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10 Signs That You Are Probably a Perfectionist

Updated on October 1, 2010

A perfectionist is someone who believes that everything has to be perfect or it's not worth being done at all. The funny this is that perfectionists often don't realize that this is their belief. It seems so obvious to them that this is the way life is that they don't even stop to think about it. Although there are some great things about being a perfectionist (it causes you to strive hard to do your best, for example) there are also many damaging effects of perfectionism. If you're too hard on yourself then you can have trouble accomplishing your goals, maintaining your self-esteem and enjoying your life. And if you're too hard on others then you can do some serious damage to your relationships and even to the psyches of those that you're closest to.

Take a look at these ten signs to see if you might be a perfectionist:

1. You believe that there is only one right way to do most things. You think that there is one right way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (peanut butter on one slice and jelly on the other) and that there's one right way to have a marriage (monogamous with kids) and no one can tell you otherwise. The truth is that there are many different "right" ways to do things and we each have to find those things for ourselves. If you don't believe this then there's a good chance that you're a perfectionist.

2. You obsess over the mistakes that you make. Days later you're still thinking about the fact that a teacher or boss asked you a question that you weren't able to answer. You're mortified when you see typos in your work. Sure it's normal to be embarrassed when our shortcomings are revealed to others but it's not nearly so normal to keep obsessing about mistakes once the moment has passed. If you do this then you might be a perfectionist.

3. You often tell other people what they are doing wrong. You can't help it. You think that you're doing a good thing by helping them to correct their errors. It may be that you want to help a friend dump the guy that is obviously a loser or it could be that you wish the secretary would load the toner the right way. If you find yourself doing this multiple times each day then you're likely a perfectionist and it's affecting the people around you.

4. You are very competitive and can't stand to lose. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of healthy competition. However you have to understand the idea that you "win some and lose some". If you can't bear to lose - and especially if you think that it means that there's something wrong with you - then you've got a problem with being a perfectionist. Notice your levels of competitiveness and whether or not they are helpful in your life.

5. If you can't do something "perfectly" then you won't do it at all. You won't turn in a paper that you didn't have a chance to revise even if your rough draft is very strong. You won't enter a meeting late; you'd rather not show up at all. You won't sign up for sports that are just for fun because what's the point of being on a team that isn't competitive? If you feel like there's no point in doing something that you can't be the best at and can't do the absolute best in then you've certainly got a problem with being a perfectionist.

6. You are very conscious of other people's expectations. Granted, this could just mean that you're tuned in to what other people expect of you. However, if this is something that you pay a lot of attention to regardless of the setting that you're in - and you feel the need to try to meet or exceed those expectations - then it could be that you're a perfectionist. Pay attention to other people but not at the expense of setting your own realistic expectations for yourself.

7. You overreact when you make an error in front of others.  You simply can't handle other people seeing you "mess up". You overreact by crying, leaving the place that you're at, insisting that you can never again see the people who you were with, etc. Very few mistakes in life warrant this kind of reaction. It's the perfectionist in you that's making you feel like it's normal to feel this way.

8. You stick with a task long after others would have given up. You've been trying to work on a math problem for six hours and you're still not getting it. All of your classmates would have given up by now but you're going to work at it until you've solved the problem. You'll lose sleep if you have to. The same thing happens at work and even at home. If you can't ever give up even when a majority of people would agree that it's reasonable to do so then you might just be persistent but you're probably really a perfectionist.

9. You don't have any "pointless" hobbies. You don't ever do things that don't have an obvious purpose. You don't do things that have no set rewards. If you have hobbies, they always have results that you can measure. Most likely, you don't have any hobbies at all. On the other hand, you may have too many hobbies and you feel like you have to be the best at them. If there aren't any things that you're just mediocre at but you do them because you enjoy them then you sound like a perfectionist.

10. You won't ask for help. Most perfectionists don't ask other people for help. They don't want to be seen as weak. They don't want other people to think that they need help with anything. In other words, they want to be perfect. 

Did any of these sound like you? If so then you might be a perfectionist. I know, it's tough to admit that this might be the case since it sounds like a problem and you don't like to be a person with problems. The good news is that if you address this problem then you'll become more accepting of yourself and ultimately do better at achieving your goals!


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    4 years ago

    Eight out of ten of these things fit me. Wonder if I should get checked for it.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I fit into 8 of these points. i have panic attacks when things don't go to plan. to this day i am still mentally beating myself up for never having an answer to a question i was asked during a tutorial at uni.

  • Rossogrosso profile image


    6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    I would comment, but I'm afraid I'll mess it up!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    OMG I'm a perfectionist

  • DaNoblest profile image


    7 years ago from California

    I would have to say I am guilty as charged with several of those problems. Being a perfectionist really can be tough and lead to a breakdown. Great Hub!

    I recently wrote a hub about one of the bad effects of being too much of a perfectionist and came across your hub when looking for suggested links. Almost instantly I saw this was the perfect hub to link to. =]

  • Sunshine Uy profile image

    Sunshine Uy 

    7 years ago

    Based on your list, I don't think I am a perfectionist at all. Thank goodness, though! It must be tough living life being a perfectionist.

  • goSexualhealth profile image


    8 years ago

    Very informative Hub ! An observation growing up , a perfectionist parent is tough on their children . Having their expectations so high and having there be only one right or wrong way to achieve something .

  • FirstStepsFitness profile image


    8 years ago

    Very informative Hub ! An observation growing up , a perfectionist parent is tough on their children . Having their expectations so high and having there be only one right or wrong way to achieve something .

