Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Are you a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ kind of perfectionist? Find out right here

woman at organised desk-stylist.co.uk.jpg

Though often bandied around the office as a formidable yet compulsive trait, science now says that being a perfectionist might actually be a good thing.

But, warn researchers behind the new study, it all depends on what kind of perfectionism you practice.

The unhealthy type can lead to burn out at work, increased levels of stress and general unhappiness. No surprises there.

The other kind however, which the team of British psychologists are calling ‘healthy perfectionism’, has actually been found to prevent all of the above.

Published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review, the meta-analysis (a study of studies) looked at 43 pieces of research on the subject of perfectionism, with a combined total of almost 10,000 participants.

Unhealthy perfectionists were characterised as those who set very high goals for themselves, are rigid and inflexible about the standard of those goals, and are unwilling to adapt to changed circumstances.

Organised desk - postit notes - OCD

They are also more likely to measure their own success by comparing themselves to people around them, and feel anxious or uncertain about their own skills and capabilities.

By analysing the findings of the 43 studies, the researchers found these behaviours to be a straight route to burn out and mental exhaustion. The healthy perfectionists however, didn’t display the same relationship with burn out. In most cases, the researchers found that the exact opposite was true.

“Our findings suggest that one element of perfectionism, the tendency to set exceedingly high goals and strive for them, is not in isolation a problem,” says co-author of the study Andrew P. Hill. “In fact, if you set high goals and achieve them, you will feel motivated and good about yourself.”

Though more research needs to be done to determine the exact reasons as to why healthy perfectionism is such a protective trait, the researchers believe that it’s likely down to the positivity which comes from achieving realistic goals, and the nous to not punish yourself harshly when the goal posts move.

Use the check list below to identify which kind of perfectionist you might be...

Healthy perfectionists…

  • Set high but realistic goals for themselves
  • Can be flexible about these goals
  • Are internally motivated
  • Enjoy the thrill of accomplishment
  • Can use reason when their goals aren’t met
  • Understand that their high standards aren’t appropriate in all situations
  • Have a good measure of their own capabilities

Unhealthy perfectionists…

  • Set consistently ambitious goals for themselves
  • Have a rigid and inflexible approach to these goals
  • Are externally motivated
  • Have a fear of failing
  • Experience stress when their high standards can’t be met
  • Are often anxious or uncertain about their own capabilities


happy woman.jpg

Can the ‘three good things’ rule make you happier?


Do you bite your nails? Don't worry, it's a sign of perfectionism


Can you REALLY be bothered to go to that party? Take the test here


87% of British women experience sexism at work, says Stylist study


Watch Viola Davis' powerful Emmys acceptance speech


Photographer brilliantly reveals the lies people tell on Instagram

writing a CV and job application.jpg

These are the 10 worst phrases to use on your CV


What your food vice says about your personality

the sound of music von trapp family children.jpg

What your ranking in the family pecking order says about you



“How beauty rituals help me manage my depression”

One writer found comfort in an unexpected place

21 Oct 2016

Stress is genuinely good for you, experts reveal

Forget everything you thought you knew about stress…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Must-watch Christmas TV: tune in for Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

Just in time for Christmas

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Oct 2016

Bake Off fans, the BBC has already found a replacement show for GBBO

And it's set to hit our televisions very soon...

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Costa’s fancy new menu includes avocado toast and Prosecco

You may want to dress up for the world’s poshest Costa…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Real-life victims of revenge porn share their stories

“Within a week, everyone had seen them… I tried to kill myself shortly after”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

People diagnosed with a terminal illness share powerful life lessons

“You only get one life – and we need to live it”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

This gin is officially the best in Europe – and it's from the UK

Gin drinkers, take note…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Oct 2016

Amazing tasting menus from top UK restaurants for under £50

Total steals from Michelin-starred spots

by Amy Swales
20 Oct 2016

9 hilarious tips for making it in a male-dominated workplace

"Never say anything that sounds like a question, even questions."

by Harriet Hall
20 Oct 2016