Back when state-of-the-art communications technology was a xerox copier or a really affordable long-distance landline plan, my friends and I would joke about (Book of) “Kells Syndrome”: The longer a letter or voice-machine message or writing project sat unanswered, the more daunting crafting a “worthy” response became, to the point where only an impossible level of detail and craftsmanship seemed adequate. (The original Book of Kells doesn’t seem to have been finished, either.) Technology has improved mightily since then, but the Kells Syndrom remains, if you accept the arguments Melissa Dahl at NYMag describes as “The Alarming New Research on Perfectionism“:
…[P]erfectionism can be devastatingly destructive, leading to crippling anxiety or depression, and it may even be an overlooked risk factor for suicide, argues a new paper in Review of General Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.
… We tend to see the Martha Stewarts and Steve Jobs and Tracy Flicks of the world as high-functioning, high-achieving people, even if they are a little intense, said lead author Gordon Flett, a psychologist at York University who has spent decades researching the potentially ruinous psychological impact of perfectionism… “[F]or many perfectionists, that “together” image is just an emotionally draining mask and underneath “they feel like imposters,” he said…
But the dangers of perfectionism, and particularly the link to suicide, have been overlooked at least partially because perfectionists are very skilled at hiding their pain. Admitting to suicidal thoughts or depression wouldn’t exactly fit in with the image they’re trying to project. Perfectionism might not only be driving suicidal impulses, it could also be simultaneously masking them.
Still, there’s a distinction between perfectionism and the pursuit of excellence, Greenspon said. Perfectionism is more than pushing yourself to do your best to achieve a goal; it’s a reflection of an inner self mired in anxiety. “Perfectionistic people typically believe that they can never be good enough, that mistakes are signs of personal flaws, and that the only route to acceptability as a person is to be perfect,” he said…
So… maybe this would be a good weekend to pick up that long-avoided project, do the best job you can within the constraints of time/temper/resources, and accept that sometimes half-arsed is better than never?
Apart from such speculation, what’s on the agenda for the day?