Are you a Perfectionist or an Optimalist? There are 5 aspects to perfectionism that hold you back, they are: Unrealistic expectations, Rumination, Need for Approval, Concern over Mistakes & Doubts about Actions. I’ll walk you through these 5 aspects of Perfectionism and how to shift into Optimalism!
Perfectionist or Optimalist?
Psychologists differentiate between something that we call perfectionism and Optimalism. What’s the difference between the two? A perfectionist is in the pursuit of being perfect. Perfectionism is maladaptive – you don’t have the ability to actually adapt and change to circumstances and things that arise. It becomes more neurotic and something that you obsess over.
An optimalist is very adaptive and it is very healthy. You can have high expectations, really incredible goals and expectations all within a healthy realm.
Perfectionism is rooted all in fear and at the core is the fear of not being enough, the fear of what other people will think of you. The perfectionist actually rejects the constraints of reality.
Perfectionism holds you to impossible standards and in so doing, sets you up for constant frustration and failure. I love this quote by Tal Ben-Shahar, a leading psychologist in the positive psychology movement. He says, “If the only dream we have is of a perfect life, we are doomed to disappointment since such dreams simply cannot come true in the real world.”
Do you recognize some perfectionistic tendencies in yourself? Perfectionism is associated with things like increased depression, increased anxiety. It’s also associated with obsessive compulsive disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome, and paralyzing procrastination.
5 Aspects of Perfectionism
How can we move from being a perfectionist that’s unhealthy to an optimalist? An optimalist will be based in reality and hope! Optimalists embrace the constraints of reality. And instead of holding themselves to impossible standards, optimalists hold high expectations knowing that perfection isn’t actually attainable.
There are five different aspects of perfectionism, I’ll teach you how to shift from perfectionism into optimism.
The first aspect of Perfectionism is unrealistic expectations. I find that perfectionists have unrealistic expectations for themselves first and foremost. Then on the flip side, perfectionists have unrealistic expectations for the people around them, especially the people who are closest to them, their spouse, their children, their parents, their siblings. Perfectionists seem to reflect that perfectionist mentality onto the people that they love most and have unrealistic expectations for them.
Number two is rumination. Perfectionists, love to ruminate – it’s that constant cycle of perfectionistic thoughts. Those thoughts that things should be perfect, that your life should be perfect, or the other people in there in your life should be perfect.
Rumination is repeating over and over in your mind, how either you should be perfect or the other people around you should be perfect.
Need For Approval
Number three is need for approval. Perfectionism is rooted in fear, and out of that fear comes this deep need for approval from other people. Perfectionists tie their self-worth with their outcome or their to-do list. Often they will their sense of worth from what other people think of them.This need for approval is so rooted in that fear of not being enough, that the need for other people’s approval dominates their thoughts, those ruminating thoughts.
Concern Over Mistakes
Number four is concern over their mistakes. Perfectionists have a real concern about making mistakes and that’s where paralyzing procrastination enters the scene. The fear that they will make a mistake actually keeps them from taking action. If you have ever found yourself not taking action, because you’re afraid that it won’t be good enough or that you won’t be good enough – that is Perfectionism showing up!
Doubts About Actions
Number five is doubts about actions. A perfectionist doubts that they can actually do what their ideal is. If you’re setting your ideal at “perfect”, of course you’re going to have doubts about your actions being good enough — because nothing you do will ever be good enough.
Do you see how perfectionists set themselves up for failure every time? Because when your ideal is perfect, you will always fall short and therefore feel like a failure. Perfectionists tie their self-worth to how well they perform. If perfect is the ideal, they’ll never measure up.
Now let’s move you more toward optimism rather than perfectionism.
Take Action & Focus on the Process
Instead of having unrealistic expectations, an optimal list is not. As attached to the results. That’s how you move into being an optimist — quit being so attached to the results. You need to be focusing on taking action and focusing on the process! Those are two things within your control!
Focus on things you can control
A perfectionist ruminates on their thoughts of perfection and how they can bring that to pass in their life. An optimalists stops overthinking about things they cannot change. You need to know what lies within your circle of control and what lies outside of your circle of control. An optimal list will always focus on what is in their circle of control — circumstances in your life– that resides outside of your control.
An optimal list will focus on the things that they can change. That includes you, your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, your results, your beliefs — that’s what you have control over. Start focusing on actions rather than thinking about things that you cannot change.
You are in charge of your Self Worth
Quit tying yourself worth to other people’s opinion of you. Now, this is easier said than done, but I want you to just be aware of how often you tie your self-worth to someone else’s opinion of you. It could be your spouse, your kids, a friend or family member. When you are starting to tie your own self-worth to what they think about you, stop and decide that you are in charge of this aspect of your life. An optimalist stands firm in their self-worth and knows that the only opinion that matters of them is themselves!
An optimist learns how to embrace mistakes as a part of their life, where a perfectionist dwells on the mistakes and has so many concerns about their mistakes. An optimalist learns to embrace those and realizes that failing means learning. We typically have unrealistic expectations of ourselves that we should be naturally good at whatever we try.
So Often if we aren’t naturally good at it the first time, then it must mean that we’re not good enough. An optimist learns to embrace that mistakes are part of life. It is actually the part of life that helps us grow and develop the most by making mistakes and learning from them.
Measure Success on the Progress
Aa perfectionist doubts their actions and optimalist will actually measure success on doing little things. Instead of doing big things perfectly, they realize that they can do little things, make progress and work closer and closer toward goals. Optimalists will actually focus on the process rather than the outcome. Perfectionists get stuck because they put so much weight on the outcome, that it becomes so big in their mind and has huge consequence.
An Optimalist will say “I’m just going to take a couple of steps toward this goal”. And then measure my success in moving toward this. Not the big perfect outcome — but small and simple progress along the way.
Perfectionism is rooted in fear and Optimalism is rooted in reality and hope. Tal Ben Shahar says, “in essence, perfectionists reject everything that deviates from their flawless faultless, ideal vision. And as a result, they suffer whenever they do not meet their own unrealistic standards, optimal lists except, and make the best of everything that life has to offer.”
I hope that that’s how you can emerge empowered – by moving a little bit away from perfectionism and toward optimalism! You can still have high standards, expectations, and desire to grow and develop. You can have all of that without all the pressure that perfectionism creates. Perfectionism is just a construct in your mind that’s holding you back, keeping you from taking action and making the best of everything that life has to offer.
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