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Updated: Apr 4

"The principle of polarity holds that all truths are semi-truths. This means that no one has the complete truth, but that we all have our share of truth. Each person, even if it seems wrong to us, has a portion of knowledge about it"

This article is inspired by the four cardinal virtues of the Greeks and the concept of polarity raised since ancient times by mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen.

“Perfectionism is not a search for the best, it is chasing the worst in us, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough.”

Julia Cameron

teacher, writer, composer,

poet, screenwriter, artist and journalist


It seems that this world we live in is bipolar where there is always a point of balance that the Greeks called Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.

This balance point is where human defects become virtues.

For example:

In the physical world, at one extreme pole is ice, at the other pole is water vapor, and the balance point between both extremes is water.


In terms of principles and values, at one extreme is cowardice and at the other extreme is crazy audacity, the balance point of which is Courage.




Following this order of ideas, we can find that at one end is inefficiency (apathy) and at the other is perfectionism; Of course, the two extremes are human defects whose balance point is a Virtue that we will call “Continuous Improvement”, although there are authors who call it Optimalism .

The concept Optimalism (intelligent optimism) was coined by positive psychology, because it combines realism and optimism, which allows us to activate our internal resources to face and overcome the challenges of our environment.

Optimalism is based on Faith and Hope that things will happen, that is, seeking and finding solutions.

How ironic, Faith (imagining and believing that what we want is going to happen) and Hope (acting so that what we want happens) They are two of the Theological Virtues inherited from the ancient mystics and the Greeks.



At first glance, both have the same goals and objectives, but the fundamental difference is the attitude to obtain them.

The Perfectionist is far from being an obsessive and orderly person, in reality it implies an attitude (towards themselves and others) of anger or rage because what happens to themselves and those around them is not perfect.

Therefore, apathy (inefficiency) and perfectionism are as bad as they are, both are human defects, but they can be resolved at their point of balance called Optimalism or Continuous Improvement.

The Spanish Psychologist Carmen Rodriguez De Haro helps us diagnose and differentiate a perfectionist from an optimalist.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that the point of balance (virtue) between the two extreme defects (abulia and perfectionism) is Optimalism.



• They have feelings of guilt and excessive self-criticism.

• They are afraid of error, of making mistakes, of not making the right decisions, or of failing.

• They tend to procrastinate, to avoid making mistakes; They may abandon or postpone goals.

• They suffer from anxiety and discouragement.

• They do not accept past, present or future mistakes.

• They self-sabotage by embarking on unrealistic or difficult-to-achieve goals.

• The perfectionist is impatient to reach the end of his goal, in a straight line, without making any mistakes. They do not consider obstacles as something normal.

• They reject reality. When things do not turn out as they “should be”, a clash occurs between reality and fantasy. They tend to get stuck and have a hard time getting out of there.

If reality is not as it “should be” they may stop fighting, and not persevere in their goal.

• They focus more on avoiding the anxiety of making mistakes than on the motivation to achieve their goals.

• They focus on what they don't have and what they don't get.

• Their attention is selective toward error, rather than toward achievement.

• They are not practical, because they focus more on the problem than the solution.

• The satisfaction of achieving the goal is momentary and they quickly embark on another one, without having enjoyed the previous one.

• They do not accept reality. Above all, when it is contrary to the ideal they expect. It's like there should be no limitations or difficulties in the world.

• They do not accept negative emotions. “I can't be sad, angry”…” “I have to be the perfect worker, friend, son, boyfriend.”

• They do not give themselves permission to be human. All of this causes self-esteem to decrease.



• They base goals and objectives on personal choices. What I “choose or want” instead of what I “should or prefer.”

• It focuses on the motivation to achieve what is proposed, rather than the pressure of not making mistakes.

• They focus on solutions to problems, rather than not having problems.

• The optimalist knows that not everything is a bed of roses and focuses more on enjoying the process and learning from mistakes. It assumes that these will exist.

