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Table 4 Descriptions of perfectionism identified across the 266 websites

From: A realist synthesis of websites containing content on perfectionism: Are the descriptions and advice empirically supported?

Theme N (%) Examples
Definition of perfectionism 149 (56) Rejects anything less than perfection; “suffocating pressure to meet every single expectation”; “devil on the shoulder whispering that you might fail if things aren’t flawless”; “tendency to set standards that are so high they either cannot be met or are only met with great difficulty”; “a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations”
Behaviours 234 (88) “make lists of things they need to do ”, “ might become very controlling when it comes to relationships”, struggle to relax; procrastination, struggle to complete tasks, “avoiding taking the steps necessary to attain their desired outcomes”, working hard to “maintain an image of accomplishment and holding it all together”; deliberate self-harm
Feelings 252 (95) body dissatisfaction, social phobia, excessive worry, chronic stress; fear of judgement, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, stress, escalating sense of pressure, anger; frustration, “continuous dissatisfaction with oneself”’; “I feel hollow, like I can never be happy”; “feel coming up short”; guilt, fear of failure, shame’ “deep seated unhappiness”
Thoughts 239 (90) suicidal thoughts, fear over failure, scared of other's disapproval, self-critical; “This entails a lot of self-criticism, and that persecutory inner voice that constantly tells us how we could’ve done things better”; “impossibly harsh inner critic that gives you a bad review every time you do something”, “paralyzed by … not knowing where to start, fear of failing, …someone else's critiques”, “Not hearing what’s good about it anymore because you heard it too many times”, “Believing that it’s never going to be perfect”, “obsessing about the final outcome”
Origins 120 (45) “childhood response to some form of trauma”; social media, “image driven, competitive world”; genes, learned behaviour; parental pressure, self-induced expectations, “competitive nature of most schools”
Dimensional nature 113 (43) normal or adaptive perfectionism vs neurotic or maladaptive perfectionism … perfectionistic strivings and perfectionistic concerns; “perfection can be beneficial. It encourages us to always put in 110 percent. Keep in mind there’s also the dark side of perfectionism. Instead of wanting to do the best you can, you keep raising the bar higher and higher”
Domains of life affected 124 (47) school, university, work; cleanliness, “house, career, body”, relationships, eating, exercise, creativity, performance; hobbies, appearance, parenting, entertaining; sports