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How healthy is perfectionism?

November 18, 2009

Does perfectionism drive you towards success or away from failure?  A recent article in Scientific American Mind ( ) suggests that there are ‘positive’ or ‘healthy perfectionists’ who are motivated towards success and, ‘unhealthy perfectionists’ motivated by a fear of failure.   Hogan’s Development Survey measures perfectionism on it’s Diligence scale.  Medium to high risk scorers are likely to demonstrate both healthy and unhealthy perfectionist behaviours with the unhealthy ones more likely to come out when under stress and pressure.   

Positive or healthy perfectionistic behaviours include organised, conscientious, striving for excellence, good organisation, striving to meet goals and deadlines.  However the negative perfectionist behaviours include anxiety, inefficiency, shying away from new challenges, critical, inflexible, pedantic.  

Intuitively I feel that the positive perfectionist behaviours are those that drive us towards success and the negative ones away from failure. However logically it also makes sense that some people may experience the reverse.  Could this be due to having an optimistic or pessimistic mindset?



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