People with elevated perfectionism are prone to procrastination – they will postpone the task if they believe the outcome won’t be perfect.
All people want to be good in what they do and successfully accomplish their goals. However, not all people are unstoppably persistent in achieving what they believe in, trying to avoid any failures and imperfections. A personality characteristic called perfectionism can have both benefits and drawbacks. Even though greater perfectionistic tendencies can motivate a person to try harder and eventually achieve the goal, it is crucial to understand how perfectionistic way of thinking can impair various aspects of every-day life.
Dimensions of perfectionism
Generally, there are two dimensions of perfectionism – adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive perfectionism characterizes achievement-oriented behavior and striving for success, whereas maladaptive perfectionism is best described as experiencing fear of failure. Previous research have shown that adaptive perfectionism is associated with healthy life outcomes, such as happiness and life satisfaction while maladaptive perfectionism appears to be related to stress and consequently lower psychological functioning.
There are other classifications of perfectionism that include the personal and social aspect of this trait. Paul Hewit and Gordon Flett, probably the most popular researchers in this area, introduced the three dimensions of perfectionism, called: self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially-prescribed. In brief, self-oriented perfectionists usually have strict self-evaluations and high personal standards; other-oriented perfectionists show the same pattern of thinking and behaving as self-oriented type but oriented towards other, significant people in their life; socially-prescribed perfectionists experience external expectations about the necessity of attaining perfection, they believe that others expect them to act mistake-free.
Despite many researchers claiming that both adaptive and maladaptive dimensions of perfectionism are apparent, this characteristic is generally considered detrimental. One of the most evident areas of this is the eating disorders, in which both dimensions seem to be elevated and contribute to the onset and maintenance of this diagnosis. Also, some findings indicate that people with elevated perfectionism are prone to procrastination – they will postpone the task if they believe the outcome won’t be perfect. In conclusion, it is important to be cautious when describing perfectionism as a potentially benevolent trait since this way of thinking and behaving might result in not-so-desirable life outcomes.