PERFECTIONIST woman focusing on sharpening a pencil


Ever found yourself obsessing over every tiny detail, unable to settle for anything less than perfect? Or perhaps you’re the go-to person in your group for color-coding, organizing, and planning every minute detail of your life. Well, guess what? You might just be a perfectionist, displaying your perfectionist personality traits!

But don’t worry, you’re in good company. Many people are, and it helps them achieve impressive accomplishments! In this blog, we’ll shine a light on the different levels of perfectionism and how they manifest in our everyday lives.

There are different types of perfectionism. We’re going to discover the signs of perfectionist personality traits that you might just recognize in yourself or the people around you. From all-or-nothing thinking to the insatiable need for control, we’ll explore the quirks and qualities that make perfectionists tick.

But hey, it’s not all about the downsides! While perfectionism often gets a bad rap for its association with stress and anxiety, there’s a flip side that’s often overlooked. We’ll delve into the positive effects of perfectionism, exploring how it can drive us toward success, fuel personal growth, and inspire us to reach for the stars.

Whether you’re a self-professed perfectionist or just curious about the inner workings of the perfectionist mind, this blog will offer insights, inspiration, and maybe even a few aha moments along the way.

Let’s dive in!

What is perfectionism?

This post contains affiliate links: at no extra cost for you, I get a small commission. Read our full disclosure here and in our privacy policy.

Perfectionism refers to a personality trait characterized by the pursuit of flawlessness and setting high standards for yourself. Some people call it perfectionist personality disorder, although officially perfectionism is not part of psychological disorders. It involves having a strong desire to achieve excellence and constantly striving for perfection in various aspects of life. This can be tiring…I know because I’m a perfectionist myself!

So, what is a perfectionist personality? Perfectionists often have a keen eye for detail and are highly organized and meticulous in their work. They have a strong need for control and often set unrealistic expectations for themselves, leading to self-imposed pressure and anxiety. Perfectionists may also have a fear of failure and a tendency to be overly critical of their own performance.

While perfectionism can drive you to achieve outstanding success, it can also have negative consequences on your overall quality of life. Perfectionists may experience chronic stress, burnout, and low self-esteem. You may struggle with accepting mistakes or setbacks, as you are highly focused on avoiding errors and achieving flawless outcomes.

Parental criticism and negative feedback form a risk factor for young people to develop a perfectionist personality style. Think also of negative reactions on social media, which can cause young adults to create an unattainable perfect image of themselves.

Figuring out how to handle perfectionism is the first step to help your personal growth and improve your well-being. This could be learning to replace unattainable goals with realistic goals, practicing self-compassion, and embracing imperfections as opportunities for growth and learning.

Seeking social support from trusted friends, family members, or professionals (such as a life coach) can also help overcome the negative impact of perfectionism.

And you could read some good books about overcoming the negative impact of perfectionism.

Maladaptive perfectionism versus adaptive perfectionism

Within perfectionism, there is adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. Adaptive perfectionism refers to a healthy and constructive pursuit of excellence. People with adaptive perfectionism set high standards for themselves, but they are also able to accept mistakes and setbacks as part of the learning process. Rather than seeking validation from others, they are driven by personal growth and improvement.

On the other hand, maladaptive perfectionists are characterized by rigid and unattainable standards, which can cause mental health issues and physical health issues, and have a significant effect on your well-being. People with maladaptive perfectionism are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and burnout. They may engage in excessive self-criticism and have a constant fear of failure. Their perfectionism can take the form of intrusive thoughts (but you can overcome them!).

Perfectionism is different for everyone. Some people may have better coping skills (adaptive perfectionism), while others may not handle things as well (maladaptive perfectionism).

Understanding the contrast between healthy and harmful perfectionism is key to staying mentally healthy and achieving a balance in seeking perfection.

What are the different types of perfectionism?

There are several different types of perfectionism that perfectionists may exhibit. These types are often categorized based on the underlying motivations and beliefs that drive perfectionistic behavior.

To understand the types of perfectionism, we first need to know the categories.

3 common categories include:

  1. Self-oriented perfectionism: This category of perfectionism is characterized by setting high standards for oneself and striving for personal excellence. People with self-oriented perfectionism may have a strong internal drive to achieve and may be highly self-critical when they fall short of their own expectations. This leads to negative emotions if the perfectionist tendencies aren’t controlled.
  2. Other-oriented perfectionism: In contrast to self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism involves setting high standards of performance for others and expecting them to meet those standards. People with this type of perfectionism may be overly critical of others’ performance and may have a hard time accepting imperfections in those around them.
  3. Socially prescribed perfectionism: This category of perfectionism involves feeling pressure from others to be perfect and meet their expectations. People with socially prescribed perfectionism may have a fear of judgment or rejection and may strive to meet societal or cultural standards of perfection. They may develop social anxiety.

