Are You a Perfectionist or an Optimalist?
Perfectionism – the maladaptive and neurotic belief that you and/or your environment must be perfect and that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable – is not something that you are born with. It is developed. Contrary to the goal they seek, perfectionists are focused on failure.
There’s a difference between setting high standards that spur us on and seeking perfection that demoralizes us. In The Pursuit of Perfect, author Tal Ben-Shahar refers to the two approaches as perfectionism and optimalism. Most of us are a little of both. “We may be Optimalists in some areas of our lives and Perfectionists in others. For example, we may be quite forgiving of mistakes we or others make on the job but be thrown into despair when our expectations are not fully met in our relationships.” Consider these statements:
The key difference between the Perfectionist and the Optimalist is that the former essentially rejects reality while the latter accepts it.
Ben-Shahar discusses these ideas in detail and then shows how they apply to and play out in education, the workplace and in relationships. He offers exercise and meditation to help you reorient your thinking and move from perfectionist thinking to optimalist thinking.
It’s easy to see from his approach and the advice given in this book, why his Harvard course in “Positive Psychology,” is the most popular class in the university’s history. Read it. I’m certain you’ll benefit.
How do you know if you're a perfectionist? Psychology Today offers a self-test on their web site.
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