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5 types of perfectionists

Are you a messy perfectionist? Or a procrastinator perfectionist? Here’s how to know.

5 types of perfectionists
[Source photo: Getty Images]

We all know someone who is a perfectionist. Everything must be just so, and they won’t stop until it is. That person may be you. Perfectionism, however, can be broader than that. In fact, you might be a perfectionist and not realize it.

“We have this false idea that perfectionists are people who want all things to be perfect at all times, and that’s an oversimplification,” says Katherine Morgan Schafler, psychotherapist, former on-site therapist at Google, and the author of The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power. “Perfectionists don’t care about being average in realms that they don’t value, but in realms that they do value, they want the ideal.”

Schafler says everyone has a little bit of a perfectionist in them. “Just like everyone has a little bit of an activist in them, a little bit of an artist in them, and a little bit of a romantic in them,” she says. “Perfectionism is an innate impulse. Those who identify with it, feel that impulse more often than not.”

These are the five areas in which you may be a perfectionist:


This is the type we think of most when we think of the perfectionist archetype. This person is highly organized and dependable. “They do what they say they’re going to do in the way they said they would do it when they said they would do it,” says Schafler. “They naturally, almost effortlessly, infuse structure into every setting they’re in.”

While these are good traits, there are disadvantages. For example, the classic perfectionist doesn’t always operate in the spirit of collaboration. “Whether it’s in a professional setting or a personal context, [interactions] can feel transactional at times,” says Schafler.

Classic perfectionists may also feel frustrated at times. While they enjoy planning and executing, that doesn’t mean it’s not work, says Schafler.

“Classic perfectionists can often feel taken for granted,” she says. “It’s nice to be acknowledged for the hard work that you do.”


A procrastinator perfectionist wants conditions to be perfect before they start something. As a result, they often put off beginning a project. One advantage of this type of perfectionism is that the person is very thoughtful.

“Procrastinator perfectionists can see every situation from a 360-degree angle,” says Schafler. “They are well prepared and not impulsive, which is such an asset.”

However, this type has cons. For example, preparative measures can lead to delays and cause false narratives. “They may think, ‘I’m not good at executing,’ or ‘I’ll never get this done,’” says Schafler. “Or others might think, ‘They say they want to do something, but don’t actually do it. They’re too lazy or not disciplined enough.’ None of that is true. They just need help getting started.”

Once the procrastinator perfectionist gets started, they easily move through the middle and get to the finish line.


A messy perfectionist has no problem or anxiety around starting. In fact, Schafler calls them “start happy.” “They say ‘yes’ to everything, because starting has an intoxicating feeling,” she says.

One advantage to this type of individual is that they’re naturally enthusiastic in a contagious way. They also are superstar idea generators. The disadvantage, however, is that a messy perfectionist wants the middle of the process to feel as perfect as it did initially, and it doesn’t work that way.

“Once they hit the inevitable tedium of the middle, they encounter a deflated sense that this isn’t fun anymore,” says Schafler. “They have also said ‘yes’ to a million things, thereby spreading themselves too thin. They have really committed to nothing and don’t get even one thing done.”

Like the procrastinator perfectionist, messy perfectionism creates an internal false narrative. “They think, ‘I’m not smart enough. I don’t have my shit together. I’m not disciplined enough,’ all of which is not true,” says Schafler. “Messy perfectionists just need help in the middle.”


An intense perfectionist has a razor-sharp focus and can get the job done. They want the end of the process to lead to a perfect result. While they can achieve amazing things, it comes at a cost.

“If you’re not managing it, the negative part of this type of perfectionism is that you get the job done at the expense of your own well-being or the well-being of those around you,” says Schafler. “The ends does not justify the means a lot of the time, but intense perfectionist lose sight of that.”

Schafler compares this type to Gordon Ramsay or Steve Jobs. They get things done, but others on the team might quit because the experience is miserable.


Parisian perfectionism plays out interpersonally. This person wants to be perfectly liked, perfectly loved, or perfectly understood. They care about what others think of them and look for ideal connections.

“You don’t have to explain to a Parisian perfectionist the importance of relationships,” says Schafler. “They just get it.”

The negative aspect of Parisian perfectionists, however, is that they can take shortcuts to connection. They prioritize other people’s pleasure and comfort over their own. This can look like people-pleasing in a way that’s an abandonment of self. It can also include being a different version of themselves to better connect with others, which impedes the ability to be authentic.


Perfectionism can be context-dependent, says Schafler. For example, you can be a messy perfectionist when it comes to dating, loving the first or second date, but not when it comes to your job. Or you can be an intense perfectionist at work and come home to a house that looks like it just got ransacked.

“Perfectionists don’t care about being average in realms that they don’t value,” says Schafler.

When you understand your type of perfectionism, you can identify the help you need. Instead of struggling to turn your weaknesses into strengths, find someone who can fill the gaps.

For example, a messy perfectionist and a procrastinator perfectionist could complement each other when working on a project. Or if you pair a classic perfectionist and a Parisian perfectionist, the former can provide structure, while the latter can help build warm and genuine connections instead of transactional ones.

Perfectionism often has a negative connotation, especially for women, but it can be a positive attribute when managed well.

“Healthy perfectionists—what the research world calls ‘adaptive perfectionists’— understand that ideals are meant to inspire instead of always be achieved,” says Schafler. “Unhealthy perfectionists conflate goals and ideals.”

When you reclaim the term and consider it a gift, you can use your form of perfectionism to your advantage.


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