Nobody’s perfect, but sometimes it can feel like you need to be. Striving for perfection is a feeling everyone can relate to. Students, especially nowadays, are feeling the pressure to be perfect. Social and cultural expectations such as the high-pressure atmosphere of testing, and competition in grades or athletics lead to high amounts of stress in highschool and college students. The article being discussed is “Perfectionism and perceived stress: The role of fear of negative evaluation” by Nadia Shafique, Seema Gul, and Seemab Raseed. This article showcases how the fear of being negatively evaluated by others correlates with perceived stress in perfectionists.
Perfectionism is a personality trait that has been defined as “striving for flawlessness” accompanied by high personal standards (often unattainable). But it is actually highly complex and, like most traits, on a spectrum with extremes on both ends. There are two types of perfectionism. Adaptive perfectionists desire to excel, challenge themselves by setting high, yet achievable standards, are organized, and take greater satisfaction with life. They are disappointed by failures, but not defeated by them and take pleasure in the effort rather than ruminating on what didn’t work. Maladaptive perfectionists feel perceived pressure from others to be perfect, set high, unachievable standards, and despair over mistakes. They equate failure with worthlessness and fear they won’t be accepted if others know of their failures. They are also more at risk for psychological distress and clinical diagnoses of eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Previous studies have shown that adaptive perfectionists are far less stressed than maladaptive perfectionists. This current study aimed to assess two things. First, they aimed to assess the relationship between these three factors: perfectionism (both adaptive and maladaptive), fear of negative evaluation, and perceived stress. The fear of negative evaluation is “ the apprehension and distress arising from concerns about being judged despairingly or hostilely by others.” Also they aimed to determine the mediating effect of negative evaluation in the relationship between perfectionism and perceived stress. A mediating variable is an unseen variable that acts as a bridge between the independent and dependent variables. The independent variable influences the mediating variable, which then influences the dependent variable. In conducting this study, the researchers also hope to provide more evidence of differences between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. The researchers predicted that maladaptive perfectionism is positively related to perceived stress and fear of negative evaluation. The opposite was predicted for adaptive perfectionism. They also predicted fear of negative evaluation is positively related to stress and fear of negative evaluation is the mediator between perfectionism (both adaptive and maladaptive) and perceived stress.
This study included a sample of 300 students consisting of 198 undergraduate and 102 graduate students aged 18-28 years from various colleges and universities. There were 172 females and 128 males in the population. The researchers used the survey method by administering questionnaires to all participants. Before distributing the questionnaire, the researchers gained permission from the authorities of the universities and colleges, briefed participants on the significance of the research, took their consent, and ensured their confidentiality. They then distributed booklets containing the FMPS, BFNE, and PSS scales. The Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS) is how they measured perfectionism. It includes 35 items measuring 5 subscales on a 5-point scale from 1(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Three of the six subscales included: Concerns over Mistakes, Doubts about Actions, and Parental Expectations. These are all classified as maladaptive. The other two subscales are: Personal Standards and Organization, which are classified as adaptive. They used the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) to measure perceived stress. This is a scale used to measure general stress in one’s life, rather than stress caused by one specific thing. There are 10 items, again on a 5-point scale, from 0 (never) to 5 (very often). Fear of negative evaluation was measured using the Brief version of the Fear of Negative Evaluation scale (BFNE). It is used to measure how strongly people experience apprehension about being negatively evaluated using a 5-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
The results indicate that three of their hypotheses were proven correct. Fear of negative evaluation is positively related to perceived stress. Maladaptive perfectionists tend to perceive more stress than adaptive perfectionists. After evaluating the mediating effect of fear of negative evaluation, it was concluded that it does mediate the relationship between maladaptive perfectionism and perceived stress. Therefore, maladaptive perfectionism and perceived stress are indirectly related through the mediator fear of negative evaluation. Two of their hypotheses were proven incorrect. Adaptive perfectionism did not have a significant relationship with perceived stress and fear of negative evaluation. Because there was not a significant enough relationship, an analysis of the mediator variable could not be conducted.
This study supports prior research on the stress associated with maladaptive perfectionism and sheds new light on the social aspect of this by examining its relationship to the fear of negative evaluation. Because this study was based entirely on self-input by the participants, this could have had some effect on the results. It would be interesting to see this study repeated as an experiment. The detrimental effects of maladaptive perfectionism are evident in this study, as shown by the increase in stress. However, there were no significant conclusions on adaptive perfectionism. I would suggest doing another study more closely focused on adaptive perfectionism.This was also conducted only using students from Pakistan, so it would be interesting to see how the results would differ in places like the US or Japan.
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