Home > Symptoms > Perfectionism



Do you set the bar high, always striving to perform at your best and be the best? If you find it difficult to be satisfied and nothing ever feels good enough, you might be dealing with perfectionism. This relentless pursuit of perfection can take a toll on your inner peace, health, and happiness over time. It’s important to understand why you constantly feel the need to improve and to learn strategies to manage these feelings. Explore the reasons behind your perfectionism and discover what you can do to achieve a healthier balance.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism means striving for perfection. It is good that you go for quality, are critical and know what you think is good and beautiful. Only in most cases, this is not good enough for you. According to you, there is always room for improvement. You are very critical of yourself.


When you suffer from perfectionism, you don’t just want to get it right. You have high standards and want to be the best, sweetest, smartest, prettiest or funniest. You have a constant drive for perfection, even though you know this is impossible.


How do I know if I am a perfectionist?

Perfectionism is often seen as a negative trait. In addition to sensitivities, perfectionist behavior also has strengths. The characteristics of perfectionism vary from person to person and can be divided into strengths and sensitivities.



  • You have a great sense of responsibility;
  • You are ambitious;
  • You are precise and diligent;
  • You are very driven;
  • You have a lot of perseverance;
  • You are disciplined.



  • You find it difficult to make a mistake;
  • You experience a lot of stress;
  • You find it difficult to ask for help or to outsource something;
  • You are inherently overly critical of yourself and others;
  • You find it difficult to let go when something has not gone well;
  • You are quick to see things as a competition;
  • You focus mostly on what is not going well, rather than what is going well;
  • You redo things that others did;
  • Tasks cost you a lot of time because you find it hard to decide that something is finished;
  • You don’t really enjoy successes;
  • You judge often.


The difference between perfectionism in men and women

In most cases, perfectionist people are especially strict with themselves. A difference can be seen between men and women. Men make especially high demands on themselves and those around them. Women make especially high demands on themselves.


Causes of perfectionism

Perfectionism is partly a character trait. In addition, your childhood and social environment can influence perfectionist behavior.


Perfectionism as a coping mechanism

Perfectionistic behavior can arise in childhood as a coping strategy. For example, if there were arguments in the parental home. By behaving perfectly, you relieved others in the family (chances are that arguments, etc., continued) and felt better. In this case, you taught yourself that perfectionism was the solution to maintaining harmony and easing your emotions. When this is used often as a strategy, it becomes a habit. Perfectionism is a way to gain control. Control over which core belief or emotion varies greatly from person to person.


Social environment

If your parents always have high expectations, you are more likely to have perfectionist traits. Parents who try to oversee and direct everything their child does are also called helicopter parents. In addition, society plays a role. The pressure to perform is great and life on social media gives a distorted view of reality. This makes imperfection less accepted.


5 types of perfectionism

There are different forms of perfectionism. Each form has a different cause and needs a different approach to break perfectionist behavior.


1. Social perfectionism

Society plays an important role in perfectionism. This applies to children, adolescents and adults. Performance pressure is high, both in schools and in work life. The perfect lives on social media reinforce the feeling that everything must be perfect. Here, perfection seems to be the norm and people have fantastic lives. This can make you feel like you have to perform or strive for the perfect picture to mean something.

2. Performance-oriented perfectionism:

In performance-oriented perfectionism, you set extremely high standards for yourself and your performance. You seize every opportunity to prove yourself. You focus on growth and challenges. You find making mistakes difficult and you often criticize yourself.


3. Self-critical perfectionism:

In this type of perfectionism, you have very high expectations and demands for yourself. You expect yourself to have to be perfect. You constantly experience the feeling that doing your best is not enough and are very critical when you judge yourself. This can cause you to feel burned out.


4. Parental perfectionism:

This is perfectionism in childhood. Parents themselves may be perfectionists which affects their parenting style and the emergence of perfectionism in the child.


5. Functional perfectionism:

This type of perfectionism can be divided into:


  • Non-functional perfectionism
    You desperately want to achieve the very best. You just constantly experience fear of failure or not doing it right.
  • Functional perfectionism
    Despite the fact that you also want to achieve high goals, you are not out of luck if this fails once.


Core quadrants perfectionism

Core quadrants, such as quality, pitfall, challenge and allergy are often used to better understand personal traits and pitfalls. The goal is to become aware of your pitfalls and find ways to strive for success in a healthy and effective way. Core quadrants help you find balance. You keep the positive aspects and address the negative aspects.


quadrant of perfectionism based on Daniel OFman


With perfectionism, you can apply core quadrants in the following way:


Quality is a core quality of perfectionism. This manifests itself in high standards and striving for perfection. Possibly this leads to great results and success.


