The 3 subtle differences between being a perfectionist and having high-standards



This is one of those topics that you can find pretty much everywhere, as it looks like our modern society is quite centered on the concept of perfectionism. 

Some people have a negative connotation to the term, while others have a very positive connotation: many people have the feeling that being a perfectionist means being attentive to details and doing a better job than others. 

I kind of disagree with this view.

There is a pretty clear distinction between being a perfectionist and having high standards. The main difference may not be so obvious to a manager on the work place but it becomes evident when you pay attention on how being a perfectionist make you feel. 

There are three questions that you can ask yourself to understand whether you are a perfectionist or you have high standards. Three questions that also outline what are the main differences between the two.

1. What underlying emotion bubbles up when I am being fully dedicated to an activity or when I have a goal or an overall project?

Do you tend to be judgmental of yourself and others?

Do you harshly point your finger to yourself or others when things are not done exactly in a certain way? 

Or can you see exactly how things can be done in a better way and yet have a feeling of compassion and understanding? 

Do you value amount of effort that you or others are putting into it, do you have a clear perception of the skills, effort, and ability that are necessary vs available?

Do you have a tendency to judge or to address in a harsh way or to criticize how a certain job is done, or you are supportive, compassionate and understanding of yourself and other people?

This is first question you can ask yourself to understand whether you are a perfectionist or have high standards. If the emotion you feel is one of disconnection, that leads you to criticize yourself and others you are definitely a perfectionist. While if you feel a connecting emotion that brings you to understand effort and be supporting of yourself and others, you are not a perfectionist, even though you have high-standards.

2. Do you have a positive or a negative outlook in general: on life, on projects, on tasks, on events?

Being a perfectionist is linked to a negative bias towards pretty much everything: towards life, towards events, and even towards people, while having high standards doesn’t necessarily do that. 

Being a perfectionist means that nothing is ever good enough. You always focus on what could’ve been better, on how things could’ve been better. You have very precise expectations about how things should work out and when they don’t, you get upset, and irritated. 

A characteristic that is detrimental of your quality of life (and the one of your closest ones as well). When you have high standards you still know how you would like things to go, your goals are set pretty high, and yet you have the understanding that it may not be possible to get there all at once, that it is a step by step process. It also means that you focus your attention to everything that is bringing you closer to your goals, both in yourself and in other people. Having high standards is linked to a more positive outlook towards life in general.

3. Do you have an obsessive behavior towards a goal, a project or you have a more relaxed and “good enough” kind of approach. 

So, let’s say that you have a specific project that you are working on and you have an expectation on how you or others should work or behave on that specific project. If you are a perfectionist you apply an obsessive mindset and behavior: things need to be done exactly as you want them; they need to follow a certain process and steps; no steps can be skipped; nothing can be done in a different way, because there is one way, it is the right way and you know it. 

When you have high standards you have a more relaxed and flexible mindset, a different way of dealing with expectations and uncertainty. You know that there is not just one way of doing things, and that sometimes in diversity and in flexibility lays an opportunity to learn something new. 

So, obsessive versus relaxed is another way in which you can understand whether you are more of a perfectionist or more of a person with high standards.  

Being a perfectionist is not just a way of doing things. It is a way of being.


Being a perfectionist is not just a way of doing things. It is a way of being.
It is a way of setting the standards and the bar so high that it is just not possible to reach.
It is an illusion that perfection is even attainable, while it is not.

It’s a strategy that your mind has created to put pressure on you, to show you that even though you do your best you will never be able to achieve what you have in mind.

But if you are wondering whether not being a perfectionist has a detrimental impact on the workplace, that you are never going to do things well enough, that you are not going to be appreciated at work as you are right now, you can relax.
Now you know that there is an alternative. 

"Having high standards doesn’t include having a negative outlook on life or things, it does not mean being judgmental and hypercritical, it does not mean being obsessive. It actually means the opposite of all these things and it still means a hack of a good job."

You may also like

Can you think of the last time you felt overwhelmed by an emotion?The hurting words from a partner


Have you ever wondered HOW anxious are you, compared to the average human being.With this 3 minutes quiz


Who am I? Who are we, as human beings?Are we a collection of our actions? Are we our


Do you want to get more valuable videos and posts?


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Send this to a friend