The Type Of Perfectionist You Are, Based On Your Age

Perfectionists differ from generation to generation.

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We tend to obsess over generational differences and regularly conflate them with typical life cycle changes.

Still, among my clients, I see some clear patterns related to their life experiences, which have generational aspects.

More specifically, I can see how working with the perfectionist personality type across generations differs.

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Here are the types of perfectionists that have existed across generations.

There are different levels of perfectionism.

A pair of research psychologists, Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill categorize perfectionists into three categories.

1. Self-oriented perfectionists

Self-oriented perfectionists are driven by their self-imposed impossible standards.

2. Socially prescribed perfectionists

Socially prescribed perfectionists seek approval from others they believe are harshly judging them.

3. Other-oriented perfectionists

Other-oriented perfectionists impose unrealistic standards on others and harshly judge them for not fulfilling standards.


Interestingly, perfectionists from different generations cluster into particular categories.

4. There are also self-described perfectionists.

Psych Tests published findings from a study of self-selected respondents who self-described according to a preset group of perfectionist attributes.

Despite implicit sample selection and measurement problems, the survey results indicate intriguing and plausible distinctions across the generations.



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There's evidence that perfectionists differ across generations.

Generations Y and Z were more likely to fall into the socially oriented category as opposed to Baby Boomers, who strongly aligned with the self-oriented group. Generation X-ers are in the middle.

Compared to Boomers, younger respondents were much more concerned about what their families, partners, and others thought. They also said they were only proud of themselves if others recognized their accomplishments.

Excessive attention and deference to social media were seen as likely influences.

In sum, younger perfectionists orient themselves according to external cues, while Baby Boomer perfectionists are guided by excessively demanding personally defined ideas and beliefs.


1. Who is a perfectionist?

Perfectionist traits and tendencies are more prevalent in (but not limited to) people who are intellectuals and highly skilled professionals.

This group is particularly goal and performance-oriented. Thus, it's not surprising that they focus on meeting particular standards — for example, the definitions of perfection.

However, for some people, this orientation becomes problematic and potentially dysfunctional. These cases are best treated by a therapist.

Seeing a coach and doing daily self-care can help those with milder forms of perfectionism.

2. What are common issues among people with a perfectionist personality type?

It's not always obvious when perfectionism is an issue for someone. But, with a bit of digging, it becomes evident that it's an underlying driver of the problem that surfaces in a person's life.


They typically start by complaining about stress and being overworked, and then they procrastinate and feel stuck or trapped, which leads to feeling frustrated and demoralized.

Frequently, they believe their problem stems from someone else's behavior. It's their shortcomings and their effect on success and happiness.

The most common indicators of underlying perfectionism are inflexible thinking, negative self-judgment, and self-criticism.

In general, this kind of reasoning creates mental blocks and gets in the way of the perfectionist's fulfillment.

In addition, fear of failure and harsh critiques from others can stifle their ability to authentically define intentions for themselves, prioritize among options, and take action.




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3. What are the implications for coaches and other service providers?

Every coaching situation is different. Still, the research findings and my own experience suggest some approaches are likely to be more helpful in similar situations or with similar clients.

All other things being equal, working with a Baby Boomer perfectionist is likely to be more straightforward than with a Millennial because fewer variables are at play and less external influence.


For example, thought work is apt to be more productive and sustainable with a Boomer than a Millennial.

Boomers are more likely to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions and feel personal gratification for their progress without external recognition.

Compared to a Millennial, the progress of a Boomer perfectionist is less likely to regress once they leave a session because they engage less with social media and are more directly responsible for the thoughts that guide them.

It's critical to consider the type of approach and expected timeline when working with the perfectionist personality type of different generations.

Younger perfectionists tend to be more enmeshed in social cues and rewards, which creates additional challenges and implies potentially more gradual progress.




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Patricia Bonnard, Ph.D., ACC is a certified International Coaching Federation (ICF) leadership coach, certified Martha Beck life coach, and Master/Instructor Energy Healer.