Why Perfectionist Pretenders Persecute Others – An Analysis
By Angela Cox, last updated May 14, 2024

Perfectionism is often seen as a pursuit of excellence and high standards. But, if we look into it more deeply, it can be identified as a complex behaviour rooted in the desire to mask one’s authentic self. At Paseda360, we recognise perfectionism as a form of pretender behaviour—a mechanism used to hide one’s true self in favour of an idealised image. We have also noticed that this form of behaviour is quite common (based on the results of a survey we had done with1,600+ people), making perfectionism the most frequently worn mask among our respondents.

To put it simply, while perfectionists may initially present themselves as meticulous, dedicated, and charming individuals, there can be a definite shadowy side to this pretender behaviour. Beneath the surface, the pursuit of perfection can lead to a tendency to persecute others, especially when the perfectionist is struggling with the exhaustion and emptiness that often accompany their high standards. 

This tendency to persecute others can manifest in various forms, from pointing out others’ mistakes to attempting to undermine those who have genuinely supported them. Understanding this hidden aspect of perfectionism is essential for addressing its impact on relationships and self-esteem along with its other issues.

Understanding perfectionist pretenders

Before we get into understanding why perfectionist pretenders persecute others, it’s important that we realise the root of the cause and how to identify them. To understand this mental state, we must learn the meaning of “perfectionism” first. 

Perfectionism often arises from inner shame, particularly following childhood trauma, according to Dr. Gabor Maté, in his book “The Myth of Normal” (2022). This further proves our point that individuals who feel unworthy or inadequate may seek perfection to mask their perceived flaws and vulnerabilities. 

This pursuit of flawlessness serves as a coping mechanism to manage shame and self-doubt, as individuals look for external validation and acceptance to soothe their internal struggles. However, perfectionism perpetuates self-criticism and anxiety, reinforcing the underlying shame and hindering self-acceptance. Understanding perfectionism as a reaction to inner shame is essential for fostering self-compassion and healing from past traumas.

Based on this, we can see that perfectionist pretenders exhibit several distinct characteristics that set them apart from others. These traits are often tied to their pursuit of high standards and desire to maintain a particular image. So, we can identify that perfectionist pretenders may persecute others for the following reasons.

Fear of inadequacy and vulnerability

Perfectionist pretenders often struggle with deep-seated fears of inadequacy and vulnerability. By persecuting others, they can deflect attention away from their own perceived flaws and weaknesses.

Unrealistic Standards for Themselves and Others

Perfectionist pretenders hold themselves to extremely high, often unattainable standards. This extends to others around them, whom they may judge harshly for not meeting the same expectations. This pursuit of perfection can strain relationships and create an environment of constant pressure.

Masking Insecurities with a Facade of Perfection

These individuals may project their insecurities onto others by criticising or judging them harshly. This projection serves as a way to cope with their own unresolved issues and internal conflicts. 

Beneath the polished exterior, perfectionist pretenders often struggle with deep-seated insecurities. They use their pursuit of perfection to cover up feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability, presenting an image of faultlessness to gain acceptance and approval from others.

Control-Oriented Behavior

Perfectionist pretenders may seek to assert control over others as a way to feel more powerful and dominant. This behaviour can stem from a desire to manage their surroundings and maintain a sense of order.

This can manifest in micromanaging tasks, organising everything meticulously, and being overly critical when things don’t go according to plan. Their need for control can stem from a fear of failure and a desire to maintain their carefully constructed image of perfection. By putting others down or highlighting their shortcomings, perfectionist pretenders can maintain a false sense of superiority.

Consequences of Persecutor Behavior

This behaviour and its reasons might seem like an insignificant ego issue at first, but this small issue can go out of hand, damaging a lot of their lives & the lives of people around them in the long run. The impact of perfectionist pretenders on others can be significant and multifaceted for sure. Let’s have a look.

Erosion of Self-Esteem

Although perfectionist pretenders may initially feel a sense of superiority when they point out others’ mistakes or assert control, these feelings are often short-lived. They often experience a cycle of guilt and shame after engaging in persecutor behaviour. 

This is due to them recognising that their actions are unfair and hurtful, leading to feelings of remorse. This emotional burden can further impact their mental health and self-image. They may feel disconnected from their authentic selves and struggle with self-acceptance.

Impact on Relationships

Perfectionist pretenders’ tendency to criticise and control others can strain personal and professional relationships. Others may feel judged, inadequate, or micromanaged, leading to resentment and a breakdown in trust. This can result in isolation for the perfectionist, as people may begin to avoid them or distance themselves.

Increased Stress and Anxiety

The constant need to maintain control and perfection can lead to increased stress and anxiety. This can exacerbate the persecutor’s behaviour. Perfectionist pretenders may find themselves caught in a cycle of stress as they strive to meet unrealistic standards while also dealing with the fallout of their actions.

