The Price of Perfectionism

The Price of Perfectionism

In a society that equates high achievement and productivity with success, it is no wonder that the expectations for our teenagers continues to grow. Although hard work and determination are important qualities for any individual to develop, when do high expectations and a desire to achieve begin to work against us? For many teenagers, their aspirations towards excellence can become a slippery slope to perfectionism. In this post we will highlight some of the drawbacks of perfectionism, and help you to identify signs that your teen may be struggling.

Earn high grades, participate in extra-cirriculars, prepare for and apply to colleges, make time for family, get a job, learn how to drive, spend time with friends.... the list of demands for teenagers can be never-ending. Teenagers who manage to balance all of these responsibilities tend to be viewed as high-achieving and successful. But when can constant achieving and high performing become a concern?

For many teenagers there is significant positive feedback and praise for making Honor Roll, earning a high SAT score, and participating in sports, clubs, and the arts. While these accomplishments should be celebrated, many teenagers struggle with perfectionism and anxiety, believing that they must be flawless at all times. These exhaustive expectations can result in lowered self-esteem, burn out, and avoidance of new experiences. A perfectionist mindset can also prevent an individual from learning how to respond to mistakes or failures, and can result in difficulty enjoying downtime and engaging in self-care.

Perfectionism may also cause an individual to spend excessive time on the smallest details, experience difficulty with procrastination, and develop the belief that their value is tied to the work that they produce.


If you believe your teenager is exhibiting signs of perfectionism, anxiety or low self-esteem, therapy can be a great way to help an individual explore their strengths, challenge negative thoughts, and develop realistic goals and expectations.

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Alex Brogan, LCSW

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