Perfectionism and Low Self-Esteem

By Dr. Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D.

Social philosopher Eric Hoffer brought to light a somber human truth when he said that “We hate others when we hate ourselves.” When researchers from Queendom looked at data collected for their Perfectionism Test, they came to a surprising conclusion: Confidence, or high self-esteem, is never synonymous with perfectionism. In fact, people with low self-esteem are more likely to set unrealistic expectations for others than those with high self-esteem

Based on data from 698 people with either low or high self-esteem, Queendom’s study reveals that:

·        The average perfectionism score for people with low self-esteem was 64, while the average score for people with high self-esteem was 48 (on a scale from 0 to 100; the higher the score, the higher the level of perfectionism)

·        41% of people with low self-esteem feel very disappointed when their family does not live up to expectations, compared to 26% for people with high self-esteem.

·        When they assign a task to others, 55% of people with low self-esteem, want it to be done flawlessly and without errors, compared to 46% for people with high self-esteem.

·        If a group project is unsuccessful, 47% of people with low self-esteem blame other team members, compared to 42% of people with high self-esteem.

·        35% of people with low self-esteem believe that they have to point out their partner’s mistakes because it’s the only way that he or she will learn, compared to 30% of people with high self-esteem.

·        26% of people with low self-esteem believe that it’s essential to be tough on a child when he or she fails, in order to encourage success, compared to 18% of people with high self-esteem.

·        39% of people with low self-esteem get frustrated when they find a mistake in someone else’s work, compared to 29% of people with high self-esteem.

·        55% of people with low self-esteem expect chores at home to be done their way, compared to 44% of people with high self-esteem.

·        39% of people with low self-esteem are consistently disappointed with their colleagues’ work ethic, compared to 30% of people with high self-esteem.

·        50% of people with low self-esteem get impatient when family members make mistakes, fail, or “mess up”, compared to 34% of people with high self-esteem.

·        47% of people with low self-esteem expect their partner to live up to all their expectations, compared to 36% of people with high self-esteem.

The surprising contrast between the low and high self-esteem group begs the question: ”What compels someone with low self-esteem to demand so much of others?”

A lot of people with self-esteem issues hide it behind a mask of arrogance or self-righteousness. Arrogance almost always hides a very fragile sense of self. And add this under the ‘sad but true’ category: a lot of people will tear down others in order to feel better about themselves. Rather than expend their energy verbally beating themselves up – or in this case, other people – they should use it to rebuild the foundation of their self-worth. When you feel strong, capable and empowered, you don’t need power trips, dominance or territoriality to secure your spot in the sun.

For those who set excessively high expectations for others, the researchers at Queendom offer the following tips:

·        Cut a deal. When it comes to day-to-day concerns, work on compromise. If, for example, you are very tidy and orderly and your partner is messy, you have to learn to meet him or her halfway. Constant nagging about insignificant details is a real turn-off that can put a lot of strain on your relationship. Remember that the people around you will never be able to meet your standards if you only look for what’s missing … something always will be.

·        Set a good example. “Do as I say, not as I do” really doesn’t cut it. Instead of making demands of others, why not show them? For example, rather than criticize your child for failing a test, try helping him or her develop better study habits. If you don’t give people a chance to prove themselves, you’ll never know what they’re capable of accomplishing on their own.

·        Think of your image. Imagine being around someone who constantly nitpicks and criticizes every mistake you make. We’ve all met at least one person like this and probably didn’t enjoy being around him or her very much. Unless you change your attitude and make your standards reasonable, you may end up alienating yourself.

·        Consider the other person’s self-image. Setting unreasonable standards for others and then judging them harshly when they don’t live up to them is downright unfair. It also impacts their self-esteem and can do damage to their psychological and physical health. Imagine how it makes others feel when you treat them this way.

Want to determine whether you’re a perfectionist? Go to



Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D. is President of PsychTests AIM Inc.  Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. is a site that creates an interactive venue for self-exploration with a healthy dose of fun.

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