Why are Women More Likely to be Perfectionists?

by | Mar 20, 2023 | Anxiety, Counseling, Highly Sensitive People (HSP), Online Therapy, Perfectionism, Stress

Why are Women More Likely to be Perfectionists? 

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If you are not a perfectionist yourself, you likely know someone who is. Perfectionism is common, affecting about 30% of the population. And, with the overwhelming prevalence of social media and the increased competition in the job market, it’s hard not to exhibit at least some perfectionist characteristics, such as comparison to others or fear of failure. You are likely already aware of how prevalent and difficult perfectionism is, but did you know that perfectionism differs between men and women? 

Although anyone can be a perfectionist, it is significantly more prevalent in adolescent women vs men [1]. And, results of research studies indicate that increased perfectionist traits in women vs men carry on through adulthood, with 33% of adult women in corporate workplaces having high perfectionism scores, compared to 21% of men [2]. Not to mention, the same study found that the self-criticism portion of the perfectionism test differed by 10% between women and men, with 44% of women scoring high for self-criticism, compared to 34% of men. 

It is important to take care of yourself and manage your perfectionism, despite your gender or gender expression. However, if you cannot help but wonder why there is such a distinct difference in the number of female perfectionists vs male perfectionists, keep reading! 

Why are women more likely to be perfectionists than men?

There isn’t a cut-and-dry answer for this. In fact, this answer will likely differ from person to person. However, there are a few common reasons that can explain why there is a higher number of perfectionist women compared to men: 

  • Societal Pressure

The pressure we feel from society’s norms can affect how we think and behave, no matter what our gender identity is. However, it is no secret that women tend to face societal pressures at a higher rate than men [3]. Although men also face a lot of societal pressures and expectations to be masculine-presenting and assertive in their careers, women tend to face an increased number of expectations, such as being conventionally attractive, put-together, successful in their careers, getting married/having children at an “appropriate age,” being a “good” wife and mother, and all around have it all together at all times. Women who aren’t able to meet these expectations with smiling faces tend to be criticized, questioned, and pressured further to meet this societal mold. Although many have challenged these pressures (and rightfully so!) many women are either unaware of the pressures as they venture into their subconscious mind, or figure it is easier to fit the mold than to challenge it. This leads to a pressure to be “perfect” in all of these expectations. 

  • The Media and Beauty Standards

The media can do a lot of good, but can equally do a lot of bad to the way we perceive ourselves and beauty standards. When taking a look at women present in various forms of media, whether it be female actors on television shows, women in commercial advertisements, or popular social-media influencers, you’ll likely notice that they all have an “effortlessly flawless” look. The increased use of airbrushing, photoshop, and the lack of representation of unconventional beauty standards in the media only makes the pressure to be perfect, and look how women “should” look, worse. 

  • Gender Roles

As mentioned previously, gender roles can have a detrimental effect on one’s predisposition to perfectionism. Traditional gender roles are still around today and instill a belief that women should be nurturing and not show strong emotions, while men should be assertive and aggressive. These roles can lead to women feeling pressure in their interpersonal relationships to “keep the peace” and ignore conflict, to maintain a “perfect” relationship. This can lead to unhealthy boundary issues and feelings of stress and anxiety. 

  • Heightened Judgement and Criticism from Others

Women are critiqued and judged by others in almost all areas of their lives. While men are often praised for being strong-willed, sexually liberated, career-centric, and indifferent to appearance, women are harshly critiqued for the very same qualities. This pattern of women constantly feeling judged by others for their decisions can influence them to become increasingly self-critical, which can cause depression and low self-esteem. 

  • Performance and Success Disparities

Although more opportunities are opening up for women, especially career-wise, we cannot ignore the fact that women still earn only about 82 cents for every dollar that men earn [4]. Because of this gap in “success” between women and men, women may feel extra inclined to be perfect in their business endeavors in an attempt to jump this gap. It’s common for women to feel as though their work must be flawless to be taken as seriously as their average male coworker’s work. This leads to an endless cycle of perfectionism. 

It is ultimately important to promote healthy standards of achievement and self-care for both men and women. This can involve challenging gender stereotypes, promoting self-compassion, and seeking support from a mental health professional if perfectionist tendencies become difficult to manage. By creating a more inclusive society, we can work towards reducing perfectionism and inspiring positive mental health outcomes for all types of individuals.  

To discuss how therapy could help you during this season of your life, please contact me or schedule your free 15 minute consultation.

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