What kind of perfectionist are you? Take this quiz to find out : Life Kit Are you a 'Parisian perfectionist'? How about a 'messy perfectionist'? Psychotherapist Katherine Morgan Schafler believes there are 5 kinds of perfectionists in the world. Find out which one you are.

What kind of perfectionist are you? Take this 7-question quiz to find out

What kind of perfectionist are you? Take this 7-question quiz to find out

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Psychotherapist Katherine Morgan Schafler believes there is more than one kind of perfectionist in the world — five, to be precise.

In her book, The Perfectionist's Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power, Morgan Schafler outlines the different types, including the "Parisian perfectionist" — those who seek to be easygoing and uncomplicated — and the "messy perfectionist" — those who are great at starting projects but not finishing them.

Morgan Schafler developed these terms after years of working with employees at Google, where she was a former on-site therapist, then with high-powered clients at her private practice on Wall Street. Many of them strived for flawlessness in their personal and professional lives — but often saw it as a negative quality that they had to curtail. After all, research has linked perfectionism to anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns.

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Take the quiz above, then select your result to learn more: Intense perfectionist; Classic perfectionist; Parisian perfectionist; Procrastinator perfectionist; Messy perfectionist


But Morgan Schafler believes that perfectionism can also be a good thing. Perfectionists see how the world around them can be better – and when wielded in a healthy way, the characteristic can be a powerful vehicle for change, she says. It's "a force that can be constructive and also destructive, depending on how you manage it."

The key, she adds, is to understand your own brand of perfectionism. Her book includes a quiz to help readers identify their profile, understand its pros and cons – and learn how to use this quality to their advantage.

Understanding your perfectionist type

Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR
Illustration of a person untangling a string that&#039;s crossing the frame. The style of the illustration is very sketchy and hand drawn.
Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

1. Intense perfectionist: Striving for success at all costs

Intense perfectionists are effortlessly direct and maintain a razor-sharp and sometimes punishing focus when it comes to achieving their goals, says Morgan Schafler.

"People like Steve Jobs or Gordon Ramsay" come to mind, she adds. "They are great at generating outcomes, but sometimes they prize it so much that they lose the sense of relationship-building in the process."

An intense perfectionist, for example, might have the goal of boarding a flight perfectly. They show up early to the airport with their boarding pass in hand. But at the first sign of trouble – a flight delay, a seat change – the intense perfectionist might lash out at the people around them, like a flight attendant or traveling companion.

If you scored a high percentage for this type, Morgan Schafler says to interrogate why you're striving for your goals. If you're seeking generic markers of success (bigger, better, faster, more), redirect your energies to more specific goals aligned with your own personal values. If you lose sight of the why, you may reach the finish line and find it doesn't bring you joy or satisfaction.

2. Classic perfectionist: Highly organized and buttoned-up

This is who typically comes to mind when we think of a perfectionist. They're "highly organized, buttoned-up and are going to do what they say they're going to do," says Morgan Schafler.

"The pros of the classic perfectionist are that they're highly reliable and they add structure to any environment they enter. The cons are that they can sometimes be not spontaneous and not as collaborative" with others, she adds.

Classic perfectionists may keep an immaculately tidy desk or a car that they're proud to show off to the people around them. However, should someone put a pen in the wrong place or spill coffee on the passenger seat, these types of perfectionists are quick to stress out.

For this type, Morgan Schafler says to be careful not to conflate rigidity with inner strength. An overly-structured life leaves little room for discovering new lessons, people or joys.

3. Parisian perfectionist: People pleasers to the max

Named after the effortless fashion sense of Parisian women, Parisian perfectionists seek to be viewed as easygoing, uncomplicated and "perfectly liked" by others, says Morgan Schafler.

Parisian perfectionists are great at making people feel seen and comfortable – but sometimes at the expense of "their own sense of identity," she adds.

In a social group setting for example, this type is likely to be the life of the party. But when it comes time to make a group decision – say, picking a restaurant to eat or a movie to watch – a Parisian perfectionist will be quick to defer to the opinions of others to avoid conflict, even if that means foregoing a food they were craving or a movie they desperately wanted to watch.

This type can have a healthier relationship with their perfectionism by clearly explaining their wants and needs, even if that means asserting themselves more in their relationships. For example, instead of saying "I've had a hard day" to their roommate and expecting them to pick up the hint that they need help, they should say, "I'm having a hard day because I've taken on the lion's share of the housework. I could really use your help with some of these chores."

4. Procrastinator perfectionist: Always waiting for the right time

Procrastinator perfectionists "wait for the conditions to be perfect before they start" working on a project, says Morgan Schafler — which doesn't often happen. As a result, they can get stuck in their hesitation — and left unchecked, it can result in indecisiveness and inaction.

Procrastinator perfectionists don't suffer from a crisis of confidence. Rather, they are great at understanding their own potential but struggle with sharing their gifts lest they fall short of their own expectations.

This type of perfectionist might spend hours drawing up the perfect business proposal to pitch to their boss at work – but never actually submit it out of fear of rejection.

Morgan Schafler says this type should focus on accepting that now is as good a time as any to start something, say dating or finding a new job. And once things start rolling, they should accept that the process in real life will be different from the idealized version they were imagining.

5. Messy perfectionist: Quick to start, slow to finish

Messy perfectionists are "in love with beginnings," says Morgan Schafler. They're naturally enthusiastic and push through the anxiety of starting a new project with ease. But they can often struggle with follow-through when the tedium of continuing a project doesn't match "the perfect romanticized energy around starting."

This type is often in the middle of a lot of half-baked projects: a half-finished children's book, a kitchen renovation that's been stuck in limbo for half a year. Messy perfectionists blatantly ignore limitations and don't accept the notion that while they can do anything, they can't do everything.

Morgan Schafler says messy perfectionists are powerful as champions of possibility – but none of their great ideas can come to fruition without focus. They should practice channeling their enthusiasm into single, intentional projects with easily achievable goals.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Clare Marie Schneider. The digital story was edited by Malaka Gharib. We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at LifeKit@npr.org.

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