Model: 3 types of perfectionism

April 28th, 2018

I recently attended a presentation about perfectionism.

The title of the of the presentation was a pun meaning both 'chained by perfectionism' and 'interested in perfectionism'.


During the presentation, a distinction was made between 3 types of perfectionism:

  1. Performance oriented

  2. Social oriented

  3. Control oriented



1) Performance oriented perfectionism

The standard to be met comes from within yourself.

You have a checklist. A list of things that need to be perfect, for the end result to be perfect. Checklists can be nested, and only when all sub-items are perfect, will the main item be perfect.

You have a manual. A list of steps you know can get you (closest) to achieving that standard.

You lose track of the original goal. Performing the manual, achieving the checklist, becomes the goal.

All for fear of failure, of making mistakes. Because you believe that mistakes are bad and cause misery.



2) Social oriented perfectionism

The standard to achieve comes from others in your environment. From what you think others see as perfect.

You think that others have a checklist, and will be evaluating you with it.

Your goal is to be seen as perfect by others. So that they will like you.

All this out of fear for not being appreciated, for being dropped by others.

Because you believe that people will not accept your imperfect self.



3) control oriented perfectionism

The standard to achieve is to always be in control.

You have this idea/image/plan in your head of how things should be.And every imperfection  keeps nagging at you until you've fixed it.

Your goal is to have everything exactly like the image in your head.

Yoar goal is to make sure everything is perfectly predictable.

All this out of fear for losing control.

Because you believe that when you're not in control, everything will start going wrong.



This mental model helped me understand and accept certain behaviors better.


Although I recognize a bit of all, I do notice one type being dominant in me.


(src: presentation by