Understanding the Different Types of Perfectionism

Understanding the Different Types of Perfectionism

Understanding Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often seen as an admirable trait but it can become problematic. At its core is a desire to meet high standards and avoid mistakes. But perfectionism exists on a spectrum from healthy to unhealthy.

Healthy Perfectionism

Healthy perfectionists set high personal standards and derive satisfaction from doing their best. They are organized, conscientious, and productive. Their standards motivate them to excel. Failure is seen as a learning opportunity. Healthy perfectionists recognize perfection is ultimately unattainable.

Unhealthy Perfectionism

Unhealthy perfectionists set impossibly high standards they obsess over but rarely meet. Fear of failure and making mistakes drives them. They tend to be overly critical of themselves and others. Unhealthy perfectionism can negatively impact relationships, health, and overall wellbeing leading to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and more.

Self-Oriented Perfectionism

Self-oriented perfectionists set unrealistic standards for themselves that are nearly impossible to obtain. Their self-worth becomes tied to productivity and performance. Making mistakes or failing to meet their own expectations often leads to harsh self-criticism and feelings of worthlessness.

Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

Socially prescribed perfectionists believe excessively high expectations are imposed on them by others. They continually try living up to these perceived expectations and worry about others’ criticism and judgement. This often stems from conditional approval in childhood.

Other-Oriented Perfectionism

Other-oriented perfectionists have unrealistic standards for those around them, like friends, family members, colleagues. They may offer advice and “constructive” criticism frequently but it usually comes across as judgmental. This causes strain in interpersonal relationships.


What are some key differences between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism?

Healthy perfectionists have high personal standards that motivate them to achieve and grow. Unhealthy perfectionists have impossibly high standards fueled by fear of failure and self-worth tied to performance. Healthy perfectionists see failure as learning while unhealthy perfectionists see failure as unacceptable.

What drives self-oriented perfectionists?

Self-oriented perfectionists are driven by an excessive need to avoid mistakes and meet self-imposed high standards. Their self-worth is too attached to productivity and performance which makes failure or mistakes seem catastrophic.

Why do socially prescribed perfectionists worry about others’ judgement?

Socially prescribed perfectionists believe others have incredibly high standards and expectations for them that they feel compelled to live up to. This usually stems from conditional approval and criticism focused on achievement during childhood.

How does other-oriented perfectionism impact relationships?

Other-oriented perfectionists judge those around them harshly leading to strained personal relationships. Their excessive criticism and unrealistic standards for others usually comes across as judgmental even if advice is meant constructively.

How can perfectionists work towards more balance and self-compassion?

Perfectionists should focus on progress-over-perfection, celebrate small wins, replace self-criticism with encouragement, make self-care a priority, open up to trusted friends, seek professional help if needed, and remind themselves they are enough regardless of achievements.