Is socially prescribed perfectionism veridical? A new take on the stressfulness of perfectionism

Socially prescribed perfectionists play an active role in creating stress through a process known as stress generation. Extensive evidence also suggests that stress among socially prescribed perfectionists stems from perceived external pressures to be perfect. However, the degree to which these sensed outside pressures reflect real or imagined demands is unclear. In particular, does having other-oriented perfectionists in one’s social network lead to greater socially prescribed perfectionism and stress? To address this, we recruited 312 undergraduates (targets) and 1,014 members of their social networks (influencers). Targets completed measures of self-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, stress, and neuroticism. Influencers completed a measure of other-oriented perfectionism. As expected, the relationship between other-oriented perfectionism in influencers and self-oriented perfectionism in targets was not significant. However, as anticipated, path analysis revealed that influencers’ other-oriented perfectionism contributed to targets’ socially prescribed perfectionism, which in turn contributed to targets’ stress, even after controlling for targets’ neuroticism. Findings underscore the importance of considering the veridical aspects of socially prescribed perfectionism, as well as continuing to investigate the potentially deleterious consequences of having other-oriented perfectionists in one’s social network.