Here’s my confession

I’m a perfectionist. I’ve acquired this “debilitating” condition some time during my childhood. Not really sure of how and why (I have some theories), but it is what it is.

And now I have the biggest problems with starting things, finishing things,  or daring to wish or allow different things to happen. Let’s take this blog for example. I love the idea of expressing my thoughts through digital media, but I also have an idea of how things should  be. It might sound pretentious ,but I know how this blog should be, I know how it should look like, I know who should be reading it, I know what wonderful response this blog should get, and so on.

Enter Pavel Somov and his words of wisdom, “as a perfectionist, you define perfection as a theoretical best. That’s exactly why you are never satisfied with reality as it is.”  Oopsie daisy…

To a perfectionist, reality is always imperfect because one can always imagine something better. To a nonperfectionist, the present reality is either 1) perfect (because it’s the best it can be at the moment) or 2) neither perfect nor imperfect; it is what it is. A realist accepts the present as it is and rolls with it to improve the next moment. A perfectionst rejects the present as not being good enough and gets stuck in a state of perfectionistic dissatisfaction. A perfectionist compares what is with what could be, the real with the ideal, and pursues the imaginary perfection. (Somov, ch. 2)

That’s what I do. That’s why the blog post frequency is so low. It’s not that I’ve abandoned the project, quite the opposite. The project has become too overwhelming even before it started. Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how I feel.  So, what is a girl supposed to do?

Well, you can’t really fight your way out of perfectionism. Pavel suggests we first accept our condition. I know what you’re thinking and so does Pavel:

You might think: If I am to accept that at any given time I am as perfect as I can be at that moment, then how am I to achieve my goals? How am I to improve myself? The false choice here is this: either accept or  change. Acceptance of the fact that any given time you’re doing your practical best (however unsatisfying it might be to you or others) doesn’t mean that you can’t try to improve the next moment. Of course you can.  (Somov, ch. 2)

I find this very difficult in my life. I cannot get past of I-KNOW-HOW-THINGS-SHOULD-BE-IN-MY life  idea. It seems as if it’s cemented in my mind, and yet I also know it’s not true, and that it isn’t serving me any more, but I can get sucked into it way too easily, because:

As a perfectionist, you think of perfection as a state. As you clean your kitchen or your car or your desk, you fantasize about preserving the state of perfection that you have accomplished. If you can only get it right, then it’ll remain perfect from then on. You believe that by tinkering with what is, by tweaking the reality, you can engineer a perfect or near-perfect state of reality that will enable lasting happiness and well-being.

But remodelling reality is a frustrating prospect because reality isn’t a state. Reality is change, a process, a constant flux. As a perfectionist, you reject this impermanence and yearn for the a perfect status quo. This  state view of perfection is an emotional setup: even when you achieve that momentarily perfect state, reality doesn’t pause to allow you to enjoy it. The moment of accomplishment evaporates as soon as it materializes. But you already know this. (Somov, ch.4)

This one really hit home, hit me in the guts. Once I read that I felt as if the pieces of the puzzle started to form the big picture. Oh, that’s why I always feel as if I’m waiting for life to begin. Oh, that’s why I can get hyped about something and then cut it off completely the next moment…

Does all of the thinking and reading provide me with some cure or real definitive answer?

So, why do I do it? Writing about it somehow makes some things clearer, it humbles me, and perhaps makes somebody else feel less alone knowing the crazy things that go on in my head. I also believe that at the end of the whole process something changes, I am not the same person any more. I’m not saying I’m a better person, just different, and that is the way I experience the flux of life.

I’m not promising that I’ll be posting everyday from now on, but I promise to relax and post whatever makes me feel something, even if it doesn’t reach the (imaginary) ultimate blog-worthy status.

And now  I leave you with Alanis Morissette who will lead us into communal catharsis. By this point we all need it 🙂

Works cited:

Somov, Pavel. Present Perfect. New Harbinger Publications, 2010. Print.

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What does it mean to love yourself?

I’m sorry to report there is no ancient wisdom on this topic.

It seems as if we had no problems with self love in the past. So, what the hell went wrong?

The ancients gave us a three way understanding of love eros,  philia, and agape. Eros is the passionate love you feel towards your lover. Philia is a feeling of fondness and loyalty toward your friends, family and even abstract things and disciplines. Agape is best understood through a religious prism as an all encompassing love towards  god and humanity, that is passionate yet not seeking reciprocity. Even later variations such as courtly love, have something in common with the Greek notions of love. Love is relational. In the past it was sufficient to love something external to your self. One could love their lover, child, god, ideas… Thus the obvious question is  when did the subject that loves also become the object of that love and why?

The first part of the question is not too difficult to answer. We can find a fantastic explanation in the BBC documentary The Century of the Self. The “great” age of consumerism, which started in the 20th century, put the spotlight on the individual, and that changed the perception of the human life, i.e. how we see ourself and our role in the society. The second part of the question is a bit more tricky, and I will leave it unanswered for the time being.

I will, however, treat  you with some Žižek’s wisdom. I think it serves as an excellent illustration of the self love problem.

“When we love somebody we don’t accept him or her as what the person effectively is. We accept him or her insofar as this person  fits the co-ordinates of our fantasy. We misidentify, wrongly identify him or her, which is why when we discover that we were wrong, love can quickly turn into violence.”

 

This means that when I don’t meet the standards of my fantasy self, when I discover that my fantasy does not convert into reality, I quickly turn violent towards myself. It almost seems a rational thing to do.

So, what does it mean to love yourself?

I’m afraid hearing constant praise or saying super positive affirmations about oneself does not work for everybody.

The only practical advice I can give relates to the Žižek quote, and that is to catch yourself in the fantasy, or better yet, to love yourself means to really get to know yourself as you truly are.

 

And now I’m curious about you dear reader.  What does it mean to you to love yourself?