Are You a Perfectionist?

Published on May 3, 2012 by

I was coaching an employee, who, by his own admission, is a perfectionist. He is rarely satisfied when he completes a project or turns in a report or gives a group presentation at work. And he is okay with that—with never being satisfied. (He says never being satisfied doesn't bother him, but I don't buy that.)

In "Bob's" mind, if he felt satisfied, he would lower his standards and his performance would suffer. He would not be okay with that.

In 20+ years of working with clients as a former psychotherapist, and now as a coach, I have worked with many who claim to be perfectionists. What about you...are you a perfectionist?

A perfectionist is someone who demands perfection of himself or herself.

Not literally, but figuratively.

A perfectionist, in practical terms, is someone who has unrealistic standards they impose on themselves.

The problem is, the perfectionist doesn't see the standards as unrealistic.

Take Mary for example. Mary is punctual to a fault; if she is late for a staff meeting or a meeting with friends or family, they would begin to wonder if she is okay. Because Mary is never late. No, she always arrives ten minutes before the scheduled time. Except maybe once a year when she is five or ten minutes late. When that happens, she is frantic and shows up with great apology and after beating herself up for being so shameful.

You might be late every so often and not beat yourself up and conclude you are not a perfectionist. Often, perfectionists are not perfectionistic in every area of their lives, just some. Perfectionism shows up in different ways. With writers, it shows up in what is called "writers block." That's just another name for perfectionism.

When a writer (be it a journalist, author, blogger, copywriter or employee writing a report) stares at a blank screen or piece of paper and agonizes about writing, that's perfectionism at work.

Do you struggle with perfectionism?

Do you view it as an asset or an impediment?

In my next post I'll write about how to tame perfectionism.

Unless I come down with a severe case of writers block.


  1. Dan Black

    I don't think it's beneficial to be a perfectionist, however a person should have high standards and expectations of them self's. A person should give their best to what they are doing and know even though they did their best, the results won't turn out good every time. great post.

  2. Alan Allard

    Dan, good point about giving our best to what we do. I know you have a blog on leadership (check it out everybody) and leaders have to be out in front doing their best. Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it.

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