Are you a perfectionist?

Are you a perfectionist? Do you find it difficult to do certain things less perfectly? I know I am, and I do from time to time. Being a perfectionist is not “bad” or as problematic as one might think, says researcher, professor and stock analyst, Philip Gnilka.  In his research he talks about “adaptive” perfectionism, and “Maladaptive” perfectionism. Which one are you?

 Here are some traits of the Maladaptive Perfectionist:

1. Often exhibit all or nothing thinking (i.e. everything’s all wrong or alright)

2.  Have unrealistic standards that reach beyond reason (i.e. can never be good enough)

3.  Often hold the belief that anything less than perfection is failure

4.  Have distorted internalized messages that are only accepted and loved if they do things well.

5.  Often overlook their perfectionism by thinking things out logically and not allowing themselves to experience or express proper emotions

6.  Have low levels of hope and are more prone to anxiety and depression


Here are some traits of the Adaptive Perfectionist:

1.  Are able to see their failures as lessons learned and move on

2.  Still belief they are worth something outside of their daily performance

3.  Have higher levels of hope

4.  Tend to try and figure out ways to succeed at a task or goal before immediately labeling it a failure

5.  Often have instilled values that allow for better coping and thinking processes such as “I should strive to do well and be satisfied with my accomplishments.”


Maladaptive coping leads to higher stress levels than adaptive coping.  Maladaptive coping can be helped if and when the person is able to set reasonable goals, let go of mistaken beliefs, and learn to reframe failure. If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. You may also be interested in reading Jonathan Rollins article titled “Living Less Perfectly,” in Counseling Today or contact him at This article is based upon some of the research he revealed in this publication.

May we all live less perfectly and more carefree.


Jessica D. Cleveland ,M.S., LPC, NCC

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