Overworked? Over-stressed? Overwhelmed?
These words have become the new norm in our culture’s vocabulary and are how most of us describe how we feel. I recently read an article on NPR about the “New Perfectionism” that has developed in our society. It got me thinking about this unspoken pressure to do everything (and do it well) as we strive towards this unrealistic ideal of perfection.
People are super-stressed, and it’s not just from work. The internet has put a wealth of information at our fingertips, so now when we buy something, we can read 100 customer reviews to find the perfect blender. Our smartphones have millions of apps that let us do things that weren’t possible even just few years ago. And it seems like there’s always a newer version of the iPhone coming out. I just can’t keep up.
What really sums up the New Perfectionism for me is those one-time Kodak cameras. I especially loved the underwater ones. But you had to wait until you got the photos developed to see what you actually captured. Sure, some of the them were blurry, but there was something special about looking through those photos. Today, everyone with a smartphone has a camera on them at all times. Then you can delete, edit, and share that photo within a matter of seconds. Instant gratification. Instant perfection.
Sure, I think it’s important to continue to learn and grow as individuals so we can progress as a societal group. And I agree that a competitive spirit can be beneficial. But how much is too much? These days, it seems like the pressure starts building early. I certainly don’t remember having to interview to get into a top-tier preschool. I went to the preschool that was on the same block as my grandparents’ house, so it was easy for them to pick me up at the end of the day. Parents feel a lot more pressure now to start their kids on the “right track” as early as possible to get them into the best colleges and jobs down the road.
New Perfectionism and growing societal pressures are hard to avoid though. They’re around us every day. That’s why I think it’s so important that we let go every once in a while. Learn to be happy with what you have. Try new things, but don’t feel pressure to be the best at it. We can all live a little more peacefully. So, whenever you feel the need to be perfect, think about that Kodak camera.
I leave you with this quote from the NPR article:
“Information isn’t knowledge. And information that is fast and cheap, like fast, cheap food, isn’t nourishing. But it is hyper-stimulating. And so it is, really, terrifying.
The bottom line seems to be that we know too much, understand too little and we are way too scared of what we might be missing…Seen in this context, our focus on what we put in our mouths and the way we organize our family life can seem almost like a form of madness. It is a symptom. We are overwhelmed.”