Thursday, December 20, 2012

Perfectionism, not so in

I have touched on this topic umpteen times, simply because I suffer from OCD myself, of several types, including not being satisfied with what one does:) So, here, while writing these columsn-- (for India Abroad, and once before that, for Mid-day, I found out that it is so not so great to say you are a perfectionist:)

Click to get cool Animations for your MySpace profile
Free MySpace Animations! There is a Zen saying:
The foolish person, no faults. The sagacious person, several faults. 

Biology of perfectionism:
Neurotic perfectionism  is  linked to abnormal  levels of serotonin, a neuro chemical. People with low serotonin levels extract a heavy toll on themselves, due to low self-esteem which they try to work off through constant striving. On the hand, high serotonin levels aggravate anxiety levels, keeping the person in a keyed up, over-stimulated state which spawns perfectionism. Serotonin, linked to brain’s reward center,  modifies behavior and judgment, which get impaired.  External approval turns crucial.

Perfectionism, contrary to social myths, is a dirty word in medical circles, associated with the Type A personality  prone to degenerative diseases, including circulatory, digestive problems. It’s no more a badge of honor. Researches prove not only do perfectionists have disastrous marital and social relationships (their constant nagging pulps their partner’s confidence), their behavior makes them unsuitable for risky assignments since their nit-picking prevents them from completing  tasks satisfactorily. 

Perfectionism turns neurotic when a person always despairs over a completed task even when done extremely well, engages in self-flagellation over minor lapses, avoids a job or procrastinates due to fear of failure, or perceives catastrophic mountains where there are only harmless molehills.

Then, say researchers, you may be a candidate for heart ailments, depression, eating disorders, allergies and auto-immune problems. Perfectionism is also symptomatic of nightmares like obsessive compulsive personality disorder, procrastination, phobias and addictive behavior.

It affects exercise regimens too. The perfectionist becomes so addicted that he or she will not allow the normal rest period between bouts of exercise to allow the muscle to repair and grow. Similarly, perfectionism creates eating disorders as serotonin levels yo-yo, creating anorexia or bulimia.

In yoga you can spot this trait amongst those who are never happy with their achievement on the mat. Amongst those who do not rest between practices, but try to cram too much in too little time.  Or those who over-do their pranayama or breathing practices, entering into dangerous zones where they can perpetually and irreversibly harm their body or mind. Or who meditate even if their mind is unprepared for this advance practice. Or amongst those who go to austere extremes to speed up their spiritual advances. In fact, yoga texts are also clear that certain practices may never be done on their own, even seemingly intermediate level practices like the samanu pranayama.  This is precisely to contain the perfectionist’s  hunger for over-reaching himself or herself in the field of  yoga.

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