Perfectionism in women. "Am I a perfectionist?" - Lifecoach München

Perfectionism in women. “Am I a perfectionist?”

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“If it’s not perfect, it feels like I’ve failed,” says Esther, describing her perfectionism. She says: “In my job, I always strive for 100 percent precision. Every project has to be flawless, every deadline becomes a personal challenge. I’m constantly revising my work and investing tons of time to make sure nothing is left to chance.”

Even in her private life, she feels how her compulsion to do everything accurately leads to tensions. Her boyfriend recently advised her to go to psychotherapy , as he can hardly stand how compulsive she is at home. After a fierce argument, she angrily left the apartment and went to her friend’s house. She recommended that she try life coaching.



Text: Perfectionism in women. “Am I a perfectionist?”

1. Perfectionism: Analysis Life Coach
2. Overcoming Perfectionism: Goals and Tools
3. Coping with perfectionism
4. What is perfectionism?
5. Perfectionism in women
6. Where does perfectionism come from?
7. Perfectionism in women: self-test
8. Perfectionism in women: 10 tips


1. Perfectionism in Women: Analysis Life Coach


Causes of perfectionism

Perfectionism is often used as a defense mechanism to avoid fear and shame. To overcome perfectionism, it is crucial to understand the underlying causes. One way to accomplish this is to ask yourself certain questions: “What scenario would be worst for you?” For Esther, the question would be: “What if your project did contain an error, what would that mean for you?”


Understanding and overcoming perfectionism

Often, these fears are unrealistic and have their roots in the past. Once you develop this understanding, you can begin to overcome perfectionism, for example by using reframing techniques. Esther’s statement that she feels like a failure when something isn’t perfect points to deep-seated self-doubt, where she places her self-esteem heavily on her performance. Their high degree of conscientiousness drives them to strive for perfection in their professional and personal lives. She is also emotionally sensitive, which can increase her fear of failure.


2. Overcoming Perfectionism: Goals and Tools


We have set three main goals for Esther: reducing her professional perfectionism, increasing her self-worth , and improving her communication. The practical tools help them to work independently, to be more motivated and to deal with challenges more calmly.


Goal 1: Reduce perfectionism at work

Mindfulness helps to live in the moment and reduce stress. Through reframing, Esther can turn her negative thoughts about perfectionism into positive and healthier thoughts, which can help reduce her perfectionism and boost her self-esteem.


Goal 2: Increase self-esteem

Esther regularly takes time to reflect on her own strengths, values , and achievements, and this helps build healthy self-esteem and self-love. I recommended that Esther read Anne Frank’s diary (1944) to encourage self-acceptance and self-love.


Goal 3: Improve communication

Esther and her boyfriend have learned conflict resolution strategies together and have strengthened themselves rhetorically to approach conflict in a respectful and constructive way, rather than getting into conflict.


Conclusion: Perfectionism in women

In 10 sessions of 90 minutes each, Esther has made great progress in overcoming her perfectionism. She has learned to reduce professional perfectionism, increase her self-esteem and improve her communication.

Perfectionists like Esther are well aware of their mistakes. Therefore, it is important to find ways that go beyond the purely cognitive to help them develop self-acceptance and self-love. Anne Frank’s diary served as a source of inspiration to further these goals.


3. Coping with perfectionism


Overcoming self-criticism

Perfectionists often set unrealistically high standards and criticize themselves heavily. The ability to look at themselves objectively allows them to develop more realistic expectations and reduce their self-criticism. This encourages self-reflection and helps break the vicious cycle of stress and anxiety.



Anne Frank’s ability to self-regulate is now scientifically recognized, according to Dr. Jaap van der Stel, a lecturer in mental health. It involves a person’s ability to consciously control their own behavior, emotions, and thoughts.

Anne Frank wrote the following sentence at the age of 14: “I have a striking personality trait that must be noticed by anyone who has known me for a long time, and that is my self-knowledge. I can look at my behavior as if I were a stranger, completely unbiased.”


4. What is perfectionism?


Perfectionism is the desire for flawless performance and the avoidance of mistakes. This drive for perfection can not only affect you, but it can also put relationships with others and mental health to the test.


Perfectionism in women and men

A study by Hewitt and Flett (1991) showed that women tend to set high standards for themselves and criticize themselves strongly (self-directed perfectionism). More on that below.
In the case of men, there was a tendency to have high expectations not only of oneself, but also of others and society (socially prescribed perfectionism).


5. Perfectionism in women


Perfectionism in relationships

In Sherry and Hall’s 2009 study, titled “The Intersection of Perfectionism and Relationship Functioning in Women,” researchers looked at the effects of perfectionism on interpersonal relationships in women. They analyzed how two different types of perfectionism affect relationship quality:

• Interpersonal perfectionism (the expectation that others are perfect)
• Intrapersonal perfectionism (the expectation that you are perfect yourself)


Expectations that are too high

The results showed that high levels of intrapersonal perfectionism among women led to lower levels of satisfaction in their relationships. Women who set unrealistically high standards for themselves tended to experience more conflict and dissatisfaction in their relationships. This was also the case with Esther. What women like Esther can learn from this study:

1. Awareness of different types of perfectionism: Women should understand that perfectionism can come in different forms, both in expectation of themselves and in expectation of others.

