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What is perfectionism?

A man cutting a single piece if grass with a scissor who is suffering from Perfectionism Maladaptive Perfectionism Non-Perfectionism

Discover what perfectionism is, the traits and conditions associated with it, and how perfectionism can affect your well-being.

Understanding Perfectionism: The Two Dimensions

Perfectionism is a multifaceted personality trait that involves striving for flawlessness and being highly critical of perceived imperfections. It encompasses two primary dimensions: perfectionist striving and perfectionist concerns. Perfectionist striving is the drive to be flawless and set high standards. In contrast, perfectionist concerns involve self-critical evaluations and anxiety over not meeting those standards.

Balancing these two dimensions determines whether an individual’s perfectionism is adaptive or maladaptive. Adaptive perfectionism, characterized by a healthy pursuit of excellence, can lead to higher performance levels and self-efficacy. In contrast, maladaptive perfectionism is linked to fear of failure, causing excessive worry and stress.

Picture of a yellow sign that is describing the difference between having wisdom which is better than perfectionism.

Maladaptive Perfectionism: A Deeper Look

Maladaptive perfectionism arises when perfectionist concerns overshadow perfectionist striving. This form of perfectionism is marked by excessive rumination about past mistakes, doubt about achieving goals, fear of failure, and fear of disappointing others. The negative emotions associated with maladaptive perfectionism can be particularly intense when dealing with factors beyond one’s control.

While adaptive perfectionism can help individuals achieve their goals, maladaptive perfectionism can lead to severe stress and anxiety, which may hinder success and erode self-esteem and confidence.

Non-Perfectionism: The Opposite Extreme

On the opposite end of the perfectionism spectrum lies non-perfectionism. Non-perfectionists set realistic goals and are not bogged down by imperfections, mistakes, or judgmental opinions. They are generally more content with outcomes than perfectionists and experience less worry about uncontrollable situations.

Overcoming Perfectionism: Tips and Techniques

If you’re struggling with maladaptive perfectionism, it’s crucial to regain control and strike a healthy balance. Here are some strategies to help you overcome perfectionism:

  1. Set attainable standards: Assess whether your measures are reasonable and achievable. If you need clarification, seek input from friends or colleagues.
  2. Set realistic goals: Aim high, but ensure your goals are achievable by evaluating your skills, resources, and available support.
  3. Be flexible: Adapt to life’s unexpected obstacles by adjusting your goals and expectations accordingly.
  4. Reframe how you perceive mistakes: Embrace mistakes as learning opportunities rather than catastrophes.
  5. Use positive affirmations: Ease anxiety and self-criticism by repeating uplifting phrases that promote self-acceptance and growth.

How MindLAB Neuroscience Can Help

At MindLAB Neuroscience, I understand the challenges associated with perfectionism and its impact on your well-being. My expertise is helping individuals overcome maladaptive perfectionism using evidence-based techniques and personalized coaching and counseling. Through my unique process, you’ll learn to balance perfectionist striving and concerns, set realistic goals, and embrace a healthier approach to achievement. The best part is the changes we make will be permanent and become your new “default mode”.


Perfectionism is a complex trait with two primary dimensions: perfectionist striving and concerns. Striking a balance between these dimensions is essential for maintaining a healthy mindset and avoiding the pitfalls of maladaptive perfectionism. By applying the strategies outlined in this article and seeking expert support, you can overcome perfectionism and embrace a more balanced, fulfilling approach to achievement.

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Dr. Sydney Ceruto

A Pioneer in Neuroscience-Based Coaching

As the founder of MindLAB Neuroscience, Dr. Sydney Ceruto has been a leading force in integrating neuroscience into coaching and counseling for over two decades. With three master's degrees in psychology and two PhDs in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, she is widely considered a top expert in her field.

Harnessing the power of neuroscience-based coaching, Dr. Ceruto's innovative approach focuses on neuroscience, neuroplasticity, and neural pathway rewiring to foster lasting positive change in mental health.

Dr. Ceruto holds esteemed memberships in the Forbes Executive Council, Positive Performance Alliance, Wharton Executive Education Program, the International Society of Female Professionals, and executive writing positions for Alternatives Watch, Brainz Magazine, and TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.

Dr. Ceruto's accomplishments include:

  • The 2022 CREA Award.
  • A lead research position at NYU Steinhardt.
  • Volunteer work with Covenant House and the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI).

Her science-backed method of Neural Rewiring has successfully guided thousands of clients toward happier, more productive, and more resilient lives.