Perfectionism Statistics (+How It Has Changed) | OptimistMinds (2023)

This article will discuss how the notion of perfectionism has changed over time, how people have been thriving for it, and how it has been present nowadays. The article will also show ways one can cope with this overwhelming idea of perfectionism.

How has perfectionism statistics changed over time?

Nowadays people appear to have become a lot more perfectionists than previous generations. In a recent study done by Curran and Hill, 41,641 people completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale from the 1980s to 2016 to analyze how it has changed over time.

The study discovered that, especially between 1989 and 2016, the score of self-oriented perfectionism increased 10%, the socially prescribed type of perfectionism is 33% higher, and the other-oriented perfectionism got 16% higher.

This may be for many reasons, including the use of social media, which causes people to constantly compare themselves to others, and try to be perfect. This can lead to great dissatisfaction with the life they are living, and their bodies, causing them to isolate themselves.

Another life goal that causes people to be perfectionists in their education and career. Young people are constantly worried about how successful they will be. This causes them to compare grades and averages with their peers. Creating an unrealistic idea of educational and career success.

According to the research, in the 80s half of the teens graduating from college were expected to have a college degree, in 2008 that number rose to 80%. But the number of people that got the degree never followed that starting. Which can explain how fiercely they have been competing with others, and how they can feel like a failure.

Recent estimates say that toxic perfectionism has been hitting young people extremely hard. Causing 30% of undergraduate students to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. To better discover the negative aspects of perfectionism, let’s understand what perfectionism is.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is a combination of high personal standards and a too critical evaluation of yourself. It can be divided into 3 facets: self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, and finally socially prescribed perfectionism.

(Video) This is Why You Are a Perfectionist | Mr. Elon Kline | TEDxUniversityofDelaware

The first one happens when people put too much importance on being perfect and hold high, possibly unrealistic expectations on themselves. People with self-oriented perfectionism can have a high sense of self-criticism.

The other-oriented perfectionism is about the high standard you may hold to others. It tends to evaluate others critically, and often be judgemental. And socially prescribed perfectionism happens when people think their social circle is constantly demanding them to be perfect.

They can feel judged, and want to be perfect to be approved by others. To those, being perfect is a way to avoid rejection. What is important to highlight is that a person can be a perfectionist in one area of their life, but not in others.

How does it affect mental health?

Perfectionism causes you to aim for impossible outcomes, and that can be extremely damaging to a person’s mental health. When you are a perfectionist, you try to prove your worth to others by flawlessly doing activities.

Being a perfectionist can cause you to ruminate on what you have done, how it should have been done, how they are not perfect, or even how they are worthless. This can be a huge source of stress, affect their self-esteem, and self-worth, causing them to feel guilty and ashamed of each failure.

All this heavy load of expectations can cause people to develop many mental illnesses, mainly anxiety, depression, and some people may even experience suicidal thoughts. If you perceive that perfectionism is taking a toll on you, here are some ways you can handle it.

How to handle perfectionism

There are some ways people can handle perfectionism so it doesn’t take such a toll on their mental health. The first thing to do is to understand succeeding is not always possible, and that not achieving what you wanted is not a failure.

Not getting what you aimed to do is not a sign that you are weak. People usually relate their self-worth to what others may think of them, and when you don’t succeed, you may feel like your life is over. That having a flaw, or showing others you are not perfect, will cast you as an outsider in this extremely competitive world.

(Video) Reframing perfectionism - the vital need for change | Julian Reeve | TEDxSantaBarbara

That is why you are always looking for perfection, but this can be exhausting. If you don’t achieve something, try to have some compassion for yourself. That can be hard since most people just want to punish themselves as they experience a high level of self-criticism.

If you don’t achieve something, it might be time to rethink your goals, be compassionate of yourself, and maybe work harder. It is not the time for self-punishment, or of going on that spiral of negativity.

As you calm yourself down, going over your goals can be important. People that are perfectionists tend to have too high and unrealistic goals. Try to add some flexibility, and perseverance to them. Don’t focus only on the outcome, but rather on the whole process and what you will learn with it.

Another aspect perfectionists need to deal with is the notion that they need to, not only finish the task but do it perfectly. Having this idea that you need to do things perfectly can often be a reason why you avoid doing it in the first place.

You get so focused on the possibility of failing, or not being perfect, that you just give it all up. And as the deadline approaches, you can be taken over by overwhelming fear. To handle this, it might be important to divide the task into small steps and keep in mind that getting it done is more important than getting it perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): How has the perfectionism statistics changed over time?

How does social media impact our notion of perfection?

Social media has a direct effect on the notion people have of perfection. But what is important to keep in mind is that social media was created because people felt the need to show their pictures, or what they were going through.

