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Idealism vs. Perfectionism — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on April 29, 2024
Idealism is a philosophical belief emphasizing high ideals, while perfectionism is a personality trait focusing on flawlessness in actions and tasks.
Idealism vs. Perfectionism — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Idealism and Perfectionism


Key Differences

Idealism involves the pursuit of high ideals and often focuses on what could be rather than what is, whereas perfectionism entails striving for flawlessness and setting extremely high standards often to the point of fault.
Idealists are typically concerned with moral and ethical principles and aspire to achieve a better world, while perfectionists focus on achieving exactness and precision in their personal or professional tasks.
Idealism often drives social, political, or philosophical movements as it involves broad visions for humanity, whereas perfectionism is usually more individualistic, affecting personal goals and behaviors.
While idealism can foster positive change by envisioning improvements in societal structures, perfectionism can sometimes lead to frustration or decreased productivity due to its unattainable standards.
Idealists may accept some level of imperfection in reality as long as the direction is towards their higher goals, on the other hand, perfectionists might struggle with any deviation from their set standards, no matter how minor.

Comparison Chart


A philosophy that values high ideals.
A personality trait emphasizing flawlessness.


Broad societal or philosophical changes.
Specific details and personal achievement.


Promotes visionary changes and reforms.
Aims for precise outcomes in personal tasks.

Psychological Impact

Can inspire hope and motivation.
May cause stress and anxiety over imperfections.

Example in Practice

Advocating for human rights globally.
Perfecting a skill or project with no errors.

Compare with Definitions


A philosophical theory that reality is fundamentally mental.
His thesis on idealism challenges materialistic views of the universe.


Often linked with obsessive behaviors in achieving precision.
His perfectionism in baking ensures every cupcake is identical.


A belief in pursuing high ethical standards.
He adopted idealism, aiming to influence global policies ethically.


A personality trait characterized by a person's striving for flawlessness.
Perfectionism compels her to revise her work repeatedly.


An approach that represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are.
His idealism often leads to innovative but impractical solutions.


A source of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Her perfectionism often leads to procrastination on projects.


The practice of forming ideals or living under their influence.
Through idealism, she always sees the best in people.


The setting of unrealistically demanding goals.
His perfectionism makes him an extremely tough coach.


A critical stance in international relations focusing on moral values.
Her idealism drives her work with international peace organizations.


The disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable.
His perfectionism is evident in his meticulous work.


The unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection
The idealism of youth


A propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.


In philosophy, idealism is a diverse group of metaphysical views which all assert that "reality" is in some way indistinguishable or inseparable from human perception and/or understanding, that it is in some sense mentally constructed, or that it is otherwise closely connected to ideas. In contemporary scholarship, traditional idealist views are generally divided into two groups.


A belief in certain religions that moral or spiritual perfection can be achieved before the soul has passed into the afterlife.


Any of various systems of thought in which the objects of knowledge are held to be in some way dependent on the activity of mind.


(philosophy) A belief that spiritual perfection may be achieved during life, or that it should be striven for.


The act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal and often impractical form.


The doctrine of the Perfectionists.


Pursuit of one's ideals, often without regard to practical ends.


A disposition to feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable;
His perfectionism seemed excessive to his students


Idealized treatment of a subject in literature or art.


(Philosophy) The theory that the object of external perception, in itself or as perceived, consists of ideas.


The property of a person of having high ideals that are usually unrealizable or at odds with practical life.


The practice or habit of giving or attributing ideal form or character to things; treatment of things in art or literature according to ideal standards or patterns;—opposed to realism.


(philosophy) An approach to philosophical enquiry, which asserts that direct and immediate knowledge can only be had of ideas or mental pictures.


The quality or state of being ideal.


Conception of the ideal; imagery.


The system or theory that denies the existence of material bodies, and teaches that we have no rational grounds to believe in the reality of anything but ideas and their relations.


The practice or habit of giving or attributing ideal form or character to things; treatment of things in art or literature according to ideal standards or patterns; - opposed to realism.


A belief in the feasibility of the implementation of ideal principles and noble goals, and the practice or habit of pursuing such goals; - opposed to realism and cynicism.


(philosophy) the philosophical theory that ideas are the only reality


Impracticality by virtue of thinking of things in their ideal form rather than as they really are


Elevated ideals or conduct; the quality of believing that ideals should be pursued

Common Curiosities

Are idealism and perfectionism mutually exclusive?

No, one can be both an idealist and a perfectionist in different aspects of their life.

Can idealism lead to disappointment?

Yes, idealists may face disappointment when reality falls short of their high ideals.

What drives someone towards idealism?

Idealism is often driven by a desire to see the world improved according to moral or ethical standards.

How does society view perfectionists?

Perfectionists are often admired for their dedication but can also be seen as overly critical or obsessive.

What psychological impacts does perfectionism have?

Perfectionism can lead to anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

How does perfectionism affect work quality?

Perfectionism can improve work quality but may also hinder progress when the standards are too restrictive.

Is perfectionism a positive trait?

While it can lead to high achievements, it often comes with high stress and is generally seen as a double-edged sword.

Can idealism be practical?

Idealism can be practical when it inspires realistic and achievable goals.

How does society view idealists?

Society often views idealists as visionaries but sometimes as impractical dreamers.

What are typical examples of perfectionism influencing careers?

Careers in art, science, and engineering can be heavily influenced by perfectionism.

How do perfectionists handle failure?

Perfectionists might take failure hard, often seeing it as a personal defect.

How do idealists handle failure?

Idealists may view failure as a learning opportunity to refine their visions.

Is there a healthy level of perfectionism?

Yes, moderate perfectionism that encourages excellence without causing distress is considered healthy.

Can idealism change the world?

Yes, idealistic movements have historically led to significant social and political changes.

What are typical examples of idealism influencing careers?

Careers in non-profits, politics, and education can be heavily influenced by idealism.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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