Why are some people perfectionists?

Does leaving something unfinished drive you crazy? Can’t stand coming second place? Then this one might be for you.

3rd September 2015

Asked by: Mary Deeson, Reading

Why are some people perfectionists? (iStock)For many reasons including genes and experience. Perfectionists set very high and often unrealistic standards whether in work, social situations, appearance, or relationships, and often measure their self-worth by accomplishment. This can be either adaptive or self-destructive.

On the positive side comes high achievement, satisfaction and self-esteem; on the negative side harsh self-criticism, procrastination, disappointment and depression.

Perfectionism is related to the ‘Big Five’ personality traits with adaptive perfectionism linked to ‘conscientiousness’ and maladaptive to neuroticism. Such personality traits can be seen emerging even in the temperament of newborns. They usually develop with age into a relatively stable structure but are always subject to the effect of life’s encouraging or dispiriting experiences. 

Susan Blackmore

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