Lack of Authentic Connections

Persecutor behaviour can make it difficult for perfectionist pretenders to form genuine connections with others. Their critical and controlling tendencies may push people away, preventing them from forming the deep, meaningful relationships they desire.


As a result of the strained relationships and feelings of guilt and shame, perfectionist pretenders may withdraw from social interactions. This self-imposed isolation can further contribute to a sense of loneliness and detachment.

Difficulty in Personal Growth

When perfectionist pretenders focus on others’ mistakes and shortcomings, they may neglect their own personal growth and development. This lack of introspection can hinder their ability to learn from their mistakes and grow as individuals.

Workplace implications

In a professional setting, perfectionist pretenders can disrupt team dynamics by creating an environment of fear and criticism, hindering collaboration and open communication. The hostile or overly critical behaviour of perfectionist pretenders can lead to decreased productivity and morale among colleagues, impacting overall team performance and job satisfaction.

Strategies for Coping with Perfectionist Pretenders

When dealing with perfectionist pretenders, employing the following strategies can help you cope effectively. When using relevant coaching methods, we can take these factors into consideration too. 

Setting healthy boundaries

Establish clear and firm boundaries with perfectionist pretenders to protect your emotional well-being. Define what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable and communicate these boundaries assertively. Try to understand what they are going through too. It may be unfair in your point of view, but having empathy will not hurt anyone.

Practicing assertive communication

Showing empathy doesn’t mean you have to go along with everything they do. Use assertive communication techniques to express your thoughts and feelings confidently and respectfully. This helps you stand your ground while maintaining healthy interactions with perfectionist pretenders.

Fostering self-awareness and self-compassion

Cultivate self-awareness to recognise the impact of perfectionist pretenders on your thoughts and emotions. Practice self-compassion by being kind and understanding toward yourself, acknowledging that imperfections are part of being human.

Recognising and Overcoming Perfectionism

While there are some things we can do when faced with perfectionist pretenders, there are some things that they can do themselves too. Recognising and overcoming perfectionism requires self-awareness and a willingness to confront one’s behaviours. 

Here are some ways perfectionists can recognise their persecutor tendencies and triggers, as well as coaching techniques to help escape perfectionism and move toward their best selves.

Identify Triggers

Start by paying close attention to situations that lead you to exhibit perfectionist or persecutor behaviours. These may include high-pressure situations, criticism from others, or even minor setbacks. Keep a journal to track when these tendencies arise and what may have triggered them.

Acknowledge the Behavior

Admitting to yourself that you may be engaging in persecutor behaviours is a crucial first step toward change. Reflect on how these actions impact your relationships and your own well-being. Understanding the negative consequences can motivate you to address the issue.

Practice Self-Compassion

Perfectionism is often rooted in a lack of self-compassion. Work on accepting yourself, flaws and all. Practice positive self-talk and focus on your strengths rather than dwelling on perceived weaknesses.

Set Realistic Goals

Instead of striving for perfection, set achievable and realistic goals. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. This can help you break free from the need to control every aspect of your life.

Seek Feedback

Engage in open and honest conversations with trusted friends, family, or a coach about your behaviour. They may offer valuable insights into your tendencies and how they affect others.

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Find healthier ways to manage stress and anxiety, such as exercise, meditation, or hobbies you enjoy. This can help reduce the reliance on perfectionism as a coping mechanism.

Coaching and Therapy

Consider working with a coach or therapist who specialises in perfectionism. They can guide you through the process of recognising your behaviours and developing strategies for change.

Celebrate Progress

Acknowledge and celebrate your progress in overcoming perfectionism. Every small step toward change is a victory and a sign of growth.

Final Words

Perfectionist pretenders often use their behaviour as a coping mechanism to navigate feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. By donning the mask of perfectionism, they can avoid rejection, gain external validation, and maintain a sense of control. While they may appear charming and competent, their relentless pursuit of flawlessness can lead to emotional exhaustion and emptiness.

However, this perfectionist façade can have a negative impact on others, as perfectionist pretenders may shift to persecuting others when feeling depleted. This behaviour can manifest in pointing out others’ mistakes or even harming those who have been supportive. The cycle of criticism and control may provide temporary satisfaction, but it often leads to shame and a realisation that the behaviour is unfair.

Acknowledging and understanding these tendencies is crucial for personal growth. By reflecting on their triggers and observing their own actions, individuals can begin to recognise their worst tendencies and work towards becoming their best selves. It is a journey of self-awareness and self-compassion that allows for healing and positive transformation. When you observe your worst self you discover so much, which can move further towards your best. What do you think?

Take the test to find out which of the Four Pretender Positions you prefer to operate in:

Ready To Start
Transforming Lives & Building A Sustainable Coaching Business?

Today’s high performers, business owners and executives want transformational change, and you can be the person to help them achieve it as a Paseda360 Practitioner
Our training programmes →