Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Perfectionism and Mental Health

Today's post is a guest post by my friend Matt! He created this image for me as a commentary on the brain and perfectionism. I liked it so much that I asked if he would be willing to write a short piece to accompany it.


Original Image by Matthew Dell

Humans are bound by a perception of normalcy. In order to be perfect, we aspire to achieve standards gauged by society that are ultimately subjective and may not be considered 'perfect' elsewhere. In fact, I believe perfection is anything but normal because 'perfect' is a characteristic attributed to individuals or things that exceed the boundaries of society.
Take Bill Gates or Steve Jobs for example:
I'm sure a fairly large number of individuals would characterize one of these men as the perfect inventor. However, neither Gates nor Jobs finished college and instead went on to create unique, innovative systems that are frequently used throughout the world!
People who suffer from mental illnesses may also be perfect.
In fact scientists are asserting now that some famous mathematicians such as Einstein and Newton may have had autism. Even individuals who are considered savants possess amazing abilities that others do not. Society tends to undermine the status of many individuals with mental illness because they may act eccentrically or outside-the-box. But like I said earlier, isn't what we perceive to be the standard outside of the box also?
Thank you, Matt. :)
I agree that as a society, we seem to normalize perfectionism. We aspire higher and higher beyond what is reasonable. To some degree, we shun those that are unable to compete with our unreasonable expectations, and we fail to take into account unique circumstance with our one-size-fits-all approach. I feel like we need to stop thinking of the brain as a computational machine that outputs brilliance when all variables are controlled. We need to think of it as a fingerprint. An amazing and original organism that belongs to an amazing and original human.
One of my yoga instructors commented while we stumbled during tree pose. He said, "No one wants to see a perfect tree! Imperfection is beautiful!"
Be gentle with yourself. We can take pride in our imperfections and celebrate our strengths. Try not to allow your perception to be warped by the people around you and by the media. Many of us struggle with perfectionism, but it is a pattern of thinking. Patterns can be broken.