Perfectionism and addiction

The equal and opposite reaction to my forward motion: perfectionism and addiction.

I’ve known for a while that I’m stranded in a compulsion loop centered around online content. I just didn’t know what exactly I was addicted to. At first I thought it was social media and manga, but just when I thought I’ve unshackled my time and attention from them, I found myself tethered to YouTube videos.

Nicholas Carr explained it best:

When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning. It’s possible to think deeply while surfing the net, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards. We’ve begun to sacrifice other modes of thinking, particularly those that require sustained attention and concentration, which involve contemplation, reflection, introspection. We can be very efficient, very productive, without those modes of thought, but as human beings we become flatter, less interesting, less intellectually distinctive and adventurous. I think as well that our ideas and our decisions tend to become narrower, more derivative, as we lose the richness of deep, idiosyncratic thought.

This is where I am now. I am documenting my relapse because I want to break the cycle and move forward.

The trigger was a job application — the trial phase, in particular. This is the third time something like this has happened in the last two months:

  1. First, I apply for the job out of necessity.
  2. Then I ignite my interest in it by imagining how fun or easy it would be, and how perfect I’d be for the role.
  3. I get pumped after the initial interview because I always find clues to my deepest desires when I’m asked to describe my work experience, what my strengths are, why I’ve decided to apply.
  4. The brush with my ideals make me high, and it’s a long way down to the realities of the actual job — which I crash down to when the trial assignment is sent to me.

I’ve been told by a therapist that my paralysis likely stems from perfectionism. If the idealist has an arch-enemy, it's the fact that everything in life is going to be less than the perfection they’ve imagined. Turning to cynicism was the easiest response. For much of my adult life I thought it was smarter to anticipate pain than to hope.

It wasn't. There’s defeat and ugliness, but they don’t preclude hope and beauty. It took me a long time to get here, but I think I'm slowly coming to terms with the concurrent nature of pain and hope

When I couldn’t deal with the discomfort of imperfection, I turned to the internet’s endless supply of superficial entertainment. It was a balm I needed to re-apply constantly and so the stimulus-dopamine pathway was soon solidified. It became an addiction.

I used to think that acknowledging my perfectionism would eliminate my addiction, but that’s my idealism at work. Of course it’s not that easy. Going against my perfectionism and healing from addiction is day-by-day work and I’m here for it.

*ᴼⁿᵉ ᵒᶠ ᵗʰᵉ ᵇᶦᵍᵍᵉˢᵗ ᵗʰʳᵉᵃᵗˢ ᵗᵒ ᵃⁿʸ ᶜʳᵉᵃᵗᶦᵛᵉ ᵖʳᵒʲᵉᶜᵗ ᶦˢ ᵃˡˡᵒʷᶦⁿᵍ ᵗʰᵉ ᵖᵒᵗᵉⁿᵗᶦᵃˡ ᶠᵒʳ ᵗʰᵉ ᵗʰᶦⁿᵍ ᵗᵒ ˢᵘᵇᵛᵉʳᵗ ʸᵒᵘʳ ᵃᵇᶦˡᶦᵗʸ ᵗᵒ ᵐᵃᵏᵉ ᶦᵗ. ᴵᵗ’ˢ ᵉᵃˢʸ ᵗᵒ ᵇᵉ ˢᵉᵈᵘᶜᵉᵈ ᵇʸ ᵗʰᵉ ʷᵒʳˡᵈ ᵒᶠ ᵖᵒᵗᵉⁿᵗᶦᵃˡᶦᵗʸ. ᴬ ᵇᵒᵒᵏ ᶦˢ ᵃˡʷᵃʸˢ ᵍʳᵉᵃᵗᵉˢᵗ ᵇᵉᶠᵒʳᵉ ᶦᵗ’ˢ ʷʳᶦᵗᵗᵉⁿ. ʸᵒᵘ ᵃʳᵉ ᶦⁿᵗᵒˣᶦᶜᵃᵗᵉᵈ ᵇʸ ʷʰᵃᵗ ᶦᵗ ᶜᵃⁿ ᵇᵉ. ᵀʰᵃᵗ’ˢ ᵛᵉʳʸ ᵈᵃⁿᵍᵉʳᵒᵘˢ. ʸᵒᵘ ʷᵃⁿᵗ ᵗᵒ ᵏᶦˡˡ ᵗʰᵒˢᵉ ˢᵉᵈᵘᶜᵗᶦᵒⁿˢ ᵃˢ ᵠᵘᶦᶜᵏˡʸ ᵃˢ ᵖᵒˢˢᶦᵇˡᵉ, ᵃⁿᵈ ᵒⁿᵉ ʷᵃʸ ᵗᵒ ᵃᶜʰᶦᵉᵛᵉ ᵗʰᵃᵗ ᶦˢ ᶠᵃˢᵗ ᶦᵗᵉʳᵃᵗᶦᵒⁿ. ᴹᵃᵏᵉ ᵏⁿᵒʷⁿ ᵗʰᵉ ᵘⁿᵏⁿᵒʷⁿ; ᵐᵘʳᵈᵉʳ ʸᵒᵘʳ ᶠᵃⁿᵗᵃˢᶦᵉˢ. ⁻ᶜʳᵃᶦᵍ ᴹᵒᵈ