Keep in mind that you might have a blend of these perfectionism categories. It’s also important to know that perfectionism is different for everyone—some people feel it more than others.

Understanding the different categories of perfectionism can help you identify your own patterns of perfectionistic behavior and develop strategies for managing it effectively. By recognizing the negative impact of perfectionism and learning to embrace imperfections, you can work towards a healthier and more balanced approach to life.

6 types of perfectionism

Perfectionism reveals itself in various forms, each type characterized by distinct attitudes and behaviors toward the pursuit of flawlessness. Let’s have a look at the different types, with each having a different level of perfectionism and distinct perfectionistic tendencies.

Here are the 6 types of perfectionists:

  1. Classic Perfectionists: Classic perfectionists adhere strictly to traditional standards of perfectionism. They strive for flawlessness in every aspect of their lives, often setting impossibly high standards for themselves and others. Classic perfectionists may exhibit obsessive-compulsive tendencies and experience significant distress when faced with imperfection. The latter can become part of a larger obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  2. Intense perfectionists: Intense perfectionists have an unwavering dedication to their endeavors. They possess an unwavering commitment to excellence and will dedicate significant time and effort to reach their personal goals. However, this intensity can sometimes lead to burnout or heightened stress levels if not managed effectively.
  3. Messy Perfectionists: Messy perfectionists embrace imperfection as part of their creative process. While they may appear disorganized or chaotic to others, they have a method to their madness and strive for excellence in their own unique way. Messy perfectionists may thrive in environments where creativity and innovation are valued over rigid adherence to conventional standards.
  4. Parisian Perfectionists: Parisian perfectionists embody the effortless elegance and refinement associated with French culture. They prioritize quality over quantity and pay meticulous attention to detail in all aspects of their lives, from fashion to cuisine to social interactions. Parisian perfectionists prioritize authenticity and sophistication, striving for an aura of effortless chic in all aspects of life.
  5. Neurotic Perfectionists: Neurotic perfectionists are highly self-critical and prone to anxiety and rumination. They fixate on mistakes and imperfections, experiencing intense fear of failure and negative critical self-evaluations. Coping with setbacks can be a challenge when you have neurotic perfectionism. This can make people avoid things to feel less anxious. We can also call this extreme perfectionism.
  6. Normal Perfectionists: Normal perfectionism strikes a balance between striving for excellence and maintaining realistic expectations. They set high standards for themselves but are able to accept imperfections as part of the human experience. Normal perfectionists approach challenges with determination and resilience, recognizing that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. We can also call them positive perfectionists. They use their perfectionism to develop a growth mindset.

What are the traits of a perfectionist?

We are all created differently. If we are perfectionists, we will all experience that in different ways and express it differently. However, a number of studies show there are also universal signs (or traits) that many perfectionists show. You may recognize several traits in your own life.

Some common signs of perfectionist personality traits include:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: Perfectionists with this trait view outcomes as either perfect or complete failures, with little room for shades of gray or acceptance of imperfection.
  2. Worry about failure: Perfectionists plagued by worry about failure constantly fear making mistakes or falling short of their own high standards, leading to heightened anxiety and stress.
  3. High internal standards: Perfectionists set exceptionally high internal standards for themselves, often surpassing external expectations and driving themselves relentlessly towards perfection.
  4. Procrastination: Despite their desire for perfection, some perfectionists may procrastinate on tasks because of the fear of not meeting their own lofty standards, leading to increased stress and anxiety.
  5. Unrealistic standards: Perfectionists with unrealistic standards set impossibly high expectations for themselves, often leading to dissatisfaction and frustration when these standards are not met.
  6. Defensiveness: Perfectionists may become defensive when faced with criticism or feedback, viewing it as a personal attack on their competence or worthiness.
  7. Critical thinkers: Perfectionists are critical thinkers, analyzing situations and their own performance in great detail to identify areas for improvement.
  8. Focus on outcomes: Perfectionists often focus heavily on the outcomes of their efforts, prioritizing achievement and success over the process or journey.
  9. Highly self-driven and motivated to achieve success: perfectionists often push themselves relentlessly to excel in their endeavors, driven by an internal desire for mastery and accomplishment.
  10. Spend excessive time and effort on tasks: Perfectionists have a tendency to devote a lot of time and effort to tasks. They painstakingly inspect every element and try to achieve flawless execution, ensuring that everything aligns with their uncompromising standards of perfection.
  11. Perfectionism: Perfectionists exhibit a pervasive need for perfection in all aspects of their lives, driving them to strive for flawlessness and excellence. They set excessively high standards for themselves and/or others.
  12. They rarely delegate: Perfectionists often struggle to delegate tasks to others, as they believe they can do everything better themselves. They prefer to maintain control and ensure that things are done to their exacting standards.
  13. A need for control: Perfectionists have a strong need for control over their environment and circumstances, often feeling anxious or uncomfortable when they are not in control.
  14. Anxiety: Perfectionists frequently experience high levels of anxiety, particularly in situations where they feel pressure to meet their own or others’ expectations.
  15. Difficulty overlooking small mistakes: Perfectionists have difficulty overlooking even minor mistakes or imperfections, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction with their own performance.
  16. Excessive criticism: Perfectionists may engage in excessive self-criticism, constantly finding fault with themselves and their efforts.
  17. Feeling pushed by fear: Perfectionists may feel driven by fear, constantly pushing themselves to excel in order to avoid failure or criticism.
  18. Feelings of inadequacy: Perfectionists often struggle with feelings of inadequacy, believing that they are never good enough no matter how much they achieve. This can cause imposter syndrome.
  19. Organization: Perfectionists are highly organized and detail-oriented, meticulously planning and arranging their environment to meet their standards.
  20. Being highly critical: Perfectionists are highly critical of themselves and others, often holding themselves and those around them to impossibly high standards.
  21. Feeling depressed by unmet goals: Perfectionists may experience depression or feelings of sadness when they fail to meet their own impossible goals or expectations.
  22. Impatience and frustration: Perfectionists may become impatient or frustrated when things do not go according to plan, feeling a strong desire for things to be perfect and in control.
  23. Feeling depressed by unmet goals: Perfectionists often experience feelings of dissatisfaction even when they have achieved success, as they constantly strive for an unattainable level of perfection.
  24. Unhealthy or unrealistic expectations: Perfectionists often hold themselves to unhealthy or unrealistic expectations, leading to dissatisfaction and disappointment when these expectations are not met.

