What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a character trait associated with a strong need and excessive worries about living life the “right” way. This trait lies on a spectrum, which ranges from minor perfectionistic tendencies to Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Many people with perfectionism have a high moral compass, experience rigidity around rules, set unrealistic expectations, and are critical of themselves and others.

There is typically a core fear of not being “good enough” and this is accompanied with intense feelings of guilt and shame. In order to try and alleviate these intense feelings one may have a strong urge to be viewed as perfect leading towards maladaptive behaviors and poor interpersonal relationships. Many individuals with symptoms of OCD experience some traits of perfectionism or met criteria for OCPD.

Examples of perfectionistic tendencies and behaviors outlined:

Procrastination – chronic delay of completing tasks due feeling overwhelmed by trying to complete it the “right” way or fear of failure/judgment

Indecisiveness – difficulty with making everyday decisions due to wondering which decision is “right”

Cognitive Rigidity – engaging in “should statements,” fixation on rules or what is “right or wrong”

Emotional Rigidly – a need to feel happy or in a “perfect” state of being leading to one trying to control or avoid uncomfortable emotions (e.g., anxiety, guilt)

Impression Management – fear of others’ judging you or seeing your flaws and therefore trying to control others’ impressions of you by changing your behavior during interpersonal situations

Fear of Commitment – difficulty making decisions in situations that have high risks such as marriage, buying a house, or changing careers

High Standards – setting very high and unrealistic standards for oneself and others which cannot be met, therefore reinforcing disappointment in oneself, guilt, and shame

Fear of Failure – a deep fear of messing up, making a mistake, or failing and avoidance of situations that may lead to failure

Difficulty with Delegating Tasks – not allowing others to help you with tasks because they will not do it “right” or micromanaging others

Hoarding – difficulty discarding items that are no longer needed due to strong emotional attachment

Orthorexia – obsessively thinking about and planning healthy eating, categorizing food as “good or bad,” and may be attached to a strong desire towards a certain unrealistic body image

How do I treat Perfectionism?

Psychoeducation – There is much more about perfectionism than many people know or may even be overlooking in themselves. I will provide you with education on different tendencies of perfectionism such as cognitive rigidity, emotional control, or impression management. I will also explain how these tendencies may be impacting your ability to get in touch with your values and live the life you see for yourself.

Modern Evidence-based Treatments – Depending on how your perfectionism has developed I will use a combination of modern evidence-based practices in order to gain more cognitive & emotional flexibility.

  • Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) – ACT teaches us what is called “psychological flexibility” through mindfulness, willingness, and acceptance. Through ACT we learn how to look at thoughts and emotions from a distance and accept their presence instead of trying to change or avoid them. ACT will increase yourself awareness & foster self-acceptance, which helps with feelings of guilt & shame.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – CBT allows us to look at your thoughts, emotions, behaviors and how they all work together. People with perfectionism tend to engage in many cognitive distortions such as “should” statements, which leads to a certain emotion such as guilt. The goal in CBT is to become more aware of cognitive distortions and learn how to change them to be more realistic thoughts. When we engage in more realistic and flexible thinking this impacts the way we feel & what we do.

Whether you’re ready to schedule or just have a question, set up a free consult by using the Get In Touch form below!

Get In Touch

37 E. 36th Street


Get In Touch

37 E. 36th Street


Disclaimer: This site should not be construed as therapeutic recommendations or personalized advice. Interaction with this blog does not constitute a therapeutic relationship. This blog aims to provide general information for educational purposes only. It is not intended or implied to supplement or replace the advice of your mental health professional. This information should not be used to self-diagnose mental health conditions. Consult with your mental health provider before implementing anything read here.