And in some ways, that can be positive. For example, through hashtags people can connect to a community that has a similar interest, making people feel less alone. The problem starts when people’s vulnerability can’t appear on social media because, if they do, they will be looked at through the microscope.

This causes everyone to try to be perfect in the life they show online. And it is a vicious circle, the more worried you are that people will see your vulnerable side, the more you will try to display yourself as perfect, and people looking from the outside start to think they need to do the same.

(Video) The Perfectionist Trap

So now, everyone is online trying to display a perfect life.

What are the physical impacts of perfectionism?

Perfectionism can impact not only your mental health but can also have a huge impact on your physical health. Some people even believe that too much perfectionism can make you have a lower life span. Not only that, it can cause you to have chronic headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and heartburn.

People that are perfectionists also have a higher chance of developing an eating disorder, and they can experience heart failure, pancreatitis, constipation, and even tooth decay.

Are you born a perfectionist or have you become one?

Some research says that perfectionism comes from a genetic trait. Around 15 and 25% of perfectionism traits can come from genetics. But it also has an important social origin. It can come from how you were raised by your parents.

They can have been demanding parents that wanted you to be the best student, or the best dancer, or the best child you can be. And growing up with that, you may have started to be too hard on yourself. Trying to show to everyone you are perfect, and causing yourself a lot of suffering when you fail.

Is there a good side to being a perfectionist?

No, there is no good side to being a perfectionist. When you are one, some important qualities such as diligence and meticulousness go on overdrive and lose their adaptive trait. People may confuse both those traits with perfectionism.

But what differs them is the ability the person has to deal with the frustration of not being perfect. Along with that, the person that is a perfectionist can’t separate themselves from their actions. Their self-esteem and sense of self-worth are always connected to how they deal with a task.

But a person that is diligent or even meticulous can aim to do the best job they can in each of their tasks, but they are not aiming to be flawless in the eyes of others or even to themselves. Knowing they did the best they could, is enough. Their sense of self-esteem or self-worth is not directly connected to how they do a task.

(Video) Perfectionism: When good is never good enough, with Gordon Flett, PhD, and Bonnie Zucker, PsyD

Can perfectionists lead to anger issues?

Yes, depending on how the person handles their perfectionism, it can lead them to develop anger issues. Many researches have shown that people who have maladaptive perfectionism, are prone to physical aggression, hostility, and even verbal aggression.

It can also lead to social disconnection, hostility. This can happen because people that are perfectionists may have a low tolerance for frustration, and when they feel like they have failed, it can be extremely hard for them to deal with that emotion.

Some of them can internalize their feelings, but other perfectionists can have outbursts such as anger outbursts. If you feel like you are going through this, it might be a warning sign that your perfectionism is getting the best of you.

So instead of waiting for the worst to happen, it might be important to look for help. Therapy can help you understand the root of your perfectionism, and how you can be more flexible and caring with yourself.

Not only that, you will learn how to tolerate frustration better, and how to avoid your perfectionism from harming your relationships.


This article discussed how perfectionism has changed over time. It showed how the statistics of it have altered, and what impact it has been having on people’s mental health. Asked from that, the article explained what perfectionism is, and what are ways to handle it.

If you have any questions or comments about the article, feel free to write it in the section below.


(Video) Perfectionism is destroying your productivity.

Curran T, Hill Ap. Perfectionism is increasing over time: a meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016. Psychological Bulletin. 2019. Vol. 145(4): 410-429.


How much has perfectionism increased? ›

They found that perfectionism has increased drastically over the last few decades—33 percent since 1989—and has coincided with cultural changes that served to exasperate these feelings.

What are the statistics of perfectionism? ›

68% believe perfectionism leads to burnout. 66% believe perfectionism leads to fear of failure and conflict avoidance. 66% of workplaces struggle with perfectionism. 1/3 of employees are considering leaving their workplace because of perfectionist expectations.

Is perfectionism increasing? ›

According to new research, perfectionism is on the rise among young adults, alongside increases in critical parenting and parental expectations. The study authors speculate that an increasingly individualistic and competitive society may be to blame.

Why is perfectionism increasing over time? ›

Broadly speaking, then, increasing levels of perfectionism might be considered symptomatic of the way in which young people are coping—to feel safe, connected, and of worth—in neoliberalism's new culture of competitive individualism.

How many Americans struggle with perfectionism? ›

A child who believes that she must be perfect, or produce perfect work at all times, will clearly become very unhappy, as it is impossible for her to ever meet her goals. While the general population contains approximately 30% perfectionists, the percentage of perfectionists among the gifted population is close to 80%.

What is the 70% rule for perfectionism? ›

Since it is not humanly possible to do a great job 100% of the time, how about 70% of the time? The other 30% of experiences, you can chalk up to lessons learned (rather than calling them “mistakes”). With practice it will be possible to let go of perfection and to see that we have made a reasonable effort.