  • profile image

    Trader 99 

    8 years ago

    I clearly have many traits:#'s 2,6,7,8,9,10. I don't have the procrastination and my perfectionism is directed only at myself. I have many acquaintances but no close friends. I spend 99% of my time alone because I don't want people to get close enough to see the failure I consider myself to be. I don't date either because I don't believe I have anything to offer, again because I never live up to the standards I set for myself. I lift weights, run, bike skate 5 or 6 nights a week after work. I train hard but am scared to compete because I'm afraid of how badly I'll do. Pre-race anxiety and nausea undermine my training, so I'm never able to perform in a race at the level of my conditioning. I'm always "under-carbed" because I throw up anything I've eaten before the start.

    Today I made 3 rough drafts of a yellow post-it-note phone message I took for someone because the first two I wrote looked sloppy. I believe I have no business going to movies or sporting events until I'm better at my job, so I don't go. I've justified all the training and workouts as a stress reliever. I believe I can do better at work if I just keep trying, but I am terribly hard on myself for making the same mistakes over and over again. I struggled terribly with anxiety all through my 20's, but eventually found solace in a routine and that's become my tether to a functional life.

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 

    8 years ago

    Uh-oh four out of these ten signs kind of fit me (especially number 4). Yeah I guess I tend to act like a perfectionist at times, though I also try to remind myself to be flexible and forgive my own mistakes.

  • online scam check profile image

    online scam check 

    8 years ago from United Kingdom

    I like this hub because you talk about striking balance.

  • J.P. Gardie profile image

    J.P. Gardie 

    8 years ago from Europe

    I must say I got a little frightened reading this hub. It seems to me that I could fit into many of these signs.

  • Ann Nonymous profile image

    Ann Nonymous 

    8 years ago from Virginia

    OMG...I think you have just helped diagnose me with perfectionism syndrome, Kathryn! I loved reading this and loved your illustrations you used to demonstrate what exactly makes a perfectionist. You hit the nail on the head with the PB&J sandwiches!!! Good job!

  • Beth100 profile image


    8 years ago from Canada

    There was once a short time ago, that I was a perfectionist. Then, I met my then husband who broke me of that. Now, I'm anything but one. Great hub!

  • lovelypaper profile image

    Renee S 

    8 years ago from Virginia

    Great hub. I'm definitely not a perfectionist.

  • Mike Lickteig profile image

    Mike Lickteig 

    8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

    I obsess over mistakes, but I'm not a perfectionist. I do think my brother was a perfectionist--his behaviors show in many of the items on your list.

    This was a good post, thanks!

  • h2oforthegaslit profile image


    8 years ago from Birmingham, Alabama

    Until I read this, I thought I was a perfectionist, but now I'm not sure. And that makes me want to explain myself and also let everyone know that I WILL have the answer soon and that I'll never again be caught without the answer and if - (smile).

    Another great hub, Kathryn!

  • ChelseaDawn profile image


    8 years ago from Augusta, Georgia

    This is very true. All throughout elementary and high school, I was a perfectionist. I was upset when I graduated 2nd in my class. I felt that every paper that I ever made a 95 on was a failure because it wasn't an A+. Thankfully, I have overcome my perfectionism to an extent and can now live my life!

  • Jacob Darkley profile image

    Jacob Darkley 

    8 years ago from California, USA

    Great Hub. The part about not having any "pointless" hobbies reminds me of a good friend of mine... (and maybe a hint of myself too).

  • 2patricias profile image


    8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

    Interesting Hub - lists are always fun.

    Sadly, neither of us appears to exhibit any of these traits.

    How about a Hub called 'how to tell if you are slap dash?'

  • Mystique1957 profile image


    8 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

    Well, definitely it is a really dangerous practice! To Admit we have made a mistake, is a sign of wisdom,for we gain humility,patience and experience. On top of it, we live life less stressed and relationships become much more pleasant. The whole idea here is: To respect others` viewpoints as you`d want them to respect your own.

    Very good hub!

    Thumbs up!

    kind regards,


  • Springboard profile image


    8 years ago from Wisconsin

    I'm a bit of a pseudo-perfectionist in that there are some things I could care less that I can't do well, I sort of resign myself to those things. Like sports. I loathe sports. Can't watch them, can't play them. I'm okay with that. I think sports are a waste of time anyway. But when it comes to other things...yeah, definitely. And it can be daunting. You keep going over and over things and the more you look the more you can find wrong, and it just has to be fixed.

  • sheila b. profile image

    sheila b. 

    8 years ago

    Hi! I really like the way you set this blog up, keeping it short yet saying it all. Thank you.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    No one perfects. But perfectionist probably happen to us. I think how to maintain this habit into positive in life. Nice.You may also read my hub about "Are you perfectionist?". I think my hub have relation with this hub Thanks

  • Unchained Grace profile image

    Unchained Grace 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    All of them fit me. But, not to the extent you detailed. When living within the framework you just mentioned, it isn't long before you self-destruct somehow. You can have all of the above expectations, though they gotta come down a few notches. "When mistakes are made, lives are lost." This is drummed into you from day one in the military. However, day to day civilian life is not so critical. This is something I had to learn. In the end, you do more damage to yourself than most mistakes will.

  • zzron profile image


    8 years ago from Houston, TX.

    I like this, I always try to do my best at everything I do.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Excellent obsevation! Let's make sure that the shoe doesn't fit any of us.


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