Determining whether your standards are overly perfectionistic

Does your perfectionism help you or hurt you? Does it fuel struggle with anxiety and depression or does it increase life satisfaction? I've included a brief batch of self reflection questions that may assist people in working out whether they may benefit from sessions cognitive behaviour therapy targeting perfectionism. These questions are adapted from Egan, Wade, Shafran and Antony's text on perfectionism treatment (2014).

What is the definition of perfectionism?

“The overdependence of self- evaluation on the determined pursuit (and achievement) of self-imposed, personally demanding standards of performance in at least one salient domain, despite the occurrence of adverse consequences.”

Shafran, Cooper & Fairburn, 2002

How do I determine whether my standards are overly perfectionistic or are simply associated with striving for something?

These questions won't provide definitive answers, but they provide an excellent guideline for self reflection.

  1. Am I able to meet my standards? Do I get significantly upset if I don't meet my standards?
  2. Are others in my life able to meet my standards? Do I get significantly upset if other people don't meet my standards?
  3. Are my standards for my work, on average, higher than the standards other people have for their work? Do I even know the level of standard those in my field hold for their own work?
  4. Do my standards help me to achieve my goals or do they get in the way? Do my standards result in becoming despondent and demotivated to persist if I don't meet them? Do my standards end up being associated with me getting less work/practice done?
  5. What would be the cost of relaxing a particular standard or rule I hold for myself?
  6. What would be the benefits of relaxing a particular standard or rule I hold for myself?
  7. Ultimately, am I succeeding because of my perfectionism, or, in spite of my perfectionism?


  1. Egan, S.J., Wade, T.D., Shafran, R., & Antony, M.M. (2016). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of perfectionism. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

  2. Shafran, R., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C.G. (2002). Clinical perfectionism: a cognitive-behavioural analysis. Behavior Research and Therapy, 40, 773-791.

Patrick Sheehan is a clinical psychologist who works with adults and adolescents in his private practice located in Glebe, Sydney. If you want to enquire about an appointment, please head over to the contact page.

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