Perfectionism | Eating Disorders Victoria

Perfectionism goes beyond setting personal goals and doing your best. People with perfectionist traits set extremely high standards that are unrealistic, and feel distressed when they fail to meet these impossible standards.

Often people set such high standards for themselves to manage low self esteem or a sense of worthlessness. They mistakenly believe that if they can meet these high standards, they will have a sense of control and be “worthwhile” and “successful”. They may strive for perfection in their academic or work performance, morality, relationships, cleanliness and order, or dieting, exercise, body weight or shape. It is common for people with perfectionist traits to think in an “all-or-nothing” way where anything other than perfection is seen as failure.

Perfectionism is a common personality trait in people with an eating disorder, who may feel the need to maintain complete control over their weight. Early intervention is key, so if a person with perfectionist tendencies becomes aware of the development of disordered eating behaviours such as rigidity or guilt surrounding eating patterns, it is important to seek help immediately. Call the EDV Helpline on 1300 550 236 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for confidential advice.

The diagram below demonstrates the self perpetuating cycle of perfectionism.


Some ideas to help conquer perfectionism

  1. Identify the high standards you hold yourself to. What would be a more realistic standard?
  2. Next, identify the behaviours you use to reach your standards. How can you let go and change your actions?
  3. Be willing to take risks, and be gentle with yourself when a risk results in failure.
  4. Try not to be competitive with your thinking or behaviour, and avoid thinking in black and white extremes.
  5. Accept there’s no such thing as a life completely free from sadness or anxiety.
  6. Practice compassion for yourself and others.
  7. Try to replace negative thinking patterns with positive thoughts.
  8. Accept that as a human being you have limitations and will make mistakes, but you still have intrinsic self-worth.
  9. Try to laugh at yourself and your mistakes – as hard as it may seem!

As Tara wrote in her recovery story: “Being perfect isn’t attainable but loving and accepting yourself just as you are is possible…and you deserve nothing less.”

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