What is the root cause of perfectionism? ›

Some of the main causes of perfectionism include: A fear of judgment or disapproval from others. Early childhood experiences, such as having parents with unrealistically high expectations. Having a mental health condition associated with perfectionist tendencies, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)7.

What are the factors affecting perfectionism? ›

Some key correlates of Perfectionism include Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, academic performance expectation, and achievement goal orientations.

What percentage of the population is perfectionist? ›

While the general population contains approximately 30% perfectionists, the percentage of perfectionists among the gifted population is close to 80%. Not be able to perform a task unless they know they can do it perfectly.

Why is perfectionism not encouraged? ›

Studies have also found that perfectionists have higher levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety. So while certain aspects of perfectionism might be beneficial in the workplace, perfectionistic tendencies can also clearly impair employees at work.

Are perfectionists less successful? ›

There is no evidence that perfectionists are more successful than their non-perfectionistic counterparts. In fact, there is evidence that given similar levels of talent, skill and intellect, perfectionists perform less successfully than non-perfectionists. MYTH: Perfectionists get things done, and they do things right.

Who is most prone to perfectionism? ›

Anyone can adopt perfectionist behaviors, but some personalities are more prone to it, Introverts in particular. The top perfectionist types are the INTJ and INFJ personalities. NJs have high standards and, as Introverted Intuitives (Ni dominants), will chase impossible heights of perfection.

What are the big three perfectionism? ›

The BTPS-SF showed the best fit for a three-factor solution, reflecting the three dimensions of perfectionism: rigid perfectionism, self-critical perfectionism, and narcissistic perfectionism.

Does perfectionism get worse with age? ›

We also found that, as perfectionists grow older, they appear to unravel. Their personalities become more neurotic (more prone to negative emotions like guilt, envy and anxiety) and less conscientious (less organized, efficient, reliable and disciplined).

What is perfectionism in history? ›

Perfectionism was a manifestation of the mid-19th-century enthusiasm for liberal social and religious beliefs that particularly affected New England, and was allied in temperament to the spirit that created Millerism, Shaker communities, Come-outers, and even Transcendentalism.

Are high IQ people perfectionists? ›

The study also found that higher IQs was linked to be cautious and being a perfectionist. This may be because being a perfectionist takes longer and people with higher IQs have the patience to wait until the job is done right. The conclusions come from a study of 722 people who were given personality and IQ tests.

Why are so many people perfectionists? ›

Many perfectionists grew up with unrealistic expectations from parents, caretakers and/or themselves. Perfectionism is encouraged in some families. Sometimes parents knowingly or unknowingly establish perfection as the standard. These parents require straight As in school or flawless piano recitals.

Are successful people perfectionists? ›

Successful people, and by that we mean people who are living fulfilling lives, are rarely perfectionists because it cripples actual progress and keeps people stuck. Instead of perfectionism, they aim for excellence instead.

Is perfectionism a form of ADHD? ›

People with ADHD aren't often thought of as perfectionists. On the surface, it might seem like they race through tasks and ignore details without worrying about the consequences. Still, some people with ADHD can be perfectionists. Perfectionism isn't just about trying to do a good job.

Is perfectionism ADHD or OCD? ›

Though the link may seem unlikely at first glance, perfectionism is also strongly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). For some, perfectionism is a psychological overcompensation for past ADHD-related errors or for feelings of inferiority.

What are the three core elements of perfectionism? ›

Hewitt and Flett's Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Hewitt & Flett, 1991b), which describes three dimensions of perfectionism (self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism), is another commonly used measure.

Is perfectionism caused by trauma? ›

Perfectionism is especially prevalent in those who experienced childhood trauma, particularly if a child's parents or caregivers withheld love or affection. In the above instance, children are likely to develop the belief that they must work hard by 'proving themselves' or their self-worth to gain love and approval.

What mental illness is caused by perfectionism? ›

Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a personality disorder that's characterized by extreme perfectionism, order, and neatness.

What mental illness is associated with perfectionism? ›

Research has linked perfectionism to a variety of mental health problems, including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and several eating disorders. Perfectionism thus appears to take a toll on one's mental wellness.

What is the two factor theory of perfectionism? ›

Abstract. The construct of perfectionism has been argued to consist of two factors, perfectionistic concerns and perfectionistic strivings. Though perfectionistic concerns are consistently associated with adverse outcomes, the evidence for perfectionistic strivings is mixed.

What are the hidden signs of perfectionism? ›

Reviewing your work repeatedly. Avoiding risks, and being hesitant to try new things (like learning new skills or hobbies), if there's any chance you'll make a mistake. Being a workaholic. Being unable to celebrate small wins—or any wins at all.

What is the best therapy for perfectionism? ›

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to address perfectionism. This method can demonstrate that perfection is not the end goal of each undertaking. It also helps emphasize flawed beliefs, or biases, a person may have about the things they feel need to be perfect.

