When dealing with performance enhancement, it is important to distinguish between maladaptive and adaptive perfectionistic tendencies. For students, athletes, and executives, targeting goals of exceptionally high standards is a constant variable. High levels of precision are expected of certain high achievement tasks (for instance, in the case of a surgeon or pilot). Therefore, the pursuit of perfection is in these cases highly adaptive and necessary. The pursuit of perfect performance is not in and of itself a sign of maladaptive perfectionism when the individual is seeking performance perfection or high achievements.

On the other hand, a central feature of maladaptive perfectionism is that it impedes performance. It is defined as the tendency to set excessively high-performance standards, combined with a tendency to make overly critical self-evaluations with a low tolerance for failure. When maladaptive perfectionism is associated with procrastination, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and higher rates of burnout, neurotic or maladaptive perfectionism can be debilitating.

The term “performance perfection” was coined by Linda M. Mainwaring to differentiate adaptive efforts for high achievement and mastery from “perfectionism”, which is maladaptive and interferes with the individual’s mental health and goals. Typically, when individuals seek psychological intervention for performance enhancement, they are seeking consistency in their achievement. At Eliana Cohen Psychology in Toronto, our work in those cases is that of assisting the individual, and helping them achieve the level of mastery that they are seeking.

In sum, the desirable aspects of perfection performance is that they correlate highly with striving for achievement and mastery, mental preparation, confidence, motivation to achieve, enhanced focus, and the ability to peak when under pressure. Perfection performance also correlates highly with the ability to recover from mistakes, and to learn but not engage in excessive self-doubt.

Elite athletes and professionals typically have high levels of adaptive perfectionism and the work that we do serves to enhance those aspects of performance perfection that increases confidence, enjoyment and high achievements. If you are interested in learning more about how Eliana Cohen Psychology can help you, contact our practice in Toronto to schedule an appointment today!