Is your perfectionism helping you or hindering you?

Jeff Szymanski helps you find out:

Characteristics of healthy perfectionism:

  • Striving for high but achievable standards that result in feelings of satisfaction and increased self-esteem
  • Matching your time and energy to tasks that match your strengths and interests
  • Having a sense of what you value and what your priorities are and devoting the lion’s share of your time and attention to these areas
  • Reaping payoffs from your efforts that are greater than your costs

Characteristics of unhealthy perfectionism:

  • Repeatedly setting goals for yourself but never achieving them
  • Constantly competing to be the best at everything in order to avoid feeling like a failure
  • Giving in to the feeling that all mistakes are catastrophic
  • Getting stuck in believing that one particular strategy must pay off, instead of trying others


  • Staci

    I agree for the most part. I think perfectionism can be an idol, and if we use the definition that idols are “good things that become ultimate things” (which I believe is Tim Keller’s definition), then yes, perfectionism CAN be a good thing.

    Some things require a high degree of precision (brain surgery, for example), so yes, it’s good there.

    But what he lists as healthy perfectionism, I would call “playing to your strengths.” A good strategy, but not always possible.

    I guess I most disagree with “repeatedly setting goals for yourself but never achieving them.” I realize he was mostly discussing career tasks and goals (and I assume he’s approaching this from a secular worldview), but to me that idea is contrary to the gospel. When it comes to living in the world, we must always strive to be more like Christ, but we’ll never achieve that.

  • David Murray

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Staci. Yes, I think it was mainly career goals & tasks. Dangerous indeed to transfer this into the realm of personal salvation.