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High Standards vs. Perfectionism

There is no one way to define what high standards are. What may seem high to one person may not be to another. What is meant by high standards for the context of this program is that these standards are very demanding to the person who sets them, i.e. they are personally challenging

The difference between having high standards and perfectionism is in how you view yourself.

Take the example of Misha....

Misha, aged 25, is an athletic and outgoing entrepreneur. She runs her own pilates studio and has a strong social media following. Her personal motto is "Do your best, and then go one step further".

Although she has been in a number of relationships, she generally found these to be short-lived as her partners typically wanted to spend more time with her than she felt able to give without it affecting her independence and work-life balance. She enjoys the attention she receives from her social media, is ambitious about creating her own studio franchise, and thrives on a busy work schedule.


A perfectionist will tend to judge their self-worth on what they do, rather than who they are as a person. Rather than viewing themselves in a balanced way, a perfectionist will believe they are only a good enough person when achieving an excellent standard in important areas of life. 

During her down time, however, she is frequently stuck in her thoughts about all that she is not achieving, and how her company could be bigger and better if she only acted differently. She felt like a fraud on her social media, perceiving that she could be doing more and to a higher standard if she only tried harder.

She feels that her work has been superficial and lacks meaning as she is not helping fight climate change or create social justice.

She acknowledges that nothing she achieves will ever be good enough for her, and is fearful of a life of hard work without any sense of personal satisfaction. Feeling like a fraud and wondering if she is a failure will sometimes eat into her at unexpected moments during the day when she is trying to focus on her tasks at hand.


High standards and perfectionism are two avenues for reaching the same end-goal. However, having high standards can exist separate from perfectionism.

Striving for high standards can start out as positive but over time become negative. For example, determinedly pursuing high standards of weight loss can be helpful when a person is significantly overweight, but unhelpful if the person cannot focus on anything but their weight loss or starts to restricts their diet too much.


Perfectionism becomes inherently unhelpful when working harder will not necessarily yield better results. Perfectionism may have been helpful in the past (as with the original weight loss), but can become more problematic over time. 

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