Imperial College Health Centre

Central London Clinical Commissioning Group

Perfectionist Student

Most of us want to do things well and can be perfectionists at times.

The trouble arises when this attitude becomes inflexible and counterproductive.

Types of Perfectionists

  • Procrastinators :
    Perfectionist expectations may cause you to delay starting revision because the task seems too daunting – you will want to cover everything and be in total control. Sometimes only a rapidly approaching deadline will free you to consider a more pragmatic approach – giving you permission to expect less of yourself.
  • Workaholics:
    Perfectionist expectations may cause you to start revising early but you are likely to get bogged down accumulating unnecessary information and producing and rewriting “perfect” notes.

Revision Tips

  • Watch out for “should”, “must” and “need to” demands that you place on yourself. Imagine yourself as capable of making choices, rather than having to give in to obsessions. For example, replace “I MUST learn all the material” with “It would be nice to learn all the material” – this way, you will experience less anxiety and stress if you are not always able to meet your (unrealistically) high expectations.
  • Break a large task into manageable parts! For example, cover the essentials first, add refinements or further details later — if there is time.
  • Give yourself permission to make some mistakes! Aim for “good enough” efforts to counter “all or nothing” thinking tendencies (e.g. “if don’t get an A, I’m a failure”). Practice being more selective in your work and less harsh on yourself!