Perfectionism Linked To Having Inflexible, Authoritarian Parents


Having excessively high standards, to the point we feel highly anxious unless whatever we undertake we get precisely right, can be self-defeating. Indeed, we might be so concerned we always perform ‘perfectly’ that we are reluctant to take on, and, therefore, avoid, challenges for fear of not meeting the highly exacting standards that we set ourselves (even though we may, in reality, have easily succeeded in the challenge).

Also, ‘perfectionists’ make life harder for themselves by being excessively self-critical, even when they make very small mistskes; this can produce anxiety which may, ironically, lower performance or cause the ‘perfectionist’ to abandon whatever task, project or activity s/he was involved in.


Some individuals may go through life never reaching their potential because their ‘perfectionism’ makes them so fearful of ‘failure’ (as they perceived it) that they never take on the necessary challenges. Such people may, at the end of their lives, regret this very much.

Rather than being a ‘perfectionist,’ a healthier and often more productive attitude is to set ourselves the goal of doing whatever it is we are doing ‘to the best of our ability.’

The Link Between The Development Of Perfectionism And Being Brought Up By Inflexible, Authoritarian Parents:

Several studies that were conducted in the early 2000s have shown that authoritarian parents who rigidly and inflexibly enforced rules with scant regard for their children’s feelings, who regarded unquestioning obedience as essential and rewarded their children for it, produced children prone to significant anxiety and, later, in adulthood, excessively fearful of making mistakes and errors.

In short, such children were significantly more likely than average to develop ‘perfectionism.’

Two Types Of Perfectionism:

Perfectionism can be of two types; these are :

Adaptive perfectionism (which helps performance)

Maladaptive perfectionism  : if suffering from this type of perfectionism the individual is unable to tolerate even minor flaws in performance (which harms performance)

Children brought up in the manner described above are more likely than average to develop both of these types of perfectionism.

Realistically High Standards Versus Maladaptive Perfectionism :

Individuals with standards that are high but are also realistic and obtainable tend to be effective and proactive when undertaking problematic, difficult and stressful tasks. However, maladaptive perfectionists tend to be less effective when faced with such tasks and are prone to what is termed ‘avoidant coping’ involving ignoring the problem or denying its importance.

What Kind Of Problems Does The ‘Avoidant Coping’ Style Of Maladaptive Perfectionists Lead To?

– high levels of stress

– impaired self-confidence

– indecisiveness

– unrealistic / unobtainable standards

– enervating obsessiveness

– procrastination

To minimize such effects, we need to cut ourselves some slack ; with the self-imposed pressure alleviated, our overall effectiveness and productivity is likely to improve.

Also, we can reduce our tendency towards maladaptive perfectionism by trying not to ‘see things in black and white’ (i.e. as either ‘perfect’ or ‘terrible’, with no gray areas).

It is also useful not to compare our solution to a task with an imagined, ideal solution, but, instead, to compare it with no solution whatsoever.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be a very effective way of addressing maladaptive perfectionism.

Resource :


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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