What Is Perfectionism?

What Is Perfectionism?

by Dr Emma Gray - 9th June, 2018


Perfectionism is when trying to do your best tips over into a desire to perform at the highest possible level in most things. Clinical Perfectionism is when this desire becomes something that you NEED to do in order to feel ok about yourself and when you fall short of this unrelenting standard you harshly criticise yourself.

Do you suffer from Clinical Perfectionism?

Ask yourself the following questions to see if you are suffering with Clinical Perfectionism:

  • Do you feel that you must be the best at most of what you do?
  • Do you find it hard to accept second best from yourself?
  • Do you always try to do your ‘best’ and find it hard to settle for ‘good enough’?
  • Do you feel that you must meet all of your responsibilities without fail?
  • Do you feel there is a constant pressure for you to achieve and get things done?
  • Do you find it hard to let yourself off the hook?
  • Do you struggle to allow and accept mistakes in yourself?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to one of more of these questions you may be suffering from Clinical Perfectionism. Clinical Perfectionism is usually a way of coping with negative thoughts about yourself. The high standards that you set yourself serve, in the short term, to counteract an internal self-critical voice. However, those high standards are so high and so unrelenting that they cannot be consistently met, or met at all, and so over the longer term they act as a stick to beat yourself with every time you don’t measure up.

What help is available for Clinical Perfectionism?

Clinical Perfectionism is common in people with low self-esteem, low confidence and depression. Treatment for Clinical Perfectionism involves working to improve self esteem and confidence so that gradually you are able to let go of your high standards and adopt a kinder and more tolerant attitude towards yourself. Talking therapies, especially Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have been found to be very effective in treating Clinical Perfectionism.

If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our Problems Pages helpful.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.

Read more about my approach to counselling here...

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