Perfectionism behaviours

In the first session, we learnt that perfectionism can lead to avoidance, procrastination, performance checking and unhelpful behaviours. Understanding these behaviours is important for you so that you can change. Here’s a summary of the definition and examples of these behaviours:

Behaviour Definition Examples
Avoidance Trying to decrease or escape from anxiety about a situation by not doing something Not submitting assignments
Not inviting friends to your house for meals
Not going out with friends for coffee
Not training with other athletes
Procrastination Trying to decrease or escape from anxiety by delaying a task until a later time Delay writing assignment until the night before it is due
Delaying cleaning one’s room
Delay starting urgent work for the day, and surfing the internet instead
Performance checking Checking how one is doing in a perfectionism area including:
Testing out performance repeatedly Checking body repeatedly for fat
Re-reading work over and over Examining closely how well one said something after speaking
Comparing oneself to how others are doing Comparing number of hours studied to classmates
Comparing marks to other students
Comparing speed of running to other athletes
Seeking reassurance from other about performance Asking teacher if report was OK several times
Repeatedly apologizing for food being “not good enough” at a dinner party
Asking friends if he/she thinks you are a good friend
Unhelpful behaviour Trying to prevent or reduce anxiety in a way that “backfires” and makes the situation worse Always making lists before starting homework
Always wearing makeup before leaving the house
Arranging the desk before studying every day
Eating exactly the same breakfast each day before starting athletic training

Elise's Example

Elise worries about her performance and compares her work to her classmates, and often feels disappointed in her performance because it isn’t “good enough”. She now finds that she is delaying her writing of essays, putting it off for days on end. 

Below are Elise's thoughts about her perfectionism. Try completing the boxes with your own perfectionism thoughts!

CategoryElise's thoughtsYour thoughts
ThoughtI need to write a really good essay – it’s so important
Feeling e.g. anxious, sad, angry, ashamed, depressed, scared, embarrassed, irritated, happy, disappointed, excitedFear, anxiety
AvoidanceNot submitting essay and asking teacher for extension of deadline
ProcrastinationPutting off writing the essay due at the end of the week, each day worrying but delaying starting
Performance checking- testing, comparing, reassurance seekingTesting – reading comments on previous essays over and over Comparing – Asking classmates how much they have completed and what they have written
Unhelpful behavioursArranging stationery on the desk before beginning study for the day