While calling something “perfect” is the highest of compliments—a perfectly done steak, a perfect Olympic performance, the perfect prom dress—calling someone a perfectionist is anything but.

Why? It implies a fussy control freak who can’t relax. Perfectionists have a reputation of being hard-driving. Uncompromising. Relentless. And often, it turns out, very successful. Steve Jobs was a notorious perfectionist. Martha Stewart calls herself a “maniacal perfectionist.” Serena Williams proudly wears the perfectionist label.

All three of these people—and likely some of the perfectionists you know (maybe even you)—have risen to the heights of their field, made themselves rich and famous, and have delivered great work. But not without cost.

It’s these costs—anger, stress, abrasiveness, being seen as picky, rigid, or over-controlling—that makes most people shun the perfectionist label.

As a result, perfectionists almost never claim to be perfectionists. And further, because the label is a misnomer, most perfectionists don’t even realize they’re perfectionists.

How is it a misnomer? Contrary to the name, most perfectionists aren’t driven by the pursuit of perfection, they’re driven by the avoidance of failure. Being a perfectionist isn’t about being perfect, it’s about never being good enough.

Should you call yourself a perfectionist? There are some common characteristics, like doing things well, thoroughly, or efficiently. Indeed, sweating the small stuff is an advantage when it comes to impressing the boss, turning out a restaurant-worthy dinner party, or organizing the garage with the intricacy of a game of Tetris.

But it can be a hindrance when you spend so much time tinkering that you never actually get a project done, get sucked so far into the details that you lose the forest for the trees, or insist that the two sides to every argument are your way and the wrong way.

But there are also lesser-known signs of perfectionism. For starters, here are 9 of them. Are you a *perfect* match? (Sorry, couldn’t resist).


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