Trait Perfectionism and Perfectionistic Self-Presentation in Psychological Distress: The Mediational Role of Self-Image Goals
Nepon, Taryn Brooke
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The current research was designed to qualify and extend existing theory and research in the perfectionism field by considering the need to be perfect from a perspective that emphasizes motivation and the self. It is our contention that perfectionists are ego-involved and defensively focused on perfecting the self in ways that are clearly reflected in their goal pursuits. In particular, perfectionism involves a tendency to pursue and be cognitively preoccupied with the self-image goals described by Crocker and her colleagues (2008, 2012). The primary goal of the present research was to uniquely examine the links between dimensions of perfectionism and the pursuit of self-image goals and compassionate goals across various domains. Four studies are reported. Analyses confirmed that both trait and self-presentational perfectionism were consistently linked with the pursuit of self-image goals, which involve the desire to create positive images of the self. This was in contrast to compassionate goals, which focus more on supporting others, where the results were more mixed: compassionate goals were positively linked with some facets of perfectionism, but negative links also emerged when controlling for self-image goals. The primary evidence across four studies suggested that the association between perfectionism and self-image goals is generalizable and was detected in various goal pursuit domains (i.e., achievement, interpersonal, and self-improvement goals). Moreover, evidence indicated that self-image goals mediated the links that perfectionism had with psychological distress both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. The findings from these studies point to the need to revise existing motivational accounts of perfectionism by recognizing that the approach and avoidance tendencies of perfectionists are often experienced and expressed within the context of self-image goals that guide much of what perfectionists do and how they act and react in their daily lives.