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Demanding Standards – Living Well With Your Personal Rules

Demanding Standards – Living Well With Your Personal Rules is a guide written for clients who have high or perfectionistic standards which cause them distress. It provides clear information about what standards are and how they are maintained, as well as exercises with step-by-step instructions to help clients identify, monitor, and address their perfectionistic standards.

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A psychoeducational guide. Typically containing elements of skills development.


Languages this resource is available in

  • English (GB)
  • English (US)
  • Spanish (International)

Problems this resource might be used to address

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Introduction & Theoretical Background

If you asked 100 people whether they set standards for themselves, almost everyone would say that they do. Standards are important, both for people and society, but they can cause problems. If you strive to meet standards that are extremely demanding and difficult to achieve (what might be called ‘perfectionistic standards’), it can lead to serious difficulties, including anxiety, depression, OCD, and eating disorders. Demanding Standards is a guide written for clients struggling with perfectionistic or demanding standards. It will help them to understand:
  • What standards are, and why people set them.
  • When and why standards become demanding and perfectionistic.
  • Practical things you can do to address your demanding standards.

Therapist Guidance

This is a Psychology Tools guide. Suggested uses include:
  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation and skills-development resource
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training

References And Further Reading

  • Fennell, M. (2006). Overcoming low self-esteem self-help course: A three-part programme based on cognitive behavioural techniques (part three). Constable and Robinson.
  • Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Oliver, J. M., & Macdonald, S. (2002). Perfectionism in children and their parents: A developmental analysis. In G. L. Flett & P. L. Hewitt (Eds.), Perfectionism: Theory, research, and treatment, (pp.89-132). American Psychological Association. 
  • Ellis, A., & Harper, R. A. (1975). A new guide to rational living. Institute for Rational Living.
  • Shafran, R., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2002). Clinical perfectionism: A cognitive–behavioural analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 773-791.
  • Egan, S., Wade, T. D., Shafran, R., & Antony, M. M. (2014). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of perfectionism. Guilford. 
  • Hamachek, D. E. (1978). Psychodynamics of normal and neurotic perfectionism. Psychology, 15, 27-33.
  • Shafran, R., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2002). Clinical perfectionism: A cognitive behavioural analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 773-791. 
  • Ashby, J. S., & Rice, K. G. (2002). Perfectionism, dysfunctional attitudes, and self-esteem: A structural equations analysis. Journal of Counseling and Development, 80, 197-203.
  • Limburg, K., Watson, H. J., Hagger, M. S., & Egan, S. J. (2017). The relationship between perfectionism and psychopathology: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73, 1301-1326.
  • Sherry, S. B., Mackinnon, S. P., & Gautreau, C. M. (2016). Perfectionists do not play nicely with others: Expanding the social disconnection model. In F. M. Sirois & D. S. Molnar (Ed.), Perfectionism, health, and well-being (pp. 225-243). Springer.
  • Lloyd, S., Schmidt, U., Khondoker, M., & Tchanturia, K. (2015). Can psychological interventions reduce perfectionism? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 43, 705-731.
  • Suh, H., Sohn, H., Kim, T., & Lee, D. G. (2019). A review and meta-analysis of perfectionism interventions: Comparing face-to-face with online modalities. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 66, 473.