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Perfectionism is a cancer of human nature

No one has ever told you that perfectionism is pathological.

Do you have the following situations:

First, make a mistake and tear off a piece of paper. (You deny the whole part because a small part is not perfect)

You are living a very tired life, but occasionally wish you could relax.

Second, believe in "either do nothing, or do the best." (But the reality is: Oh, I don’t have time to do my best today, so let's do it tomorrow.)

Because you always feel that you are not ready, you have been procrastinating.

Third, you hate uncertainty.

If you can't predict the outcome of something, you dare not make a decision.

From this we discovered that the essence of perfectionism is: 

Fear of failure.

  • Choosing fear is because you are afraid of not choosing the best one, so you dare not choose.
  • Procrastination is because you are afraid of doing it badly, so you dare not do it.
  • The decision is difficult because you are afraid of taking responsibility after the decision.
  • You care too much about others' evaluations because you are afraid of others' criticism and look down on yourself.

Psychologists Hewitt and Flett defined perfectionism as three types:

The first type, socially-prescribed

You are afraid of negative comments, afraid of being scolded by your parents for low scores, afraid of teachers despising you, afraid of your classmates looking down on you, so you continue to cater to others' high standards for you, afraid of letting them down. (This type is the most extensive and typical)

The great pressure does not give you motivation, but makes you lose motivation and fall into decadence.

The second, self-oriented

Your motivation comes from your heart rather than the outside world. You strictly demand yourself, supervise yourself, have the motivation to pursue perfection, and do everything you can. (Such people may be excellent, but they may pay a huge price for this, and they are also prone to anxiety and depression)

The third type, other-oriented

This type does not strictly require themselves, but strictly requires others. (Require others to be perfect, set unrealistic goals for those around them)

This perfectionism can lead to blame, lack of trust or hostility towards others.

These three types are not contradictory, you may have one or more of the above perfectionism.

Obviously, perfectionism ≠ the pursuit of excellence.

Andrew P. Hill's research found that the core difference between perfectionism and the pursuit of excellence lies in the attitude to failure.


Perfectionism: Give yourself up when you are done.

Pursue excellence: continue to work when you are done.


Perfectionism: When you encounter a little setback, you will get helpless.

Pursue excellence:  the more frustrated, the more courageous.


Perfectionism: result-oriented

Pursue excellence: process orientation

If expressed in a coordinate system:

High self-demand Low self-demand Pessimistic Optimistic perfectionist self-abandoner People who strive for excellence Buddhist

The X-axis indicates the degree of positivity in the face of failure, and the Y-axis indicates the level of self-demand.

Which quadrant do you think you are in?

Obviously, people in the third quadrant may have the most pain in their hearts, being overthrown by life but don't want to work hard; people in the fourth quadrant have the happiest life, low self-demand, but actively do not give up in the face of failure.

How to improve perfectionism?

First, acceptance and compliance.

One of the most important concepts of clinical psychology is to accept and adapt to psychological obstacles, not to escape or fight. Realizing that you have problems, admitting that you have problems, and accepting that you have problems are the prerequisites for solving all problems. So you have to tell yourself that I have unhealthy perfectionism and accept this fact frankly.

Second, change the attitude towards perfectionism.

According to clinical psychologists, the most difficult aspect of perfectionism treatment is that patients do not think perfectionism is malignant. Instead, they feel that perfectionism can help them make progress, so they don't think it needs to be corrected.

A 2016 study of perfectionism showed(Perfectionism and burnout):

In terms of moderation, there were four instances where notable between-study heterogeneity was evident. These indicated that perfectionistic strivings were less adaptive in terms of exhaustion and depersonalization and perfectionistic concerns were more problematic in terms of overall burnout and depersonalization in work than in sport and education domains. There are a number of possible reasons why the work environment may alter these relationships in this manner[1].

In other words, the benefits of high standard of life groups are meager, or even useless, and they tend to get tired of their careers.

To put it in the simplest sentence: perfectionism does not bring success, let alone happiness.

Doing it is better than not doing it! Just do it!

If you start doing, you will get closer to the target.

Third, exposure therapy.

Anyone with a history of allergies has heard of "desensitization treatment", which means that you are allergic to anything, start with a small dose and keep you in contact with the allergen until you adapt to it and you are no longer allergic.

Exposure therapy is also called shock therapy. The principle is similar. It exposes yourself to fear and allows you to adapt to it.

For example, if you have a slight fear of heights, but after playing bungee jumping, paragliding and other high-altitude exercises, you will gradually stop being afraid.

In fact, the culture of perfectionism is similar to the culture of self-discipline, which is more like a kind of "political correctness" in success studies. The media likes to create gods. If anyone becomes popular, the media will always find reasons to explain what qualities they have since childhood, so they should succeed.

Self-discipline and perfectionism are often exaggerated interpretations made by the media to gain eyeballs. It seems that if you don't discipline yourself or strictly demand yourself, you are useless and you cannot succeed.

But in fact, how can there be so much "political correctness" in life?

Life is imperfect. We are always making mistakes and correcting them. Only by admitting this can we better manage our thoughts and feelings and live better.

I hope this article can help you correctly understand perfectionism and face study, work and life with a peaceful mind.


[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279191467_Multidimensional_Perfectionism_and_Burnout_A_Meta-Analysis

This article was last edited at 2020-12-09 13:56:08

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