Dart on a bullseye perfect score

How does perfectionism affect your life?

Are you a self-diagnosed perfectionist? Or maybe you know someone else who says they are. It may seem like people with a proclivity for perfectionism have a higher degree of finesse or accomplishment. This can be intimidating for those of us that don’t identify with this mindset. It can make you feel like your performance or abilities are less-than in comparison. But did you know the data doesn’t really support this idea?

Dart on a bullseye perfectionism

Perfection is Unattainable (And Unassociated with…)

Yep, you read that right. Try as we might, no one is perfect (duh!). This is obvious, and, particularly in the psychiatric field, it becomes a mantra of sorts that we share with clients and patients as a way to soothe their worries. What’s more, perfectionism isn’t actually associated with academic success of accomplishment.

But wait, you say, I know someone who says they’re a perfectionist and they’re so smart! Sure they are. But a study conducted (back in the 90’s!) on academically gifted students versus typical cohort students found that there was no association between self-perceived perfectionism and academic giftedness (Parker, 1996). Another study by the same author looked only at academically talented students and assessed perfectionism within that group and found a normal distribution of non-perfectionistic type (32.8%), healthy perfectionistic type (41.7%), and dysfunctional perfectionistic type (25.5%), further suggesting perfectionism is not highly associated with academic accomplishment (Parker, 1997).

What Perfectionism IS…

Perfectionism can actually hurt the people that feel this way. Perfectionism is strongly associated with negative symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive inclinations, and distress. This is due to the impossible task of trying to achieve something we – quite literally- cannot. It also can wreck havoc when taking a standardized test that penalizes for missing answers. Instead of taking a best guess and moving on when encountering a difficult question, a perfectionist tends to sit and agonize because they want to be sure. They want to know their answers are just right.

Does this mean those that live for attention to detail and dotting all the i‘s and crossing the t‘s are doomed? Of course not! Everyone has strengths and weaknesses that contribute to what makes them unique. The important thing to see here is that whether or not you like perfectionism, it does not predict your ability to be a competent physician, psychiatrist, student, or worker.

For the perfectionist and non-perfectionist alike, give our question banks a try- FREE- using our Free Trial! Or if you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our Question Banks and find the perfect 😉 fit for you! Or, contact us with any questions you have.

REF: Parker, W. D., & Mills, C. J. (1996). The incidence of perfectionism in gifted students. Gifted Child Quarterly40(4), 194-199.

Parker, W. D. (1997). An empirical typology of perfectionism in academically talented children. American Educational Research Journal34(3), 545-562.