A former Google therapist shares the 5 types of perfectionists – and what makes them so successful

A former Google therapist shares the 5 types of perfectionists – and what makes them so successful

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Perfectionists are not balanced people, and that’s okay.

As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many self-described perfectionists, all those smart, ambitious, hard-working people who inexplicably felt that something was wrong with them.

But as I delved into their stories, as well as researching perfectionism, I came to a surprising realization: perfectionism is not a pathology, and treating it as such causes countless people—mostly women—to suffer needlessly.

What type of perfectionist are you?

Based on my clinical work, I have identified five types of perfectionists. As you read the profiles, keep in mind that perfectionism is a fluid and context-dependent construct.

For example, you could be a messy perfectionist when it comes to dating and an intense perfectionist at work. Understanding your profile will help you assess and manage your unique trends.

1. Strong perfectionists

Intense perfectionists are effortlessly direct and maintain a razor-sharp focus when it comes to achieving their goals. Left unchecked, their standards can go from high to impossible, and they can punish others and themselves for not meeting their standards.

2. Classic perfectionists

Classic perfectionists are very reliable, consistent and detail oriented and add stability to their environment. Left unchecked, they struggle to adapt to spontaneity or change in routine and may find it difficult to develop meaningful relationships.

3. Parisian perfectionists

Parisian perfectionists have a keen understanding of the power of interpersonal connection and possess a strong capacity for empathy. Left unchecked, their desire to connect with others can metastasize into toxic people-pleasing.

4. Procrastinating perfectionists

Procrastinating perfectionists excel at preparation, can see opportunities from a 360-degree perspective, and have good impulse control. Left unchecked, their preparations reach a point of diminishing returns, leading to indecision and inaction.

5. Messy perfectionists

Messy perfectionists effortlessly overcome the anxiety of new beginnings, are superstar idea generators, adapt well to spontaneity, and are naturally enthusiastic. Left unchecked, they struggle to stay focused on their goals, ultimately spreading their energies too thinly to fulfill their commitments.

What is your perfectionist profile?

If you’re not sure which profile suits you best, take the quiz here.

It’s important to understand that when people say, “I’m a perfectionist,” they’re not saying that they expect themselves, others, the weather, or even all the events that happen in life to be perfect.

Perfectionists are powerful, intelligent people who realize that not everything can work perfectly all the time. What they sometimes struggle with is understanding why they feel so compelled to strive endlessly or why they can’t just enjoy the holiday “like a normal person”.

Perfectionism is a power, and like any power, it can be used constructively. If you recognize yourself in the perfectionist profiles above, consider exploring your perfectionism. It might surprise you how much power you have.

In the midst of this research, consider this idea as well: You have nothing.

Catherine Morgan Schaffler is a psychotherapist, writer and speaker. Before that, she was an on-site therapist at Google. She received degrees and training from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University, with a postgraduate qualification from the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy in New York. Her first book, “The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control” is out now.

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