What Kind of Perfectionist Are You?

And could it mean you have a dark side?

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Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

If you often describe yourself as a “perfectionist,” now you’ll be able to go one step further—turns out, there are different types of perfectionism. In fact, psychologists have pinpointed three distinct perfectionist categories. And now researchers at the University of Kent in the UK have found each group tends to have their own patterns of social behavior and even humor, based on a survey of 229 university students. The findings, published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, reveal that setting high standards isn’t always a good thing. The three kinds are:

Type 1: Self-oriented perfectionists base their actions and standards on a personal need to be perfect.

Type 2: Socially prescribed perfectionists believe that others want them to be perfect, so they try to live up to those expectations.

Type 3: Other-oriented perfectionists are focused on others being perfect, and are critical of people who fall short of that expectation.

The third type tends to be the “darkest,” according to researchers. Their personalities were more aggressive and uncaring, especially when compared to self-oriented perfectionists, who were sociable and relationship-oriented. Socially prescribed perfectionists had the lowest self-esteems and often felt inferior to others, even when given positive feedback.

Each type had a distinct sense of humor, too: self-oriented tended to opt for humor that “enhanced relationships,” socially prescribed perfectionists told self-deprecating jokes, and other-oriented participants often told jokes at the expense of others.

The need to be perfect has been linked to implications for health, as well. A study from the University of Leuven found that perfectionists seem to be more likely to have chronic pain or fatigue and may engage in body-focused repetitive behaviors, like skin picking or hair pulling. Previous research from the University of Kent showed that some perfectionists have difficulty experiencing pride, and instead focus on shame and guilt. If you’re feeling stressed at home or under pressure at work, we have a 2-minute exercise to calm you down, plus a few simple tricks to help stress work in your favor.