A countryside scene reflected in water


What does it mean to be a perfectionist?

People can be described as "a perfectionist" if they think and behave in particular ways. There are three ways in which we can be perfectionists:

  1. We can have very high expectations of ourselves and become self critical when we do not meet these expectations.
  2. We can have very high standards for other people and become critical of them when we feel that they do not meet them.
  3. We can believe that other people have high expectations of us and feel rejected or ashamed if we think that we have not achieved what is expected of us.  

What is the effect of thinking this way?
Basically, if we think like this we are more at risk of becoming depressed. We get less enjoyment from things that we do because we are too busy worrying if they are good enough. Often we decide they are not good enough because we set an impossibly high standard in the first place.  So, having decided they are not good enough we get mad at ourselves.  We can then end up feeling down and even more negative about ourselves.  If, on the other hand, we get mad at someone else for "not being good enough" we can end up feeling cross and frustrated and then maybe guilty. This isn't good for us or our relationships.  In the end, any or all of these patterns can mean we are more likely to feel depressed. 

Challenging Perfectionism
It is common to think that if we do not do things "perfectly" then we will not be successful. However, one aspect of success in life is about being able to fail. After all if we are able to cope with failure then we are more likely to try again.  Accepting that failure is part of life allows us to enjoy it more.  We are also more likely to achieve what we want without damaging our relationships.  

Self Help

See Resources on the right.  The Centre for Clinical Interventions also provide a free self help module on Overcoming Perfectionism.

Self-help documents