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What is Perfectionism?

Perfectionism is the belief that everything must be perfect all the time. A perfectionist sets impossible goals, and feels crushed when they are not achieved. Alternatively, someone who strives to do their best sets challenging but achievable goals.

Those with perfectionistic tendencies are often resistant to change, believing these tendencies are a strength. Digging deeper, they find that perfectionism contributes to a number of problems, including procrastination, stress, anxiety, and depression.

The What is Perfectionism? handout explains the difference between perfectionism and a healthy level of hard work, along with other helpful information. Using this worksheet, clients will gain insight into perfectionism, and learn to differentiate between reasonable and unreasonable expectations.

Following psychoeducation, therapeutic interventions such as recognizing strengths and CBT may be used to promote change.

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References

1. Egan, S. J., Wade, T. D., & Shafran, R. (2011). Perfectionism as a transdiagnostic process: A clinical review. Clinical psychology review, 31(2), 203-212.

2. Flett, G. L., & Hewitt, P. L. (2005). The perils of perfectionism in sports and exercise. Current directions in psychological science, 14(1), 14-18.

3. Flett, G. L., Madorsky, D., Hewitt, P. L., & Heisel, M. J. (2002). Perfectionism cognitions, rumination, and psychological distress. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 20(1), 33-47.

4. Handley, A. K., Egan, S. J., Kane, R. T., & Rees, C. S. (2015). A randomised controlled trial of group cognitive behavioural therapy for perfectionism. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 68, 37-47.

5. Hewitt, P. L., & Flett, G. L. (1991). Perfectionism in the self and social contexts: conceptualization, assessment, and association with psychopathology. Journal of personality and social psychology, 60(3), 456.

6. Hill, R. W., Zrull, M. C., & Turlington, S. (1997). Perfectionism and interpersonal problems. Journal of personality assessment, 69(1), 81-103.

7. Mallinger, A. (2009). The myth of perfection: Perfectionism in the obsessive personality. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 63(2), 103-131.

8. Martin, S. (2019). The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism: Evidence-Based Skills to Help You Let Go of Self-Criticism, Build Self-Esteem, and Find Balance. New Harbinger Publications.

9. Steele, A. L., Waite, S., Egan, S. J., Finnigan, J., Handley, A., & Wade, T. D. (2013). Psycho-education and group cognitive-behavioural therapy for clinical perfectionism: A case-series evaluation. Behavioural and cognitive psychotherapy, 41(2), 129-143.

10. Stoeber, J. Stoeber, J., & Childs, JH (2011). Perfectionism. In RJR Levesque (Ed.), Encyclopedia of adolescence (pp. 2053-2059). New York: Springer.

11. Stoeber, J., & Stoeber, F. S. (2009). Domains of perfectionism: Prevalence and relationships with perfectionism, gender, age, and satisfaction with life. Personality and individual differences, 46(4), 530-535.

12. Walton, G. E., Hibbard, D. R., Coughlin, C., & Coyl-Shepherd, D. D. (2020). Parenting, personality, and culture as predictors of perfectionism. Current Psychology, 39(2), 681-693.

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