: A Complex Beast

Perfectionism is a complex beast and there are different dimensions of perfectionism. Psychological researchers describe perfectionism as striving for flawlessness, holding excessively high personal standards, and having overly negative reactions to perceived mistakes and setbacks. Researchers distinguish between self-oriented perfectionism and socially prescribed perfectionism.


Self-oriented perfectionism involves demanding a high level of performance from oneself and focusing on one’s shortcomings. Doubting one’s decisions and doubting whether something has been done correctly or not can be a feature of this self-oriented perfectionism. It can also be accompanied by an extreme need for organisation.


Our Own Worst Critics

One of the key features of perfectionism relates to the way we react to our own mistakes. Perfectionists have a harsh way of reacting to themselves when they fail to live up to the high standards they set for themselves; they are often highly self-critical, and attack themselves when they feel they have not achieved perfection.


Perfectionists are their own worst critics, “good enough” is never enough. As a result, the typical perfectionist is stuck in a cycle where each new task is another opportunity for self-criticism, disappointment, and perceived failure.