Pitfall (rigidity)
When perfectionism strikes, you become especially critical of yourself and others. You set the bar high and are not allowed to make mistakes (rigidity). This can lead to stress, frustration and insecurity.


The positive opposite of rigidity is letting go and relaxation. The challenge is to be more realistic and healthy with your high standards. The acceptance that mistakes and setbacks come with the territory without losing self-esteem.

Laxity, chaos or sloppiness can be the allergy of perfectionism. When others show a lack of effort or do not show the same dedication, you may become irritated.


Consequences of perfectionism

Perfectionism can affect your health. When you constantly want to prove yourself, it leads to a lot of or chronic stress. Stress has a negative impact on your body.


A perfectionist is hard on himself, but also on those around him. Especially if you have to work with someone who wants to do everything perfectly and has difficulty settling for less. An important pitfall is that perfectionism sometimes leads to enormous fear of failure, so that someone no longer dares to tackle anything at all.


The chances of experiencing one or more symptoms depend on how strong perfectionism is present in your daily life.


Physical symptoms that may be associated with perfectionism:


  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Chronic headaches;
  • Impaired digestion;
  • Neck and back pain;
  • Insomnia.

When perfectionism is present to a high degree in daily life, it increases the likelihood of:



Benefits of perfectionism

Perfectionism is not all negative. Benefits of perfectionism are:


  • See mistakes and criticism as something you can learn from;
  • You can motivate and encourage those around you;
  • You work very accurately;
  • You are disciplined and ambitious;
  • You achieve goals and results.


Breaking Perfectionism – what can you do?

Positive perfectionist behavior is that you know what is the highest you can achieve and stop perfecting when you reach that point. A healthy perfectionist realizes that it is impossible to be perfect at everything.


When you notice that perfectionism is affecting the quality of your life, it’s time to break it. For example, you may notice that you are developing fear of failure because of your high standards or that you are not getting anywhere. You may regularly receive as feedback that you are critical or that others feel you are tiptoeing around them.


There are several ways to break through perfectionism:


1. Consciously see yourself through the eyes of another person
Write down how a close friend would see you and what feelings and thoughts you experience in doing so. When you are done, read back your own answers and consider what kind advice you can give. This leads to more self-compassion. In this way, you give yourself the support you would otherwise give to a close friend. In this way, you practice accepting yourself as you are.


2. Substitute perfectionism for the highest achievable

Don’t aim for a 10 anymore; instead, try to aim for an 8. When you see this as the highest you can achieve, there is still room for improvement and development. See everything as a process.


3. Externalize mistakes

When you make a mistake, it does not mean that you ARE the mistake. Externalizing mistakes and criticism and writing them down on paper allows you to look at them from a distance. Think of it as feedback on your work and not on you as a person. It gives you the opportunity to learn.


4. View situations with an open mind

When you look at situations with an open mind, there is room for multiple views. In this way, you can learn from others. Realize that we are all in personal growth processes. This helps you relax and makes room for improvement. We are growing every day.


More information

Struggling with perfectionism? If it’s affecting your daily life, consider seeking professional help. A psychologist can help you explore underlying causes and find ways to manage it effectively.

Frequently asked questions

Is perfectionism insecurity?

When you suffer from a negative self-image, you have a particular eye for everything that could be better. You are critical of yourself and are not easily satisfied. Compliments often slip past you and you feel insecure. For some people, this insecurity leads to perfectionism. By setting the bar very high, you avoid criticism. In the short term, this creates a sense of control. Confirmation from others makes you feel better for a while, only it doesn’t teach you how to deal with perfectionism so the feeling keeps coming back.

publish-icon Published - 6 Jun 2024
Maarten has a lot of experience with perfectionism, trauma-related complaints and anxiety symptoms. He likes to explore with you where you get stuck. In his treatment he deploys among others: ACT, schema-focused interventions and CBT.
GZ-Psychologist Maarten Bonestroo

iPractice offers everyone:

  • arrow-icon Reimbursed care with a rating of 9+
  • arrow-icon Immediate help without waiting
  • arrow-icon Free advice without obligation

Would you rather have the support of a professional?

Contact one of our psychologist today without obligations. YOu can talk about your feelings and symptoms and get information about a suitable programme for you.

Make an appoinment