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The 3 types of perfectionism - which one do you identify with? + Quiz

There are three types of perfectionism: Self-oriented, other-oriented and other-instigated. All of them have different causes and they exhibit themselves in a distinct manner. Let's take a look at each type to understand more about them.


Definition


Perfectionists are obsessive and relentless in their pursuit of unrealistic objectives, and their self-worth is measured in production and achievement. [1] Setting unreasonable objectives and putting pressure on oneself to accomplish them inevitably leads to disappointment. And when perfectionists struggle to accomplish their goals, they are often hard on themselves. [2]


Normal vs. neurotic

D. E. Hamachek was the first academic who came forward with the idea of dividing perfectionism into two main categories. Hamachek, a celebrated professor of psychology from Michigan State’s psychology department, proposed two main types of perfectionism in 1978, describing persons as either having normal perfectionism or having neurotic perfectionism. Normal perfectionists are much more likely to strive for perfection without jeopardising their ego, and they enjoy the process. Neurotic perfectionists are inclined to setting unreasonable objectives for themselves and become unhappy when they are unable to achieve them. Hamachek outlines a number of tactics that have been shown to be effective in assisting individuals in shifting from dysfunctional to healthy behaviour. [3]


Strivings vs. concerns

Inside a narrative analysis, J. Stoeber and K. Otto proposed that perfectionism has two primary facets: perfectionistic strivings or ambitions and perfectionistic worries or struggles. Perfectionistic aspirations are linked to perfectionism's good and positive features, whereas perfectionistic anxieties or struggles are linked to its negative side. According to the striving vs. concerns classification:


Perfectionists who are in good health have a high level of perfectionistic yearnings and a basic level of perfectionistic anxieties.


Perfectionists who are unhealthy rank high on both aspirations and anxieties.


Non-perfectionists have a low degree of striving for perfection. [4]

3 Types of Perfectionism and How to Deal with Them


A newer but better "multidimensional perfectionism scale" developed by Hewitt & Flett (1991) [5] is a 45-item rating that scores three dimensions of perfectionistic identity. [6] Here’s how it classifies perfectionism. Have a look.


1. Perfectionism based on one's own self-interest

Perfectionists who are focused on themselves have a great desire to shun errors and remain true to society's perceived high standards. These individuals may be described as task aficionados; they are constantly on the lookout for something new to accomplish. Completing some task or achieving something significant reinforces their belief in their perfectionist shaped world-view. No matter what they accomplish or at what scale, getting to their goals inspires them to keep being at their best.


Perfectionists who are focused on themselves are orderly and diligent. They create high expectations for themselves in both personal and professional life, yet they are still able to achieve their objectives because of the immense grind they put themselves through. If you fall under this category of perfectionism, it’s mostly a good thing. Why? Because self-analytical perfectionism is a positive force that can enhance your confidence, creativity and make you more productive. However, it can only remain a positive force if you keep your own limitations in mind and don’t go overboard.


2. Perfectionism with a focus on others

Perfectionists who are other-oriented—that is, they hold people to high standards and may be harsh and judgmental— this can easily lead to havoc in their relationships with people. It's difficult to form productive connections under these circumstances, which is one of the reasons why perfectionism in this form can become the most toxic.


3. Perfectionism as a social construct

If you're a social perfectionist, you're probably too obsessed with meeting the expectations you think people have of you. Perfectionists who are driven by social constructs and norms spend most of their time preparing themselves to achieve these faux standards even if they aren’t completely realistic. The worst thing about being a perfectionist at this level is that falling short of these unrealistic standards and made-up norms can feel quite distressing. For instance, being mad at yourself for not having the perfect outfit for a meeting or having flawless skin are perfectionist tendencies that are driven by internalised societal constructs.


Dealing with perfectionism


Most perfectionists are well aware of their habits, that is a vital first move in defining where they fit on the scale. Some individuals may learn that they are just one of the subtypes, whereas others realise that they are a mix of all of them.[7]

Irrespective of their types or classifications, all perfectionists do have a realisation deep down inside that demanding the world from themselves or from others isn’t reasonable or healthy. There could be a ton of reasons why someone may want to live life completely error-free, but no matter what makes you go so hard on yourself (and/or others) here’s how you can break free: [8]

  • Confront difficult emotions like self-doubt and fear to overcome negative feedback.

  • Instead of concentrating solely on outcomes, cherish the journey of progress irrespective of what happens in the end.

  • Set high-level professional objectives for yourself that are both reasonable and attainable. Yet change as needed.

  • Accept that you won’t be able to "do it all." Delegate and outsource as needed.

  • Break your larger ambitions down into manageable, more doable tasks. You'll have a steadier feeling of self and will be able to overcome more quickly from small setbacks and errors.

  • Identify perfectionism's hidden rewards.

  • Allow yourself to just let go of the all-or-nothing mentality.

  • Rejoice in your achievements.


What’s the ultimate solution?


Being able to build healthy boundaries and habits, as well as have realistic goals takes time to develop, but it's necessary if you want to avoid burnout and still achieve more. The steps and tips listed above will enable you in getting started on overcoming unhealthy perfectionism and embracing a more realistic, long-term vision of success. [9]


Healthy ambition means increasing your appreciation for yourself and the people near you. Make a request for assistance, instead of assuming that success lies exclusively on your shoulders, delegate and encourage people around you to take responsibility.


Everyone has their own set of quirks and personality traits, but perfectionism is something that can really hold you back. If you find that you do have some perfectionistic tendencies, there are some ways to address them. If you are interested in learning more, we have written a blog that goes into more depth about what perfectionism is > What does perfectionism look like and its classifications for the individual?



Want more?


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References:

  1. Parker, W. D.; Adkins, K. K. (1995). "Perfectionism and the gifted". Roeper Review. 17 (3): 173–176

  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656616302173

  3. Hamachek, D. E. (1978). "Psychodynamics of normal and neurotic perfectionism". Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior. 15: 27–33. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2014.

  4. Stoeber, Joachim; Otto, Kathleen (2006). "Positive Conceptions of Perfectionism: Approaches, Evidence, Challenges" (PDF). Personality and Social Psychology Review. 10 (4): 295–319.

  5. https://novopsych.com.au/assessments/formulation/frost-multidimensional-perfectionism-scale-fmps/

  6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/trust-yourself/202109/3-types-perfectionism-watch-out

  7. https://maybusch.com/8-ways-stop-being-perfectionist/

  8. https://caps.umich.edu/content/coping-perfectionism

  9. https://hbr.org/2019/04/how-to-manage-your-perfectionism







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