Perfectionism and Neoliberalism


I don't have the time or bandwidth today to write anything of length today, so I wanted to point you all to this Jacobin article about Neoliberalism and Perfectionism. It's a well-researched and thought-out piece on the effects of neoliberalism on mental health

One key paragraph struck me a particularly relevant to my work: 

"One consequence of this rise in perfectionism, Curran and Hall argue, has been a series of epidemics of serious mental illness. Perfectionism is highly correlated with anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The constant compulsion to be perfect, and the inevitable impossibility of the task, exacerbate mental-illness symptoms in people who are already vulnerable. Even young people without diagnosable mental illnesses tend to feel bad more often, since heightened other-oriented perfectionism creates a group climate of hostility, suspicion, and dismissiveness — in which the jury is always out on everyone, pending group appraisal — and socially prescribed perfectionism involves an acute recognition of that alienation. In short, the repercussions of rising perfectionism range from emotionally painful to literally deadly."

This, in a nutshell, is the idea I've been struggling with in therapy. A good many people in our culture are feeling depressed and anxious, despite having all their basic needs taken care of. And they often blame themselves for feeling that way. But what if they aren't to blame? What if the culture is broken? What do we do then?