The 3 types of perfectionism and how they affect us

Humans have always been a very competitive animal, but the circumstances in which we live seem to accentuate this trait. The increasing demands placed on us in fields such as academia or employment reflect this, fostering an insatiable and exhausting desire to overcome.

The company encourages success and unbridled ambitionAnd even a multitude of parents and teachers directly transmit such a message to children practically upon their arrival in this world, so that they develop lulled by the desire to “excel” in the facets they deem the most. relevant.

It is the “seed” of perfectionism, which is planted in the fertile soil of an environment that promotes it, and which feeds on the messages we receive over time. In the end, a shy plant sprouts which directs its branches in the ephemeral light of acceptance (its own or that of others), but which soon grows and becomes a climber that is very expensive to get rid of.

The aim of this article is to deepen types of perfectionism which could be classified, and in the way in which they are expressed. Finally, a brief review of the basic characteristics of maladaptive perfectionism will also be done. It seeks to understand a problem that affects more people every day.

    What is perfectionism?

    Perfectionism is an attribute that is often understood in two very different ways: either as a virtue that leads to excellence, or as a flaw that drives us towards frustration and failure. It is expressed as the determination of high personal standards which can become difficult to achieve; or as a tendency to evaluate oneself or others in an extremely critical and negative way. All this ends up translating into hypervigilance in the face of a possible error, which reduces the spontaneity of our actions.

    Even if perfectionism in itself is not considered a pathological trait, Yes, its contribution as a factor of vulnerability to multiple psychopathologies has been verified; among which stand out those of mood, those of anxiety and those of food. And it is that creeping perfectionism can involve an extraordinary rigidity, which conditions life and emotions to the point of “hurting” those who appropriate it. From the total inability to recognize fallibility (one’s own and / or that of others), to well-being subordinated to self-control or hypervigilance; all are very frequent examples of the harmful tendencies of clinical perfectionism.

    On the other hand, there are also authors who do not conceive of perfectionism as a problem or a disadvantage, at least when it corresponds to a certain number of parameters. like that, adaptive and maladaptive forms have been described, depending on the specific way in which goals and concerns interact. When both are high, exaggerated taxation arises that torpedoing the vital project, but if lofty goals are reconciled with a healthy way of approaching them, a constructive balance is struck. In this case, we would talk about the adaptive modality.

    Research on the latter question confirms that adaptive perfectionism is related to an intense sense of fullness in life, and is also a protective factor against a wide variety of emotional issues. Pathological perfectionism, for which high goals and concerns (both) converge, is linked on the contrary: vital dissatisfaction and increased risk of psychological suffering.

    In addition to this distinction between adaptive and maladjusted, perfectionism has also been classified into three subtypes depending on how it manifests itself. Let’s get to know them a little better.

    Types of perfectionism

    Three different forms of perfectionism have been described, depending on who receives their influence (oneself or others) and the origin of the self-imposed demands. They are not mutually exclusive and the same person is likely to present several at the same time. In the future, it will be deepened in its characteristics and effects.

    1. Self-oriented

    Self-directed perfectionism is the most similar to the idea we usually have of what this trait is. It involves the iron imposition of goals and methods to be adhered to. to carry out the tasks for which the responsibility is assumed, and from which the image that we have of who we are rises. This is why, in this case, the self-assessment criterion is at an unbearable point; although it only applies to the subject exhibiting the attribute, not to others.

    When this trait is linked to low concern, and therefore is adaptive, it usually leads to extraordinary performance.. But if accompanied by difficult emotional reactions, it can doom those who “suffer” to constant states of despair and low personal fulfillment, no matter how successful they are.

    2. Focused on others

    In this case, perfectionism this implies rules which do not apply to what conceives them, but which are projected only in their social environment. Those with this subtype impose on others how to act, demanding levels of performance that become overwhelming and stressful overwhelming. In this case, one usually assumes, with or without reason, a position of privilege that evolves into tyranny and is not governed by democratic principles. It is common in group B personality disorders, such as narcissistic or antisocial.

    In its adaptive version (which has no elements of anxiety), it adds the nuance of emotional empathy to the relationships with others, from which it stems. good leadership skills. However, some horizontality in communication would be necessary, although a clear hierarchical structure is maintained.

