The Female Fear of Being Flawed - Study looks at gender differences in the desire to be perfect

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Research shows that women are more concerned than men about making mistakes, failing, letting others down, and otherwise appear anything less than perfect.

Women are more concerned than men about appearing flawless and doing things perfectly.

Women are still battling with the belief that being “good enough” means being flawless.

Fear is always at the root of perfectionism - the fear of rejection, of being ridiculed, or of being judged as not good enough.

Steve Jobs had it. Martha Stewart has it. So do many athletes and workaholics…an obsession with being perfect. Extreme perfectionists are not just pedantic or doggedly determined to do their best, they are absolutely terrified of being seen as a failure, as incompetent, or flawed. They are unreasonably concerned about making mistakes, which in turn compels them to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on perfecting something that just never seems to come out right. While both men and women adopt these unhealthy tendencies, women have a higher propensity to become obsessive perfectionists.

Analyzing data collected from 1,410 people who took the Perfectionism Test, PsychTests’ researchers looked at the degree to which men and women demand too much of themselves, set the bar too high, or create unrealistic expectations. Here’s what their study revealed:

> 47% of women and 38% of men believe that failing a task or project makes them a failure as a person.
> 43% of women and 39% of men are only proud of their work or achievements if they receive praise from their manager.
> 63% of women and 58% of men frequently worry about making mistakes.
> 38% of women and 34% of men worry that they will be labeled as a bad parent if their child does not excel at school.
> 55% of women and 49% of men have trouble saying “no” when family members make requests of them, for fear of letting people down.
> 48% of women and 42% of men believe that they need to be in perfect physical shape in order to be considered attractive.
> 64% of women and 51% of men often worry about what other people think.

> 38% of men and 34% of women believe that being perfect for their romantic partner is the only way to avoid being dumped.
> 27% of men and 20% of women believe that they only way to gain respect from others is to be wealthy.
> 24% of men and 21% of women refuse to talk about their faults because they’re afraid that others will look down on them.

> 57% of women and men said that they hate the idea of being considered “average” in anything.
> 66% of women and men believe that they must excel at anything they take on.

“Many people struggle to understand that there is a fine line between pushing yourself to do your best and trying to be perfect. The former requires a person to put in 100% effort; the latter requires the person to be flawless and leaves absolutely no room for error. It’s just not the same thing. You can do something very well, but you can never achieve absolute perfection,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “Perfectionists want to excel at everything they do, and when they don’t they end up chastising and even hating themselves. It’s the Sisyphus effect: no matter how hard they try to attain their lofty objectives, they rarely, if ever, succeed 100%. Perfection just doesn’t exist. Yet, many people, especially women, will still push themselves to try to achieve it.”

“Fear is always at the root of perfectionism - the fear of rejection, of being ridiculed, or of being judged as not good enough. This often stems from excessive expectations set by parents, teachers, or important figures in one’s childhood. Perfectionists grow up craving the approval they seldom, if ever, received when they were young, even if they had many achievements. So, they chase this perfect ideal, push themselves to achieve more and more, but are never satisfied with what they accomplish. So, our advice to you is: ‘Treat failures and errors as lessons learned. Strive for excellence, not perfection!”

Are you excessively perfectionistic? Check out the Perfectionism Test at

Professional users, such as HR managers, coaches, and therapists, can request a free demo for this or other assessments from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery:

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook:

About PsychTests AIM Inc.
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists and coaches, academics, researchers, and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see

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Ilona Jerabek
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