What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism can be defined as a tendency to have standards and expectations that are difficult or impossible to meet. However, there are important differences in how experts use the term perfectionism. Some approaches distinguish among perfectionism aimed at oneself, perfectionism aimed at others, and the belief that others expect perfection. Researchers also often distinguish between healthy perfectionism (e.g., a tendency to have high standards that help us to be successful) and unhealthy perfectionism (e.g., a tendency to have impossibly high standards and to evaluate one’s own worth almost entirely on whether one’s high standards are met). Finally, the term perfectionism is sometimes used reference to the tendency to have overly rigid standards and rules concerning details, organization, order, and so on. This is the type of perfectionism that is often observed in people with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

Our lab conducts research on all of these aspects of perfectionism. For example, current studies are examining the behavioural manifestations of perfectionism, as well as how individuals change their goals after meeting (or failing to meet) some standard. We have also been involved in developing evidence-based treatments for excessive perfectionism.