People aspire to perfection every day. Whether the perfect painting, poem, or oil change, it’s somewhere in humanity’s DNA to do its very best at whatever it attempts. Even if the ability to do it perfectly isn’t there, the attempt often is. And that tendency is particularly dangerous to people with bipolar disorder.
- Perfectionistic tendencies can crop up in other disorders, but often somewhere in the back of the person’s mind, he or she knows that perfection is not of this world. But not the bipolar person. In the throes of mania, perfection is not only attainable, it’s a requirement.
- Mania often brings with it a blindness to its own excesses called anosognosia. You don’t realize you are acting out your bipolar excesses. Imagine cleaning your whole house with a toothbrush and actually enjoying it because you don’t realize that doing it some other way is just as good. In mania, “good enough” is not in your vocabulary.
- Perfectionism can blind you to the merits of the good work you do. Imagine being a writer and destroying all of your written words at the end of the day because they aren’t perfect. You wouldn’t get much written that way. Imagine trashing a week’s worth of group project work because of a minor imperfection in the colors of a graph. No employer is going to tolerate that kind of tendency for very long.
- Perfectionism can stop you in your tracks while depressed. In the depressed state, a bipolar person may go into “analysis paralysis” coming up with all the ways the new project can go wrong and conclude that there is no use in continuing with it. You can stop yourself in your tracks from starting anything new because of the power of your intellect to generate obstacles to perfect work.
- How do you combat perfectionism in a bipolar mood state? By realizing that all you can do is all you can do. Perfection is an impossible standard, attained only by the Perfect Holy One, Jesus. “Good enough” is good enough in housecleaning, laundry folding, and various tasks at work.
Not that you shouldn’t strive for your best, but realize that you are human and have limits. Perfectionism can be a tool of The Enemy that can rob you of the satisfaction of accomplishing all you can in the kingdom of God through His strength, not your own.
Julie Whitehead currently writes and blogs from Mississippi at her personal blog. She has been a university lecturer, a disability examiner, and a freelance writer. She carries a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and blogs to create awareness and help others understand the disease and its effects.