How to be a better perfectionist in 99 easy steps

In schools and other settings, we get scared by social pressure so that we think in terms of “only one right way.” Then, we may be so intimidated that we learn to suppress the display of fear (to avoid more harassment).

That set-up often corresponds to “hysterical loyalty” to “the only right way.” Eventually we may realize that there are so many different versions of “the only right way.” That can be a problem… so we may isolate in to groups of “like-minded people who are like me.”

Then, we realize that even within the most ultra-perfectionist group, like how I was when I was a vegan, all of that perfectionism is just a way to promote seclusion. People want to retreat from social harassment, so they isolate in to smaller and smaller groups that are sure they are “better” then everyone else, which justifies their remoteness. Instead of just saying, “I get overwhelmed by social conflict,” I just begin with a huge barrier that I invent and sustain.

Since way over 90% of people are not vegan, being a vegan made me “special.” Or, that gave me a convenient excuse for massively reducing the number of people that I considered “appealing” as social companions.

I was obsessed with identifying the “perfect” practices (in regard to diet or dozens of other things), then I occasionally “broke” my own rules. It was a recipe for guilt. I kept making my “recipe for perfection” more and more challenging (as in more and more impossible) and so I was consistently anxious about “being perfect constantly.” It was a state of great tension, like agonizing over perfectionism, producing anxiety or misery or even agony… like as in insomnia-level intensity of anxiety.

Maybe I could heroically cure the world of all the things that I condemned. Or, if I wanted more free time, I suppose I could reduce the list of things to hysterically condemn.

All that perfectionism and condemnation (and campaigning for heroic reform) can get a bit exhausting. So, then I got interested in adaptiveness.

But adaptiveness can take many forms. I look back on my entire history of “agonizing over perfectionism” as adaptive within the social contexts familiar to me.

When there is social pressure to blindly conform to the dictates of “the authority” with no room for critical thinking, like in a typical science classroom (in my own youth at least), what is adaptive? To be adaptive in that case could be to adopt the anti-science orientation of “I know this is true because this is what I wrote down on the science test and the science teacher gave me credit for this answer.”

If that is the best way to adjust to the social pressure of those indoctrination rituals, then that is the social display that we will learn. Some of us may know from the beginning that it is all a pretense, but still play along. Some of us may be more hysterical and think of it as very different from learning lines in drama class.

If we think of memorizing doctrines about science as being the same as learning lines in a drama class, then we do not get pompous and arrogant. Or, if the script calls for us to display arrogance and contempt for those who dare to question the dictates of the infallible FDA, then we can practice that role as well.

Do I get disturbed by people calling themselves scientists but then displaying no respect for scientific inquiry? Let me check my script….
Am I portraying the role of the hysterical “scientist” in this scene? Or, am I portraying the role of the hysterical anti-hysteria protester?

Or, am I going to practice some lines that may be new for me: “I really admire that all these people loudly condemn the things that they consider offensive and disturbing. I also really admire anyone who quietly judges others without harassing or ridiculing anyone. Basically, I respect everyone in general, whether or not they respect anyone else. However, me respecting other people means getting to know them, which leads to admiring some people more than others. Plus, even in the same person, I admire some things about them a lot while finding some other things less intriguing or appealing.”

In fact, I met a few people last weekend who eat vegan diets (mostly or entirely). I liked them. They seemed to me focused on the potential advantages (or disadvantages) to them of a vegan diet. They were not offended by “non-vegans.”

I ate a vegan diet for a while. I have even done it lately for up to 7 hours at a time (a meatless salad for one meal, then some gluten-free pasta, etc). One thing I have learned is that I prefer relating to vegan as one type of diet instead of relating to vegan as one type of person.

Also, I just decided to make up that there is no such thing (for me) as a perfectionist. That is no longer recognized as a type of person. Perfectionist is just a description for a type of behavior.

For instance, apparently some people actually think that they are better at perfectionism than I am. That is understandable though. They just must not know me very well.

I see their hysterical, divisive, condescending political posts about other people being hysterical and divisive and condescending. Good for them. Then I think to myself “hey, most people are going to have to go through a stage of being amateur social bullies before they are skilled enough to go pro.”


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