What are the positive sides of perfectionism?

While perfectionism is often associated with its negative implications on mental health and well-being, it’s important to acknowledge that there are positive aspects to this trait as well. Perfectionists, with their high standards and relentless pursuit of excellence, can often achieve remarkable success in various domains of life.

Perfectionism can also be a healthy motivator. It can push you towards academic success and high achievements at work. Exceptional work ethic and dedication to achieving lofty goals are qualities associated with perfectionists. They pay close attention to detail and are committed to doing their best, which leads to impressive good performance and achievement. Perfectionists are always pushing to be the best, whether it’s in exams, work projects, or their careers.

On top of that, perfectionism can be a great motivator for personal growth. Perfectionists are always pushing themselves to get better and go beyond their limits. They don’t see setbacks as failures, but as chances to learn and grow. Their resilience and determination help them conquer challenges and become stronger individuals. Perfectionists are driven by their own desire to be the best.

Also, perfectionists always aim high, pushing themselves to achieve the impossible. Their big dreams push them to achieve more success than they ever imagined. By aiming for perfection, they set the standard high and motivate others to do the same. Perfectionists are great role models in their communities, showing how determination and hard work can make dreams come true.

Aiming for perfection results in incredible works of art, literature, music, and innovation. Perfectionists pour their heart and soul into their creative endeavors, painstakingly refining their craft until it meets their exacting standards of excellence. They’re always striving for perfection and creating masterpieces that leave us in awe. You can think of professional athletes, musicians, artists, and scientists, for example.

In a nutshell, although being a perfectionist has its downsides, it’s important to acknowledge and value its positive aspects. Perfectionists can achieve amazing success, inspire others, and make a lasting impact on the world.

Examples of perfectionists

If you’re not sure whether you are a perfectionist, and whether it is negative or positive, it can be good to look at a perfectionist example.

Before we look at famous people who achieved outstanding success with their perfectionist personality traits, let’s look at 2 fictional perfectionist examples to understand better how it can manifest in every area of one’s life.

Perfectionist Example:

‘Negative’ example:

Meet Mary, a self-described perfectionist whose life is a constant balancing act between achievement and anxiety. From color-coded schedules to immaculate presentations, Mary’s pursuit of flawlessness permeates every aspect of her existence. At work, her meticulous attention to detail earns her praise and recognition, but behind the facade of success lies a constant undercurrent of stress, self-doubt, and low self-esteem.

Despite her outward appearance of confidence, Mary’s perfectionism is fueled by a deep-seated fear of failure. Every project, and every task is an opportunity to prove herself, but also a potential minefield of inadequacy and disappointment. The pressure to meet her own impossibly high standards weighs heavily on her shoulders, often leaving her feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

At home, Mary’s quest for perfection spills over into her personal life. Her meticulously organized living space is a reflection of her inner turmoil—a desperate attempt to maintain control in a chaotic world. But no matter how meticulously she arranges her surroundings, she can’t escape the nagging feeling that it’s never quite good enough.

