A Former Google Therapist Shares the 5 Types of Perfectionists and What Makes Them Successful

Perfectionists aren’t balanced people, and that’s okay.

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

But digging into their stories, as well as research on perfectionism, I’ve come to a startling realization: perfectionism isn’t a pathology, and treating it as such is causing countless people – mostly women – to suffer unnecessarily.

What type of perfectionist are you?

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

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

1. Intense perfectionists

Intense perfectionists are effortless direct and maintain precise focus when it comes to achieving their goals. Without control, their standards can go from high to impossible, and they can punish themselves and others for not living up to their standards.

2. Classic perfectionists

Classic perfectionists are very reliable, consistent, and detail-oriented, and they add stability to their surroundings. Without control, they find it difficult to adapt to spontaneity or a change in routine and may struggle to develop meaningful relationships.

3. Parisian perfectionists

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

4. Procrastinating perfectionists

Procrastinating perfectionists excel in preparation, can see opportunities 360 degrees, and have good impulse control. Without control, their preparatory measures reach a point of diminishing returns, resulting in indecision and inaction.

5. Messy perfectionists

Messy perfectionists effortlessly navigate the anxiety of new beginnings, are superstar idea generators, adapt well to spontaneity, and are naturally enthusiastic. Without control, they struggle to stay focused on their goals, eventually scattering their energy too much to keep commitments.

What is your perfectionist profile?

If you don’t know which profile suits you best, take the quiz here.

It is important to understand that when people say, “I am a perfectionist,” they are not saying that they expect themselves, others, the weather, or even all events that unfold in the life are perfect.

Perfectionists are powerful, intelligent people who recognize that not everything can work perfectly all the time. What they sometimes struggle to understand is why they feel so pressured to put in endless effort, or why they can’t just enjoy relaxation “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 may surprise you how much power you have.

Amidst this exploration, also consider this idea: There is nothing wrong with you.

Katherine Morgan Schafler is a psychotherapist, writer and speaker. Previously, she was an on-site therapist at Google. She earned degrees and trained at the University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University, with postgraduate certification from the Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy in New York. His first book, “The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control” is out now.

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