Perfectionism is a hidden obsession in life and the workplace.
We carry in our minds many internal images. Images are powerful in and of themselves. Images are dynamic and powerful in our thoughts. They can be of events or people or conversations from our lived experience. They can be vicarious events lived through others stories. They have the capacity to comfort or instruct or gain joy in remembrance or just make sense of new situations because somehow, we have gone through an experience similar. They also have the capacity to metastasize and poison and provoke anxiety or paralysis.
In counselling, you know people carry images around for decades. Stuff that should have been dropped years ago. Or images that are replayed and feeds the imagination that does no one any good nor can redeem the past. They are triggered especially during times of anxiety or flatness. The images can also hover like a sore tooth, just enough to remind its subject when people think its disappeared. Sometimes people cannot say what triggered them. Sometimes they are not sure if the images came first then triggered behaviours and feelings or if circumstances triggered the images. The images are at peoples waking and give them vicious company when they should be asleep or near them in their everyday work or conversations. Constantly replayed. They are very strong. We should always be aware of that and the impact and currency in our thinking and behavior of images. Its always good to have some strategies to deal with them as well.
At another but related level, as constant consumers we are also invited to feast on images and narratives that feed imagination, in diverse forms. Magazines and electronic media promote the perfect look. The perfect body. The perfect holiday. They write narratives about the perfect relationship with the perfect job. Popular psychology abounds everywhere, money and time expended on the perfect relationship or perfect balance of intellectual and behavioral performance. Be assured, unattainable tripe ultimately and a waste of money. Humans are human and not impersonal machines. Media promotes a whole range of other perfections as well. The high-performance engine of a car the powerful elegance of a hotel or even the perfectionism of cuisine. Lest we are bored by this all, is accompanied by perfect technology, in some form or other.
Some people offer no resistance. They may even boast of being perfectionist, as if it’s a badge of accomplishment or that it might be an employable trait worth investing in. Therapeutically, you might as well tell me you have contracted an aggressive Tapeworm. I won’t be congratulating you, I’ll offer my sympathy and an invitation to do something therapeutic and medical about it.
Interestingly, very few, have, over the years, boasted of being perfect or having achieved it. The occasional immortal does creep through into that category. On their way to the perfect mental health facility, in my observation.
Media and life generally sells on a smorgasbord of enticements. We are surrounded by them. If you look through the magazines in the glossy pages or movies or commercials, smiling or pouting or sternly staring back at us, you will find the well turned out models. They are of course, what is suggested we ought to aspire to. Its tied up with the subject of what is constructed for us as heroic or beautiful or something to be aspired to. But always unreachable and just beyond our grasp.