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What is perfectionism?

You’ll find a lot of different definitions for perfectionism, and this is because perfectionism is complex and looks different for different people. However, research has found there are two key parts; perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns. A person can have traits from one category, or more commonly, a combination of traits from both.

Perfectionistic strivings

  • Relentlessly striving for extremely high and often unattainable or sustainable standards
  • Motivated by positive outcomes and achievements instead of progress
  • Once you reach a goal you don’t celebrate your success and instead just set another often harder goal
  • You expect others around you to also strive for perfectionism and you can be highly critical if they fail to meet your expectations

Perfectionistic concerns

  • Measuring your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards
  • Harsh inner critic if you feel your set standards are not met
  • Desire to avoid mistakes
  • Deep fear of failure (which may lead to procrastination or avoidance)
  • Fear of being viewed negatively by others if you don’t achieve set standards and goals (this is also called socially prescribed perfectionism).

Support at Curtin

Use the support network at Curtin University to learn how to effectively recognise and manage symptoms of perfectionism. Professional confidentiality is taken seriously at Curtin’s Psychological and Counselling Services and AccessAbility Services, so any information discussed will remain private unless you or others are in danger or if legally obligated to disclose.

Additional resources for perfectionism