2. Realistic relationship expectations: Women can learn to set realistic expectations for themselves and their partners in relationships instead of encouraging unrealistic perfectionism.

3. Communication in relationships: Open and honest communication in relationships can help minimize misunderstandings and conflicts.


6. Where does perfectionism come from?


The roots of perfectionism can often be found in childhood, where family influences such as excessive criticism and high parental expectations lead to the constant search for love and approval .

These early childhood experiences affect self-esteem and long-term mental health. The fear of rejection, fear of failure and social expectations, and feelings of shame that arise in childhood, also play a role in the development of perfectionism. The following factors therefore play a major role:


Perfectionism in women: important factors

1. Family influences: The family environment, especially excessive criticism or exaggerated expectations from parents, can promote perfectionism in children. A child who is constantly criticized by his parents may feel the urge to be perfect in order to gain their approval.

2. Low self-esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem tend to use perfectionism as a means of self-affirmation and recognition by others. Esther constantly compared herself to other colleagues and felt inferior when she thought they were better than her in certain aspects.

3. Fear of rejection: Many perfectionists are afraid of being rejected or criticized. For example, perfectionists may be reluctant to share their work or ideas with others because they fear that they will be rejected or criticized.

4. Fear of failure: Perfectionists are afraid of failure and see mistakes as personal failures. Example: Esther spent hours preparing for professional presentations to make sure she didn’t make any mistakes. She saw the failure in a presentation as a personal failure and could not allow herself any room for error.

5. Need for recognition: Perfectionists often crave recognition and praise from others. Example: Someone who is always anxious to be the best at everything they do in order to be admired by others.

6. Social expectations: Society and cultural influences can encourage perfectionism by setting high expectations for performance and appearance. An example of this is the seemingly flawless life presented on social media.

7. Shame: Perfectionism can also result from deep-seated shame. The fear that others might discover their own weaknesses or imperfections drives people to want to be perfect in order to protect themselves from this shame.


7. Perfectionism in women: self-test


This short self-test can also help you gain a better understanding of your personal perfectionist tendencies. Please keep in mind that this is an informal measurement tool and does not constitute a scientific diagnosis.


Write down which questions you answer yes .

1. In my job or tasks, I almost always strive for 100% precision, even the smallest mistakes bother me a lot.
2. The fear of rejection or criticism from others drives me to constantly perform perfectly.
3. I find it hard to accept mistakes, whether it’s in my work, appearance, or other areas.
4. I rarely take time off and often put pressure on myself to complete my tasks.
5. I have high expectations of myself and believe that I am only valuable if I am perfect.
6. I find it hard to openly share my thoughts and feelings with others because I’m afraid they might criticize me.
I tend to downplay my own accomplishments and achievements, even when they are impressive.
8. I often compare myself to other women and think that they are better than me in certain aspects.
I often avoid taking risks for fear of failing or not being perfect.
10. The idea of “imperfection” makes me restless and causes me stress.


If you answered yes to some of these questions, the following categories might apply to you.


Category 1:

Perfectionism Inclination: Question 1 Question 5 Question 9


Category 2:

Dealing with one’s own mistakes and fear of failure: Question 3 Question 6


Category 3:

Compulsion to perfection and self-comparisons: Question 2 Question 4 Question 7 Question 8


Evaluation of the self-test “Perfectionism in women”

“Your ‘yes’ answers indicate perfectionism, accompanied by self-comparisons with other women and difficulties in dealing with one’s own mistakes. Such an attitude can cause persistent stress.

If this attitude is affecting your well-being, support in coping with perfectionism and fear of mistakes in the form of life coaching could be helpful.”


8. Perfectionism in women: 10 tips


1. Accept that “perfection” does not exist: Recognize that perfection is merely a theoretical construct and cannot be achieved in reality.

2. Recognize your perfectionism: Pay attention to thoughts like, “I absolutely have to do this, at all costs.” Keep a diary of when and how perfectionism occurs and in which areas of life it is present, whether at work, in personal life, or in terms of punctuality.

3. Distinguish between “positive” and “negative” perfectionism: Positive qualities such as diligence, moderate pursuit of achievement, and discipline are valuable. However, excessive perfectionism leads to stress and anxiety.

4. Set realistic goals: Avoid the illusion that perfectionism can be completely abandoned. This would in itself be a perfectionist claim.

5. Act in a self-determined way: Remind yourself that you set your goals and act in a self-determined way. Perfectionists tend to act in a way that is determined by others.

6. Evaluate comparisons with others sensibly: Perfectionists tend to compare themselves to others and focus on their own weaknesses. However, comparisons can also be inspiring and show that everyone has different talents.

7. Recognize the continuum from healthy striving for achievement to unhealthy perfectionism: There is no “either/or.” As long as you approach things with joy and enthusiasm, you’re on the healthy side. When anxiety and stress dominate, it is advisable to seek professional support.

Less perfectionism leads to self-determination and value-based happiness: Understand that the fear of making mistakes and failure prevents you from doing what you really want to do. Your own values and needs should be the driving force, not perfectionism.

9. Pay attention to self-critical thoughts: Monitor critical self-talk and try to be kinder and more understanding with yourself.

10. Make sure to get rid of the perfectionist claim when dating: When flirting, remember that there are no dream men, but at most interesting, authentic men with little quirks.



© Timo ten Barge 31.10.23

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