“We can take tests of any sort, including the perfectionism test, to get an outside view about our characteristics and our tendencies,” says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD. The perfectionism test is made up of 46 questions, divided into three sections. The first asks users to specify whether they agree or disagree (strongly or somewhat) with provided statements, like “Being average is a terrible thought for me.” The second section is made up of a series of phrases for the user to deem true or false on a scale of completely true to completely false, including “I worry about what others think of me.” The final section is multiple choice questions, including examples like, “You’ve just finished a task that took a lot of time and energy but didn’t get the exceptional results you desired and expected. How do you feel?”
After answering all 46 questions, a person’s perfectionism test results are divided into three categories: strength, potential strength, and limitation. No matter where you land, you can rest easy knowing Dr. Manly says perfectionism (in all its types) can actually be used as a motivator.
As far as strengths and potential strengths, the key difference is whether or not someone puts that strength into action, says Dr. Manly. For instance, when you’re not feeling your best and are thinking of turning in a half-baked project or having a less-engaged conversation, you can use the concept of perfectionism to motivate you to do more than the bare minimum.
"We can actually make [perfectionism] work for us to help us do things, to motivate us to do things that we might not otherwise.” —clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD
“Sometimes we can get a little hopeless or down on ourselves,” says Dr. Manly. “If we say, ‘I can do better than this,’ then we can actually make [perfectionism] work for us to help us do things, to motivate us to do things that we might not otherwise.” Doing those things, she adds, ends up making us feel good (instead of bad for not doing them).
The type of perfectionism that can be limiting, says Dr. Manly, happens “when we are too hard on the self, to the point where we feel like we are always insufficient.” This isn’t where you want to be, Dr. Manly adds, because it can lead to low self-worth and low self-esteem. This can also affect interpersonal relationships because people start to expect “perfect” from those in their lives, which can make them feel like they’re not good enough.
What to keep in mind as you take the perfectionism test
First, Dr. Manly suggests taking a deep breath and trying to clear your mind so that your results aren’t muddied by your mood. Second, once you start the test, answer the questions as honestly as possible. “If you…can step back and really answer the questions in a way that is not infused with subjectivity, then you're going to gain some terrific insights about the areas where you might need to do some work to turn down your perfectionism,” says Dr. Manly.
You might also consider taking the perfectionism test a few different times, and on different days, and then calculate the average score, Dr. Manly adds. Since we feel differently each day, she says some variance in results could be normal, so averaging several results is likely to be more accurate.
Of course, it bears mentioning, no personality test is perfect—the perfectionism test, perhaps ironically, notwithstanding. You may completely identify with your results, or you might think, That’s not me. And it very well may not be. That's why Dr. Manly suggests trusting your intuition when using the perfectionism test as a way to work on yourself. Decide for yourself what fits and what should be cast aside. After all, you know yourself better than anyone or any test.
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