Even in her intimate relationships, Mary’s perfectionism rears its head. She struggles to let her guard down, fearing that any display of vulnerability will shatter the illusion of perfection she’s worked so hard to maintain. As a result, she keeps people at arm’s length, unable to fully connect with others for fear of exposing her flaws.

Despite her best efforts, Mary’s perfectionism often leaves her feeling isolated and alone. She longs for acceptance and validation, but fears that her true self will never measure up to the impossibly high standards she sets for herself. And so, she continues to strive for perfection, trapped in a never-ending cycle of achievement and anxiety.

‘Positive’ example:

Meet Sarah, a perfectionist extraordinaire. From color-coordinated calendars to meticulously organized to-do lists, Sarah’s life revolves around striving for flawlessness in every aspect. At work, she’s known for her impeccable attention to detail and her unwavering commitment to producing high-quality work. Every project is meticulously planned and executed, with no stone left unturned in her quest for perfection.

But Sarah’s perfectionism doesn’t stop at the office door. At home, her living space is a model of order and precision, with every item meticulously arranged and maintained. Even her hobbies are pursued with the same level of dedication and perfectionism, whether it’s mastering a new recipe or perfecting her yoga poses.

While Sarah’s perfectionist tendencies have undoubtedly led to many achievements and successes in her life, they also come with their fair share of challenges. She often struggles to relax and unwind, constantly feeling the pressure to meet her own impossibly high standards. And while her perfectionism drives her to excel in her endeavors, it can also lead to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt when things don’t go according to plan.

Despite the challenges, Sarah wouldn’t trade her perfectionist tendencies for anything. They’re an integral part of who she is—a driving force that pushes her to strive for excellence in everything she does. While she may grapple with the downsides of perfectionism, she knows that it’s ultimately a trait that sets her apart and propels her toward success.

Examples of famous perfectionists:

If the downside of being a perfectionist drains you, think of the positive side of it and try to channel your intense desire for perfectionism into something positive. One way to do that is to have famous role models as an example of guiding your perfectionism into something great.

Here is a list of famous perfectionists:

  • Steve Jobs – The co-founder of Apple Inc. was renowned for his relentless pursuit of perfection in product design and user experience.
  • Martha Stewart – The lifestyle guru is famous for her attention to detail and insistence on perfection in cooking, crafting, and home décor.
  • Serena Williams – The tennis champion’s dedication to her craft and her pursuit of excellence on the court make her a prime example of a perfectionist athlete.
  • Beyoncé – The multi-talented performer is known for her meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of her music, performances, and visual presentations.
  • Kobe Bryant – The late basketball legend was renowned for his tireless work ethic and dedication to perfecting his skills on the court.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo – The soccer superstar’s relentless pursuit of perfection on the field and his dedication to training and fitness make him a prime example of a perfectionist athlete.
  • Oprah Winfrey – The media mogul’s meticulous attention to detail and commitment to excellence has made her one of the most successful and influential personalities in the world.
  • Hugh Jackman – The versatile actor and performer is known for his dedication to his craft and his relentless pursuit of perfection in his performances on stage and screen.
  • Adele – The acclaimed British singer-songwriter is known for her perfectionist approach to her music, with every lyric and melody crafted to perfection in her chart-topping albums.
  • Jeff Bezos – The founder of Amazon and one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, is known for his relentless pursuit of excellence and his insistence on high standards in every aspect of his business ventures.

These people show that perfectionism can lead to amazing success in different areas of life.

Take-Away perfectionist personality traits

As we wrap up our exploration of perfectionist personality traits, let’s reflect on what we’ve uncovered. From all-or-nothing thinking to the relentless pursuit of excellence, perfectionism covers a wide range of behaviors and attitudes that shape our lives in profound ways. But amidst the challenges and complexities, there’s a silver lining to be found.

Perfectionism isn’t just about striving for flawlessness or succumbing to self-imposed pressure. It’s also about harnessing the drive for perfection as a catalyst for growth, success, and personal fulfillment. By embracing perfectionist tendencies and understanding how they influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we can navigate life’s challenges with greater resilience, self-awareness, and compassion.

By acknowledging the positive sides of perfectionism and cultivating a healthy balance between ambition and acceptance, you can unlock your full potential and thrive in both your personal and professional life.

So go ahead, embrace your inner perfectionist, celebrate your achievements, and remember to cut yourself some slack along the way.

Here’s to embracing our imperfections, pursuing our passions, and living life to the fullest—perfectly imperfect, just the way we are. Cheers!

Want someone to come alongside you to manage your perfectionist personality traits? Reach out to me for a free orientation call, to see where I can help.

Christel Owoo is a professional Life Coach with ACC-credentials from ICF.

She is passionate about helping women gain confidence.

Do you want to gain confidence in life and live fully in your God-given potential?

Reach out to Christel…

Christel Owoo Christian Confidence Coach
Christel Owoo, Christian Confidence Coach