• The optimalist knows that the path is not a straight line but that trying to achieve his goal sometimes involves taking steps back or detours from the path. Accept reality, do not deny it.

• Understands failure or error as a natural part of life, and that it can be linked to success or success. High objectives are set, but they are feasible or realistic because the goal is divided into subgoals. That is, he goes step by step until he achieves it. Savor the subgoals achieved, and do not quickly move on to another.

• The optimalist accepts negative emotions, tries to understand himself and look for constructive resources to feel better.

• They are practical because they focus on solutions.


As examples, Carmen Rodríguez de Haro tells us:

“Let's imagine that we set the goal of playing the piano. A perfectionist will want to learn to play quickly, and gets frustrated by every mistake he makes, while an optimalist will appreciate every progress he makes, and when he makes a mistake, he will learn from it to correct it.


In the case of public speaking, a perfectionist would understand that he cannot be nervous, make mistakes, or feel negative emotions, while an optimalist would understand that it is normal to be nervous, make mistakes... And even at a given moment, he could verbalize in public his nervous state so that they would understand him.


With this knowledge, it is clear that both apathy and imperfection are defects, and the point of balance (virtue) is optimalism.


And what is apathy?

Abulia is a concept that refers to a lack of will or energy to do something or to move. Literally, its meaning derives from ancient Greek and is “lack of desire.” In psychological terminology, when we use it we refer to the lack of motivation or disinterest in any objective.


With what has already been said, it is evident that a perfectionist lacks inner peace, because the need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other.

Instead of being happy and grateful for what they have, they focus on what is wrong with something and their need to fix it. When we focus on what is wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, dissatisfied.


As Richard Carlson says in his book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff:

“Whether it's related to ourselves (a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an imperfect achievement, a few pounds we'd like to lose) or someone else's "imperfections" (the way someone looks or behaves or live your life), the act of focusing on imperfection takes us away from our goal of being kind and gentle.

This strategy has nothing to do with failing to do your best, but rather being too attached and focused on what is wrong in life. It's about realizing that while there is always a better way to do something, this doesn't mean you can't enjoy and appreciate the way things already are. The solution here is to realize that you fall into the habit of insisting that things should be different than they are. Gently remind yourself that life is fine just the way it is, right now. Without your criteria, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you will begin to discover perfection in life itself.”


On the other hand, Jaime Burke in his blog

He tells us: Perfectionism is present in almost all anxiety problems, relationship problems, personal insecurities, depression, work anxieties, vital blockages. The list of problems created by this attitude is endless, which is why it is vitally important to replace perfectionism with its opposite: optimalism, an attitude towards life that is much more effective, flexible, productive and full of positive emotions. As I always say, learning to change attitudes is not easy or magical, as good learning normally requires weeks or months so that in this case an optimalistic attitude becomes part of our life. We recommend a lot of patience, persistence and personal work and don't worry if it doesn't work out the first time, give yourself time and you'll see how you'll end up getting it."


Jaime Burke in his blog leaves us the following recommendations:

  1. Perfectionism is an attitude and therefore it can be changed.

  2. Be aware that perfectionism is a very erroneous attitude that encompasses more than you think.

  3. The opposite of the perfectionist is the Abulia and the balance point of these two defects, that is, virtue is the optimalist.

  4. Learn to filter and eliminate your perfectionist thoughts.

  5. Eliminate the irrational idea that perfection is possible and positive.

  6. Get rid of the irrational belief that your value as a person is determined by your achievements.

  7. Eliminate the irrational idea that "all mistakes are terrible."

  8. Develop, work, and integrate a problem-solving approach into your life (the culture of error)



Download the article by clicking on the image below this text

🔴 Carmen Rodriguez De Haro ( ) diagnose and differentiate a perfectionist from an optimalist


🔴 Carmen Rodriguez De Haro: Am I a perfectionist or optimalist? The differences between these attitudes.


🔴 Richard Carlson. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

🔴 Jaime Burke. How to break with perfectionism and become a great Optimalist.


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