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Perfectionism: What Type of Perfectionist Are You?

Updated on September 30, 2010

You might already know that you are a perfectionist. (If not then these ten signs will help you determine whether or not you might be). However, do you know what type of perfectionist you are? There are three major types of perfectionists: self-oriented, other-oriented and social perfectionists. Although most perfectionists do have signs from all three types, people tend towards one more than others. Which type are you?

Self-Oriented Perfectionist

This type of perfectionist places high demands on herself to be perfect. She berates herself for getting an A- even though everyone else in the class is jealous of how well she does. She wants to lose another five pounds and still doesn't feel like she's really good enough unless she's lost ten. She isn't nearly as hard on others as she is on herself. Although she can objectively see that there's no way that someone else can be perfect, she believes that it's her obligation to do things better. These people know that other people don't expect them to be perfect but they expect perfection of themselves anyway.

Signs that you're probably a self-oriented perfectionist rather than one of the other types of perfectionists include:

  • You keep trying to get something done even though a normal person would have given up. You'll spend five hours on a single math problem. You'll spend two days trying to fix a loose wire on a stereo. It's not that you think other people care; it's that you care. You want it to be done, you want it to be done perfectly and you can't let it go.
  • You are a very competitive person. You want to be the best. You expect nothing less of yourself. If there's no one else to compete against, you'll compete against yourself to do better than the time before. No matter how well you do, it's rarely good enough.
The positive side: If you're a self-oriented perfectionist then you know very well how to set high standards for yourself. You work hard to achieve them and tend to accomplish a lot. When it's not take to a dangerous extreme, this can be a positive trait.
The negative side: If you're too hard on yourself, you do damage to yourself. You may not like to hear it but you're only human so you are going to fall short sometimes. It's good to set high standards but it's not good to beat yourself up over failing to meet them every time. Of course, as a self-oriented perfectionist, you're probably saying to yourself "what's the point if you can't meet your goals". The point is that you probably meet them a lot of the time and you should celebrate that. Being too hard on yourself is only going to cause stress and make it harder to meet your goals over time.

Other-Oriented Perfectionist

The self-oriented perfectionist is a tough person to be because she spends every waking moment being hard on herself. However, it's the other-oriented perfectionist that is tough to be around because he is bugging you to be perfect. He holds others up to ridiculously high standards, always telling them how they can do things better. He might mean well but he's asking people to be perfect when they can't be.

You're probably other-oriented as a perfectionist if:

  • You think that you can do things better than anyone else and you constantly try to tell them the right way to do things. In fact, you think there's only one right way to do things - your way.
  • You point out other people's mistakes even when there is no constructive reason to do so.
  • People frequently respond to your statements by saying, "I'm not perfect, you know".
The positive side: You really do believe that the people in your life can do anything. Channeled properly, this gives them a great support system for chasing their own dreams.
The negative side: If you aren't careful, though, you can really do damage to your relationships by asking people in your life to be perfect. Trying to careen them into meeting your own goals instead of theirs could cause them to become frustrated with you and disappointed in themselves.

Social Perfectionist

This person believes that you're not going to be perfect all of the time but that you need to appear perfect to others. She is driven by a need to always look the best, be the best helper and stand out in the crowd as exceptional. She differs from the self-oriented perfectionist because she doesn't always hold herself to high standards. She'll cut herself a break in private. Nevertheless, she'll spend hours getting ready to make sure that she's wearing the "perfect" outfit and she'll beat herself up for days over making a mistake when called upon in class. They actually believe that other people expect them to be perfect.

Signs indicating that you might be this type of perfectionist.

  • You worry about what other people think of you. This is obviously the biggest sign that you're a social perfectionist.
  • You can't stand to make a mistake in front of someone else. You get very self-conscious. You're terrified of messing up when other people can see you. You'd rather not do something at all than risk doing it in front of people and making an error.
The positive side: You can be very tuned in to what people expect of you. This can be an asset in school and jobs.
The negative side: Worrying too much about what people think about you leaves no room for you to ask yourself what you really want. You'll spend your life being a shell of a person, trying to look right, rather than discovering your own dreams and setting your own goals.
Do any of these things sound like you? Can you tell that you're the type of perfectionist who is being too hard on others or maybe someone who is too hard on herself?


Submit a Comment

  • RichERich1175 profile image


    7 years ago

    Being a former high school teacher, I have to admit...I was definitely a perfectionist! It is fascinated to know what kind I am. Great hub :)

  • pinkhawk profile image


    8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

    ...oh, somehow I am a perfectionist but I didn't know that there are different types of it, thank you for the idea! ...There's a certain limit in everything so we should not be tooooo or extremely tough in things we do, or else it will end up in frustration, stress and see ourselves 10years older- I don't like it!----that's my lesson I guess...:)... thank you very much again ma'am for the idea! :)great article! :)

  • Unchained Grace profile image

    Unchained Grace 

    8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

    When struggling for the perfectionist thing and the 1,000 reasons why someone stresses out about whatever, just who you tryin' to impress? Yourself? Someone else? As DiamondRN said, "God loves me just the way I am." Do for God first and then yourself. Once we close our eyes, we won't see the others again anyway, so why tear ourselves up?

    Doing for yourself is a great thing and motivation to be the best you can be is fine so long as it is God and yourself you are doing it for. Ain't no point in waiting on someone else to polish your trophy rack.

  • DiamondRN profile image

    Bob Diamond RPh 

    8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

    I used to be a perfectionist too; but, I finally woke up to the fact that God loves me just the way I am.


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