Concerns about perfectionism may lead to stress, burnout and potential health problems, says a study. "Perfectionistic concerns capture fears and doubts about personal performance, which creates stress that can lead to burnout when people become cynical and stop caring," said lead researcher Andrew Hill, associate professor of sport psychology at York St John University in England.
"It can also interfere with relationships and make it difficult to cope with setbacks because every mistake is viewed as a disaster," Hill said.
In this study of the relationship between perfectionism and burnout, the researchers analysed the results from 43 previous studies conducted over the past 20 years.
Concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school or on the playing field, the results said.
The study found that 'perfectionistic concerns' had the strongest negative effects in contributing to burnout in the workplace, possibly because people have more social support and clearly defined objectives in education and sports.
A student can be rewarded for hard work with a high grade, or a tennis player can win the big match, but a stellar performance in the workplace may not be recognised or rewarded, which may contribute to cynicism and burnout.
"People need to learn to challenge the irrational beliefs that underlie perfectionistic concerns by setting realistic goals, accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and forgiving themselves when they fail," Hill said.
"Creating environments where creativity, effort and perseverance are valued also would help," Hill said.
The study was published online in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.