Friday, October 16, 2009

The New Optimalist

I am a perfectionist, which I have only just realized. I mean, I always knew that I like to keep my house clean and there are a lot of things that I like to be a certain way, but would I have described myself as a perfectionist? No, not really.

I told Marissa and Jill about it and they laughed with disbelief that I was just now realizing this. Oh the lovely state of denial!

So this has all come about because I have been reading The Pursuit of Perfect. (Such a good book by the way and I recommend it to anyone who thinks they may have perfectionist tendencies.) The best part about the book is that it shows that by being a perfectionist, you are actually setting yourself up for a life of negativity and disappointment. No one, no event and no situation will ever be perfect. I will never be perfect. Even more, a perfectionist always notices the parts of a person, situation, etc. that aren't perfect, which can lead to a very unhappy life. The other part of perfectionism is believing that there is one path to reach a goal, a straight line from Point A to Point B. That there is one way to accomplish something.

I was reading the book last weekend, and I was up on Sunday night, laying awake in bed thinking about it. It seems to explain so many things about me, my life, my personality. I think of reaching a goal as having to take certain steps to get where I want to be. Of course, there are times that this is helpful, but there are many times where life has pushed me in a different direction and I have gotten really frustrated. This also explains why I sometimes feel like I am a negative person. Now I realize, it's not that I'm a negative person, it's just that I'm looking at everything and seeing what's not perfect or right about it. Also being a perfectionist is why I try to control events, people, my future...lots of things in my life. The beauty of this all is that I've somehow gotten the clarity to see my life in this new way. It's like being able to see a part of myself for the very first time.

According to this book, the solution is to work towards being an optimalist. An optimalist can also work towards goals, but realizes that the journey from Point A to Point B may go in a different direction than you had imagined - it's much more complex than the perfectionist straight line seems to be. By realizing this, the optimalist can enjoy the journey to Point B and is present enough to see new avenues or opportunities as they may arrive.

All I can say is that this week I have been seeing my life through a different lens. It is weird and exciting and hard. Hard because I'm still seeing things the way I always have but now I also see how this viewpoint is impacting my life. After each realization, I try to think about the new way. Instead of noticing what is wrong, I try to notice what is right. I try to remember that no one is perfect and I will never be perfect. I am trying to let things happen as they are, rather than trying to make them happen exactly how I think they should. Most of all, I'm trying to experience life as it is rather than trying to change it into how I think it should be.

Jessica O.


  1. How could you not see that you're a perfectionist?!! You should have asked me- I could have told you that! I think there is a balance- still striving for quality, still having that attention to detail...but not getting bogged down if things aren't perfect. I love reading your blog and your thoughts!

  2. It's so true! About perfectionism, I mean. Check out this and/or this if you're interested in a couple other viewpoints. I am/was such an perfectionist/optimizer (not an optimalist) myself, to the point where, say, buying toothpaste was a struggle. So I'm working on that, and I definitely hear you there. Good luck!