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Perfectionist Pursuits

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

.“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”
― Ecclesiastes 11:4

Perfection is a relative condition. Your ideal self might be a nightmare for another. The ideal number, an ideal form: one’s relative impression of what-should-be is a self-defined determinant.

As with many pitfalls of consciousness, one’s ability to self-justify perfectionism provides the warm balm in the face of cognitive dissonance. Faced with the question, “Am I taking this too far?” or “Have I finally lost control”, one’s list of past successes lights the way to justify behavior. Greet the doubt with explanation: the reason for success, my only saving grace. A spiraled list is possible as one’s quest for something higher assumes a risk for a reward. We exist in a world where great risk takers have been rewarded for their efforts. Read a biography of Steve Jobs and one will note the list of anecdotal moments of perfectionist tantrums. Can we link this need to his success. Be wary readers, correlation is not causation and one wonders just how many great ideas were lost by Jobs’ obsession with a perfect shade of blue.

Ironically, the quest to understand perfectionism involves an on-going struggle for a “perfect” model. Frost’s Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale” appeared in 1990. Its six item breakdown of common ‘perfectionist’ features lasted but a single year as Hewitt and Flett’s model of 1991 expanded the list to forty-five items. Then again a change was needed and in 1996 with the Slaney model titled “Almost-Perfect Scale” a broader sense was founded. In 2000’s, Daniels and Pierce made an attempt. Yes, the quest remains in progress: never perfect, always striving.

Despite the numerous models, a common collection of personality traits appear in the models. In general, these revolve around an obsession with the self. It branches far and wide and swarms to encompass every aspect of one’s life. Whether physical or mental, the quest for perfectionism casts one into an impossible gauntlet of needing more. Never perfect, always striving. “I refuse to be content.”

Ultimately, the solution lies not with perfecting the personal piggy bank of life. To make the fix? You need to break the pig. To be perfect is impossible, so to crack the need is to solve the puzzle. The solution to perfectionism lies within the heart of the perfectionist: accept yourself for who you are and come to terms with the ugly, stinky mess that is existence here and now.

 

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By That Which We Carry

August 6, 2012 Leave a comment

The items we choose to carry with us reveal much about both who we are and how we want the world to perceive us. Identities are created and suggested in our actions and via these accessories we extend these notions outward. In many ways our media is a mirror of our own individual tasks at “persona creation” and offer a glimpse into the means by which we say who we are to others.

The items which fill our pockets come from choices. Consumer culture has long understood the power of branding and the tribal tendencies of human being. We do more than simply own a phone; instead, that phone is a device of numerous connections from which we can be categorized. An “Apple User” or “IPhone Owner” means less about the company and product and more about we as individual and consumer who has made a decision.

There is power in choice and judging the effects of our choices is the basis of many details of life. Bad decisions suggest flawed character and, vice inversely, notions of bad character come about when evaluating one’s choices. How we we establish who a person is? Limited as we are with our ability to penetrate the psyche, the raw evidence of choices and character function as the basis of our conclusions.

Actors and Characters

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

One consequence of a society with such a rich cultural legacy is an automatic application of narrative to explain events and people in reality. We ask “Does art reflect reality or does reality reflect art?” A question suggestive of the constant interplay between our creations and our surrounding. The question remains unanswered because it is a paradox: there is no distinction because all art is from reality and all reality stems directly from art. Does objectivity even exist, or has our subjective reality (art) so educated our perspectives that all our truths are invisibly knotted with the narratives of our world.

As an application of this idea, consider the ways in which we seek to understand a new politician. In a situation where an unknown figure emerges and draws immediate attention, the general public draws comparisons of this new figure with the futures of old. We trace physical features of previous leaders, common political opinions or forms of delivery to categorize the new figure. There was only ever one original politician, every figure that followed thereafter was an amalgamation of all who came before. Just as we use previous figures to understand the figure, the figure used these models when formulating his/her political character.

From the cognitive frame of history and legacy we formulate our heroes and villains. There are no new figures; instead the leaders in society are configurations of great figures of the past.

It is not only leaders who use these “models of legacy” in formulating identity. Ironically, figures who aim to break away from society utilize images of previous misfits and social pariahs to create their own formulation of alienation. Social misfits display a keen observation when crafting their anti-social identities with clear ties to anti-social figures of the past. Legacies of physical characteristics, dress patterns and speech behavior are re-applied as a device of the anti-social figure to create an easily identifiable character that both he/she and society at large will recognize as anti-social.

We subscribe to the process of categorization as a means to better understand the diversity of population. A world of infinite variety, wherein great heroes and great villains show no distinguishing features leaves us unable to identify their role in reality. As a means of making sense and drawing connection these common features are used both audience and actor to suggest identity and assist in interpretation.

Unwrapped: Gift Giving and Influence

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The process of purchasing a gift is a complicated process. When we finally reach the check-out and exchange our money for an item we reach the culmination of a series of complicated maneuverings used to inform our selection. What begins as a simple question, “What should I buy him?” becomes a slippery slope of musings that reveal much about who we are, who we perceive our friends to be and the person we hope to present. A thoughtful gift is far more than just an item to make life easier: a shopper who sincerely seeks out the “perfect” gift ventures into a complicated maze of assumptions and compromises.

Our initial thoughts will focus solely on the receiver of our gift. We begin by wondering what the person needs, seeking out an item that can make their life easier. We have the best of intentions at this stage and see the list of potential gifts as endless. It is only in the marketplace that we begin to compromise and narrow down the list based on item availability, cost or the factors of our own life that affect our venture for the perfect gift. Even in situations where a perfect gift is found we begin to tweak our perspectives to the issue of what the gift communicates about us and develop ideas on the reaction of the receiver when this potential gift is received. Suddenly a simple process becomes an act of physical communication which extends far beyond the simplicity of the initial notion.

Gradually the receiver’s needs and wants becomes a secondary factor, replaced at this stage with our personal concepts of who we are and how we want the receiver to perceive us. We begin to look for an item that communicates the identity we project to the receiver of the gift. We see a similar behavior when we buy gifts for family, friends and colleagues. Each gift is closely tied to the person we aim to project. Our gifts become extensions of these identities and minor items loaded with important symbolic power.

Our gifts are projections of the identities we present to the world. Just like our gifts which are wrapped snug in paper disguises, we present a similar distorted perspective to the world. When our gifts are open we unveil both our selection and the perception we aim to transfer. Gifts are rich in symbolic power and function as a yearly reminder of who we are and who it is we want the world to perceive.

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