Which gender is more perfectionist? ›

From the recent research on perfectionism it has shown that women tend to be more perfectionists than men and have more stress than they do as well.

What are some facts about perfectionist people? ›

Perfectionism is a chronic source of stress, often leaving people feeling like failures even when other people see them as successful. Perfectionistic individuals require themselves to be perfect. This constant expectation is a source of stress and pressure and contributes to maladaptive ways of coping.

Is a perfectionist born or made? ›

But, how do we acquire these self-critical thoughts and thinking patterns? We are certainly not born with these thoughts. In fact, we create this overcompensating mechanism of perfectionism due to experiences we have in our lives. That is why for many people out there, perfectionism is a trauma response.

Why is perfectionism bad in society? ›

Perfectionism is Demotivating

With ideals which are unattainable, you'll never feel like you're good enough and you'll miss out on rewards of accomplishment. When you're down or disheartened, it will be tough to put your energy into your work and you'll detract from your own effectiveness.

Is perfectionism genetic or learned? ›

Perfectionists Are Partly Born and Made That Way

While there is a genetic component to perfectionism, environmental factors play a considerable role in its development.

What is the downfall of perfectionism? ›

‌Perfectionism can trigger anxiety and depression. Because stress and anxiety build up when you don't meet the high standards you set for yourself, you may also become depressed. Some people can be considered “emotional perfectionists,” meaning they hide these feelings of anxiety and depression.

Do perfectionists live longer? ›

A 2009 study found that people who tested high for perfectionism had a greater chance of dying in the following few years than those who did not. On the other hand, those who tested high for conscientiousness, optimism, and extroversion tended to live longer than average.

Do perfectionists have a fixed mindset? ›

A fixed mindset “is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you're not the best—it's all been wasted.” For example, perfectionists have a fixed mindset. They deeply believe their success means they have intelligence and skill and that failure means a lack of both.

Which zodiac signs are perfectionists? ›

Scorpios are known for their intense focus and attention to detail. They have a natural ability to see through the surface and get to the heart of the matter. They are highly analytical and tend to be perfectionists when it comes to their work.

Is perfectionism a trait or disorder? ›

Perfectionism is considered a personality trait and is not considered a personality disorder of its own however perfectionism is a trait often seen in obsessive-compulsive personality disorder which is similar to OCD except that the individual is fully supportive of this behavior; identical to individuals who are ...

What part of the brain causes perfectionism? ›

Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC)

The left and right regions of the DLPFC are hypothesized to be differentially associated with perfectionism.

What percentage of the world are perfectionists? ›

DID YOU KNOW? While the general population contains approximately 30% perfectionists, the percentage of perfectionists among the gifted population is close to 80%. Not be able to perform a task unless they know they can do it perfectly.

Is perfectionism linked to high IQ? ›

According to the findings of a meta-analytic study, students who were intellectually gifted showed higher levels of perfectionistic striving but similar levels of perfectionistic concerns as compared to non-gifted students (Stricker et al. 2020).

What is the main cause of perfectionism? ›

Some of the main causes of perfectionism include: A fear of judgment or disapproval from others. Early childhood experiences, such as having parents with unrealistically high expectations. Having a mental health condition associated with perfectionist tendencies, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)7.

Is perfectionism learned or inherited? ›

Personality traits like perfectionism are believed to be caused by a combination of both genetics and environment. People can inherit certain perfectionistic traits and they can also learn them.

What are the 3 types of perfectionist? ›

These authors defined 3 different types of perfectionism: self-oriented, socially-prescribed, and other-oriented perfectionism.

What is the psychological root of perfectionism? ›

The root of perfectionism is believing your self-worth is based onyour achievements. Perfectionism is often present when somecombination of these factors exist: Rigid, high parental expectations. Highly critical, shaming, or abusive parents.

Is perfectionism an ADHD trait? ›

Though the link may seem unlikely at first glance, perfectionism is also strongly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). For some, perfectionism is a psychological overcompensation for past ADHD-related errors or for feelings of inferiority.

Are people born with perfectionism? ›

Perfectionists Are Partly Born and Made That Way

While there is a genetic component to perfectionism, environmental factors play a considerable role in its development.


1. Why Brené Brown Says Perfectionism Is a 20-Ton Shield | Oprah's Lifeclass | Oprah Winfrey Network
2. Stop Trying to be Perfect
(Mark Manson)
3. How Perfectionism Is Holding You Back
(Leila Hormozi)
4. Clean Data: Understand and Overcoming the Role of Perfectionism in Data Management
(Mallory Erickson)
5. Don’t Overcome Your Perfectionism! Why Your High Standards Make You A Star
(Marie Forleo)
6. Ending the pursuit of perfection | Iskra Lawrence | TEDxUniversityofNevada
(TEDx Talks)


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