What Perfectionism Is and Why It's a Problem


When I talk about perfectionism, I like to contrast it with what we call healthy striving. Healthy striving has to do with working hard and reaching for lofty goals. Healthy strivers set goals that maximize their potential; they work hard, and they are often very high achieving. …Perfectionists, on the other hand, have unrealistic standards and define their self-worth by productivity. ("I'm worthy only when I'm perfect.")

Kathryn Byars, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of the Triangle Area Psychology Clinic also know as the TAP Clinic. Dr. Byars' has vast training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), but she is most passionate about working with individuals struggling with perfectionism and shame. Check out her bio for more information about Dr. Byars' expertise.


TAP Clinic: https://www.tapclinicnc.com/

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About Author

Page Cvelich

College/Teen Program Manager

Page Cvelich has brought a wealth of knowledge to the Work/Life Center from prior experience as a high school guidance counselor and parent education coordinator. Page has been responsible for setting up a high school college and career center, designing a career exploration program for teens and serving as a counselor at a backpacking camp in the Rockies. In her role as Teen/College Program Manager, Page enjoys interacting with small groups of parents and teens, as well as consulting one-on-one with parents and referring them to resources so that they are better able to provide the support and encouragement their kids need.


  1. ("I'm worthy only when I'm perfect.")- I don't agree with that phrase. No one is perfect. Humans are imperfect. Humans can make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. We should accept the fact that we are all humans. We should allow ourselves to be humans. And we can make mistakes. But that doesn't makes us unworthy. We are all unique. And we are enough. I am enough. Thanks for his post and for sharing.

    • Page Cvelich
      Page Cvelich on

      Indeed! Thanks for sharing, Nichole. That is the point of this podcast. Perfectionism differs from healthy striving for two reasons: healthy striving doesn't set us up for failure with unrealistic and unreachable standards and healthy striving doesn't attach our sense of self-worth to the outcome. Perfectonism, by definition, can cause the individual to fall into both of these unfortunate and ultimately debilitating traps.

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