When is perfectionism healthy? When is it unhealthy?



Largely, it’s the difference between goals that are internal or external.

If you’re trying to live up to internal values of excellence, it’s healthy.

If you’re seeking approval, it’s probably unhealthy.

Via Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries:

Depending on the form it takes, perfectionism is not necessarily a block to creativity. A growing body of research in psychology has revealed that there are two forms of perfectionism: healthy or unhealthy. Characteristics of what psychologists view as healthy perfectionism include striving for excellence and holding others to similar standards, planning ahead, and strong organizational skills. Healthy perfectionism is internally driven in the sense that it’s motivated by strong personal values for things like quality and excellence. Conversely, unhealthy perfectionism is externally driven. External concerns show up over perceived parental pressures, needing approval, a tendency to ruminate over past performances, or an intense worry about making mistakes. Healthy perfectionists exhibit a low concern for these outside factors.

This is interesting because I’ve posted about perfectionism is the past and the results appeared contradictory.

It seemed good for athletes, bad for college professors and potentially lethal at times. Perhaps the above distinction explains why.

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