Drawing your own diagram

Drawing your own diagram of perfectionism isn’t easy. No two people with perfectionism are exactly the same. One person’s perfectionism may be strongly maintained by a fear of failure, another by setting high standards. There may be things that you’re unsure if they count as perfectionism or not, or where the arrows in the diagram should go. Well, the good news is it does not matter. There is no right or wrong in this task, and you’re not graded for it. It is simply a first go at trying to understand the cycle of perfectionism to start breaking free from it.

Download this to help you come up with your cycle. Here are some questions to help you draw your diagram of what is maintaining your perfectionism.

Q1. Do you only feel good about yourself when you have done well? Would you feel bad about yourself if you did not do well or set high standards for yourself? If so, this can be put at the top of your diagram.

Q2. Do you have very high standards? If so, include this below the first point, connected by a downward arrow. 

Q3. Do you have rules to help you achieve your high standards? If so, list some of the most obvious ones and put them into the diagram below “high standards”.

Q4. Do you have “all or nothing thinking” (where you think something is either perfect or a complete failure)? This means that you feel you often don’t meet your standards and see yourself as a failure. If so, put this into the diagram with a recent example.

Q5. Do you react to failures by being very harsh on yourself? If so, include this in the diagram with examples.

Q6. Put examples of unhelpful behaviours such as avoidance, procrastination, repeated checking, being overly detailed, and multi-tasking into your diagram and think about what leads to these. Is it failure to meet your standards? Is it self-criticism? Is it anxiety, low mood or stress? Put in the answers you come up with.

Q7. Think about how anxiety, low mood and stress contribute to your cycle of perfectionism. Add these to the diagram.

Q8. If you notice that you sometimes meet your standards, put this in the diagram with a recent example. Think about how you react to such success, how long those feelings last and whether you ignore your success.


 You can draw your diagram on a piece of paper.



Take a moment to see if your diagram makes sense to you? How do you feel? What are your views about change?

It can still seem scary to change, but change is possible and can have great rewards. Once you try to do things differently, you will gain freedom and flexibility.