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How Extreme Perfectionists Sabotage Themselves

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Are you an extreme perfectionist?

Too bad for you, as the constant drive to succeed, and perfectly so, will only make you miserable, according to data from Queendom.com, an interactive website for self-exploration.

The study of 1,206 Canadians reveals something perfectionists probably already know: There really is no such thing as perfectionism, although the chase for it is certainly real enough.

"Perfectionists can appreciate, with a certain sense of bitterness, the fruitless toils of Sisyphus," the study notes. "Struggle as they might to be perfect, they just never manage to attain this lofty goal. This isn't to say that working hard has little value. Doing your best is one thing -- trying to be perfect is a whole other mess."

Queendom asked the study participants to take the firm's online perfectionism test (you can take the test for yourself here), and bundled the responses into three groups: extreme, moderate and low perfectionists.

The survey draws an interesting conclusion from the three groups. While the strive for perfection does produce better results, it doesn't make those strivers any happier. In fact, the happiest and better adjusted of the three groups were those "low perfectionists."

Even in academia the benefits of extreme perfectionism don't stand out as much as one might expect:

  • 30% of extreme perfectionists had straight-A grades in school, 42% had good grades (a mix of A and B marks), and 28% had average grades.
  • 27% of moderate perfectionists had straight-A grades in school, 44% had good grades and 30% had average grades.
  • 21% of low perfectionists had straight-A grades in school, 39% had good grades and 40% had average grades.

And in the so-called real-world, the Queendom study notes that 67% of extreme perfectionists have blown a work deadline because their work wasn't "perfect enough." Extreme perfectionists were rated the worst of all three groups in terms of work performance.

On the plus side, they have higher self esteem than low and moderate perfectionists, although also being much more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

"The implication here isn't that working hard and trying your best is pointless or unhealthy," says Ilona Jerabek, president of Queendom, a subsidiary of PsychTests AIM. "In many cases, perfectionists will produce better quality projects, but it can come at a cost. The bottom line is that while low perfectionists may not always be the top performers, they don't fear failure, they learn from but don't make a big deal of mistakes and they don't make being the best their top priority. And as a result, they are happy with themselves and have better self-esteem."