What price perfection? Study aims to find out
VANCOUVER, British Colombia (CNN) -- Some people are never satisfied with anything -- including themselves. What makes them impossible to please?
That's what researchers at the University of British Columbia, Canada, are trying to find out as they conduct one of the few studies ever to focus on perfectionism.
Vancouver Psychologist Paul Hewitt is studying perfectionists in the hope of finding ways to help them control their compulsions.
After all, being perfect is no picnic, as "Barb," a participant in the study, can attest.
Hewitt, who has studied perfectionists for the past 14 years, says they fall into three main categories:
"These individuals don't have a real high regard for themselves," Hewitt says.
All three types, he says, put themselves through the same self-inflicted punishment.
"People who strive for excellence tend to experience satisfaction; people who strive for perfection tend not to."
Volunteers in Hewitt's study take a computerized test. Meanwhile, monitors watch for signs of stress.
Those who agonize over their answers long after the test is over reveal themselves as possible perfectionists.
"They're not able to let go as easily as other people," says graduate student Carol Flynn, who is working with Hewitt on the test.
"Our hope is that they will learn to moderate those reactions a little bit over time," she says.
Barb joined Hewitt's group therapy program and says it has helped.
"When I'm aware of the potential of slipping into perfectionism and them pulling myself back, it's more of a peaceful internal experience."
She says it's hard, but she's getting better at not always having to be better.
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