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September 20, 2023

Perfectionism: How to Find the Balance

by Nadia Haughton, LCMHC



the quality or state of being perfect: such as:

(a) freedom from fault or defect: flawlessness;

(b) maturity

(c) the quality or state of being saintly


(a) an exemplification of supreme excellence;

(b) an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence


the act or process of perfecting

Are you a Perfectionist?

Canadian Psychologists created 3 categories of Perfectionists: Socially Prescribed Perfectionists, Other-Oriented Perfectionists, and Self-Oriented Perfectionists.

Types of Perfectionism

Socially Prescribed Perfectionists can be: self-critical, have a fear of rejection, and the effects can result in anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence

Other-Oriented Perfectionists tend to hold others to high standards, can be critical, can be judgmental of others, and can have difficulty building and/or maintaining effective work relationships

Self-Oriented Perfectionists tend to be organized and conscientious, set high standards for themselves, and may achieve greater productivity and success for those that have the most adaptive traits for those who are highly self-oriented

Examples of Perfectionist Tendencies

Signs of perfectionism are all-or-nothing thinking, reluctance to prioritize, avoidance of failure (procrastination), being highly critical of themselves and others, having unrealistic standards, feeling an obligation to over-deliver, feeling pushed by fear, and low-self-esteem

Perfectionists may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by a task, and have expectations of excelling at everything, which can lead to procrastination. This can possibly overwhelm Perfectionists with the steps that “need” to be taken, to the point that they procrastinate and exacerbate feelings of failure and being overwhelmed

What Do Others Believe Perfection Is?

In contemplating perfection, I asked colleagues what perfection meant to them. The following definitions provided were equally varied and yet, the same:

  • “Giving your best at all times”
  • “Everything as it should be to my liking”
  • “When everything is ‘on point”
  • “Making sure you do your job correctly at all times”
  • “It’s lifestyle, organization, adaptability, exceeding expectations”
  • “Practice”
  • “Getting everything right, not having any criticisms to avoid”
  • “In theory- flawless, but unachievable”

There are some subtle differences in these responses that range between doing your best, doing things perfectly, and avoiding criticism and possible failure of the feeling of failure

The Cost of Perfection

I ask people that I work with in sessions who tend to have high, at times unrealistic, expectations for themselves: but, at what cost?

Perfectionism can be crossing the boundaries between healthy and unhealthy behaviors and expectations. This can lead to unhealthy self-talk and self-image, along with a variety of poor outcomes such as mood disorders, dependence on substances, and dependence on people “making” them feel better.

As an individual, striving for a healthy balance is important. Whatever that may look like for each of us, and this balance can change temporarily depending on life and what we have going on. Continually striving for a manageable balance in our lives is crucial for our mental health and well-being. Doing so means focusing on our strengths and whether they apply to a situation we are trying to “manage.” This means acknowledging our weaknesses and working with them instead of feeling like a failure. This may mean asking, or allowing for, help or support depending on the situation. While this can make some Perfectionists feel inadequate (mind your self-talk!), it’s important to understand that excellence is understanding your limitations and finding ways to adjust your self-expectations realistically.


Fagan, A. (2021, September 14). 3 Types of Perfectionism to Watch Out for. Psychology Today.…/trust-yourself/202109/3-types-perfectionism-watch-out

Scott, E. (2023, February 27). Perfectionism: 10 Signs of Perfectionist Traits. Verywell Mind.

Additional Reading

Sutton, J. (2021, September 24). What Is Perfectionism According to Psychology? 7 Examples. Psychology Today. 3 Types of Perfectionism to Watch Out for | Psychology Today

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