      3. Socially prescribed

      Socially prescribed perfectionism is a subtype that it is closely related to interpersonal anxiety. In these cases, the one who coexists with him assumes high standards without arising on his own initiative, but rather out of the belief that this is what others expect of him. This involves two different processes: an erroneous perception of the expectations of others and an attitude of obedience towards them. This perfectionism is linked to low assertiveness, as well as a cervical panic of abandonment or rejection.

      Of all the subtypes described here, it is the one that most often precipitates problems in the field of mental health, Mostly anxious images. It is also often the social substrate of personality disorders included in cluster C, in particular the dependent one.

      How is maladaptive perfectionism expressed?

      Next, we’ll go over the basic characteristics of maladaptive perfectionism, or the like, how it is expressed and suffered. It is in this case that shooting is considered a problem requiring clinical care, as its consequences can be dramatic for emotional health and quality of life.

      1. High standards

      Extremely perfectionist people they set very high goals that are sometimes difficult to achieve in the short term, Which often makes it a common cause of frustration and pain. They extend to almost every area of ​​day-to-day functioning, although they are particularly common in work and academia.

      They are, in fact, “ideal patterns” of behavior / thinking that remain natural and add a forced component to daily activities. The way in which the person perceives himself and his practical skills (self-esteem / self-efficacy) would be associated with these subjective norms, damaging as a direct consequence of his dissatisfaction.

      2. Concern for making mistakes

      Extremely perfectionists tend to constantly watch out for the possibility of making a mistake, preventing them from fully enjoying what they are spending their time on. even if some caution is common that the result of an action is optimalIts excess leads to recurring control that does not produce an objective improvement in the end product, but rather the sacrifice of many cognitive resources and an unfathomable feeling that something is “wrong”. At the end of the process, the emphasis on the negative outweighs the appreciation for the positive.

      3. High expectations

      Perfectionists expect the results of their actions to be equivalent to the investment they make, ignoring in the process any confusing variables that may contribute to it. Because the world is not always fair in the way it distributes rewards / punishments, it is not uncommon for adverse consequences to be interpreted as an unacceptable failure that attacks self-image. And this is it there is an internal allocation of iron, Stable and general negative things that happen; this is why they often have difficulty working in groups (because it is a context where they do not control everything).

      4. Elevation of styles

      Reviewing the life story of the overly perfectionist person usually leads to a pattern of family interaction characterized by rigidity and achievement of restricted reinforcement. These are styles marked by straightness and extreme demands; in which positive behaviors are often overlooked because they are deemed “normal”. Any deviation from an exemplary standard imposed by parents, sometimes without specifying why, entails sanctions of any kind. Over time, these norms would fit in with theirs and condition how the person treats themselves.

      5. Hardness in judging oneself

      We all adopt a discourse in our internal jurisdiction regarding the way in which events occur. For example, in a difficult situation, we may try to rekindle our defeated strength by telling ourselves things like “sure everything is fine” or “it’s not as bad as it seems”.

      However, those who are too perfectionists are always faced with the situation of a titanic work, which requires the massive investment of all its energies. This is why when the expected goal is not reached, his speech becomes extremely harmful for the interior life (dissonance between effort and result). When it is achieved, on the other hand, only mental silence or transient relief is observed.

      6. Excessive organization

      Inadequate perfectionism results in a negative perception of the problems that contribute to daily life, which are seen as a threat to the image that one desires for oneself. that means a risk of a gap between the ideal ego and the real ego, Which would be interpreted absolutely catastrophically. In order to avoid this circumstance, a thorough preliminary preparation is generally chosen; that is, by an excess of organization and planning. This is why the activities that others develop without difficulty can be done “uphill” for those who live with this trait.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Besser, A., Flett, G. and Hewitt, P. (2004). Perfectionism, Cognition, and Affection in Response to Performance Failure vs. Success. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22, 297-324.
      • Slaney, R., Pincus, A., Uliaszek, A. and Wang, K. (2006). Perfectionism Concepts and Interpersonal Problems: Group Assessment Using the Circumplex Structural Data Summary Method. Assessment, 13 (2), 138-53.

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