Three Types of Perfectionists (and How to Turn Your Perfectionism Better)

Being a perfectionist can be a mixed blessing. While high standards are generally a positive trait, as with everything, too much of a good thing can be a problem. When it comes to perfectionism, if not properly channeled, it can lead to burnout, feelings of failure, and self-doubt.

“Perfectionism can make you more ambitious and propel you to success ,” said Lifehacker Melody Wilding, a licensed lead social worker and author of Trust Yourself: Stop Reflecting and Channel Your Emotions Toward Success at Work . “But in the long run, perfectionism can be devastating. Working longer hours means workaholism, which can turn into burnout. While you may strive to be the best version of yourself, many perfectionists feel crippled by feelings of failure and self-doubt. ”

So, how can you walk a narrow line and always try your best without experiencing some of the most damaging consequences?

According to Wilding, you can channel the positives of the perfectionist in ways that can help you in the long run. As she wrote in a recent Psychology Today article , “[Research] shows that there are different types of perfectionism, some of which can actually contribute to your success and advance your career.”

Three types of perfectionists

According to clinical psychologists Paul Hewitt and Gordon Flett, who have studied perfectionism for decades, there are three types of perfectionists that can be differentiated according to their 45-item multidimensional perfectionism scale : socially prescribed perfectionists, others-oriented perfectionists, and self-oriented perfectionists. …

Socially prescribed perfectionists feel pressured to live up to the expectations of others, fearing that they might otherwise be rejected. Other-oriented perfectionists expect others to be perfect, which can lead to criticism and judgment. Self-oriented perfectionists set high standards and expectations for themselves.

Of the three types of perfectionists, self-oriented perfectionists tend to have healthier relationships with their perfectionist tendencies, which include higher levels of positive emotion and motivation. However, this can be challenging, which means it is important to develop healthy coping strategies.

How to productively channel your perfectionism

In order to productively channel your perfectionism, it is important to transition to “healthy pursuit,” Wilding says. Healthy pursuit, she wrote , is “an emerging middle ground between high performance and destructive over-achievement.” It is a way to channel the perfectionist’s high standards and expectations without experiencing negative emotions such as burnout, self-doubt, or fear of failure.

Her advice for channeling healthy aspirations is to confront your fears in order to overcome them; enjoy the growth process, and not get hung up on the result; set realistic goals that can be adjusted as needed; and abandon the idea that you can “do it all”, instead delegating tasks when necessary.

“Give up the all-or-nothing mindset,” Wilding said. “For example, perfectionism can make you believe that if you don’t give 100% to a task, you will fail. Challenge it by researching the worst-case scenario – what is the worst that could actually happen, and how would you handle it if it did? “

This can offer a more balanced perspective, which can be especially needed when faced with setbacks. “For perfectionists, failure can lead to self-criticism,” Wilding said. “Identifying and separating from your negative self-talk can give you the opportunity to look at the situation in a healthier way.”


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