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Perfectionism and the pursuit of personal goals: A self-determination theory analysis

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that self-critical and personal standards forms of perfectionism are associated with progress on personal goals in opposite ways. The present study used a 5-wave prospective longitudinal design to examine what motivational factors account for the finding that self-critical perfectionism has been reliably associated with poor goal progress whereas personal standard perfectionism has been associated with good progress. Specifically, we adopted a self-determination theory perspective to examine the role of autonomy in mediating the effects of perfectionism. Our results replicated previous findings linking the two forms of perfectionism with opposite patterns of goal progress. Importantly, the results suggested that the negative goal effects of self-critical perfectionism are mediated by lower levels of autonomous goal motivation. The results also demonstrated links from personal standards perfectionism to greater autonomous goal motivation. Interestingly, the effects of self-critical perfectionism on goal progress appeared to be dynamic over time and implicated affective mechanisms. The results of the investigation point to the value of adopting a self-determination theory perspective to understand perfectionism.

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Funding

Funding was provided by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (CA) (435-2014-20463) and Fonds de Recherche du Québec-Société et Culture (2017-SE-196443).

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Moore, E., Holding, A.C., Hope, N.H. et al. Perfectionism and the pursuit of personal goals: A self-determination theory analysis. Motiv Emot 42, 37–49 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-017-9654-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-017-9654-2

Keywords

  • Goal attainment
  • Autonomy
  • Perfectionism
  • Affect
  • Self-determination theory