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Perfectionism and Idealism

The struggling journey on never being able to do something justice.

If the idea of getting 99/100 irks you more than pleases you, you are a perfectionist. If you are a person who pursues and values noble/high principles, purposes and goals, a person who is more concerned with how things ought to be than how they are, you are an idealist. Perfectionism and idealism are regularly associated with one another, but I view it as, “not everything that is perfect is ideal, but everything that is ideal has elements of perfection.”

Now, what has that to do with never being able to do something justice? As a former adherer to the school of perfectionism (one who has downgraded to perfectionist tendencies that still occasionally show through) it is great for competition and achievement, but it is antithetical to enjoyment and fulfilment. I have used the strive for perfection to great success with high achievement, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it erodes joy. Living a life in a manner where you’ll never be satisfied has its pros and cons. Big time.

Sometimes even perfection doesn’t feel like justice, it’s just something that you should achieve because you’re good enough.

Perfectionism can lead to periods of procrastination and/or time wasting because we get hung up on how to proceed, how to move forward without messing up or not doing something correctly – we get stuck in an ethical pickle – and it paralyses you. The amount of internal resources I’ve burned up over the years pushing through this; it’s like trying to swim through treacle dressed as the Michelin Man…so why didn’t you just stop doing it?

Well, much like depression, you can’t just snap out of it; it’s a deeply ingrained mode of being tied to if life is worth living or not – it’s that deep! If I couldn’t do something in that manner there was no point in doing it. It was only when I came to realise that doing something justice was a question of morality and ethics i.e. ideals, rather than perfection itself per se, that I was able break free of my previously well-anchored shackles.

Giving up a way that had resulted in so much success for me was no mean feat – and it still rears its head from time to time now. It’s easy for people who aren’t high achievers to say this isn’t a good method of living; as we learned from Aesop’s Fable The Fox and the Grapes, some will say the grapes are sour when they are too high to reach i.e. some people will disparage what they cannot achieve or have for themselves.

With such lofty ideals, my Achilles heel with writing is articulating what I want to say perfectly without failure, without people being able to misunderstand/not comprehend what I mean or worse, deliberately/maliciously misrepresent and/or attack me. Your first response might be “good luck with that in 2022”, but I feel this pursuit of idealism, to do something “just” (and to a lesser extent perfectionism), is the hallmark of the artist’s struggle/pain.

I don’t like being chastised by people who don’t want to strive or have as higher ideals as me which has led to feelings of loneliness and isolation. However, I realise my pursuit reflects poorly on them and they don’t understand me. They think I’m pretentious and looking down on them when really it’s their own insecurities – granted, some people can be or appear sanctimonious, but then are they really in pursuit of higher ideals? It’s not always so easy to tell who is genuine and who is not and I think this is mainly why I wrote the article “why you will always be wrong”.

When Plato wrote The Republic he was in search of the ideal society, some may refer to it as the perfect society. Naturally, it has only been in the abstract that we’ve realised this ideal, but does this make the ideal not worth striving for? Some suggest that Plato really built a barometer for which all future societies could be measured against, after all, the ideal always acts as a judge.

Human beings are inherently flawed creatures; how can we even achieve perfection? How can we reach such ideals with all our foibles? The beauty is in the attempt. It’s an eternal struggle to live life “justly”, and just who wants to subject themselves to that?

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