Shifting paradigms

Apologies for this late post. It took me a while to think of an example where I identified my own paradigm, which shows just how seamlessly they are integrated with our world view.

I remember since grade 6 I have been adamant about the idea of being a ‘perfect’ person, maybe because someone randomly told me I was so. Although my perfectionism showed up in my work, I remember when I was younger it was more about being able to do everything, being able to excel on the swim team, doing the production, doing service, dancing, academics of course as well, and I wanted to be the best at them all.

Fast forward to grade 9/ 10. I was hit by the procrastination bug. It started with me doing my assignments last minute and later in the year ended up with me submitting one task 2 months late. I had trouble communicating with my gpers teacher why I had pushed my work back so much because I myself did not understand why. So instead of talking to her about it, I avoided the subject. On the due date, when I still sat with a blank document, I shyly approached her asking her for an extension. Thank god my teacher was the most patient person. She kindly extended the deadline for me. This problem persisted for a couple more submissions, and then she decided to talk to me about it. She told me that the reason for my procrastination is a result of my fear of failure and my desire to be perfect in the first attempt. Until then I had associated my procrastination with laziness, but when she talked to me about perfectionism, it all made so much sense. One of my biggest insecurity is my writing skills, especially when someone else has to read it. So I delayed working on my assignment until I had the most polished idea in my head, and the best vision of how to structure my writing, even before I got to writing the first word. How ridiculous is that! I was also too afraid to ask for help because it would often be 2 days before the deadline and the teacher would see I haven’t started my work. And besides, a perfect person would know how to deal with a problem themselves without asking for help right? (I have now realised that this reluctance to ask for help is my ego)

Although I realised that I viewed my actions through the paradigm of perfectionism, back in grade 9/10, I only recently understood the ridiculous nature of this paradigm. In the summer, I read a book called Culture is the Body, by Takashi Suzuki, for my EE. Just for a little context, Suzuki is a theatre practitioner who has devised a method of actor training dedicated to building the will and expressive faculties of an actor. And unlike Stanavslavki, a practitioner who takes more of a phycological approach to acting, Suzuki’s training is very physical and has a set structure and technique that needs to be followed. In the introduction of the book, Kameron Steele, a member of Suzuki’s theatre company, talks about the asymptotic relationship between an actor and perfection. He says that it is impossible for an actor to perfect the technique of Suzuki’s training, but in every training session, they get that much closer to being ‘perfect’. Such a simple idea right? One we are constantly reminded of. He also spoke about living in the question rather and in the answer, which means dwell less on the outcome and instead focus on the process. Ideas that I had heard so many times over the years suddenly made so much sense to me when I read this book. I started to understand the value of redrafting work and started to realise how ludicrous it was of me to expect myself to write anything perfectly in the first go.

Throughout all of this, I also realised how I viewed myself and others through a different paradigm. I am able to easily accept someone even though they are not perfect, and would easily preach to friends about how nonsensical it is to be perfect at everything. But I would continue to critique myself through this paradigm of perfectionism. I always knew I was being a hypocrite but I never found it wrong to hold myself to a much higher standard.

But now that I have realised that I carry this paradigm, I am working on being kinder to myself. I have realised that I could do all the activities in the world and be perfect at them all, only if I did them all in parallel universes. This paradigm is still far from disappearing, but It is on its way out. Although I am still afraid if I lose it, I won’t have the same drive to work. But I am working on understanding the concept of ‘doing the best in your own context’

So now getting to the CU- How easily a person shifts paradigms is dependent on how long they have been accustomed to their original paradigm and what they perceive to be the ramifications of adopting another paradigm.

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    No problem with late post. “Late and great” is better (in this context) than ‘fine and on time” – but as soon as I say that, I wonder if somewhere in me is exactly the same idea of asymptotic perfection as you mention! (what’s wrong with *fine?*)

    And thank you for this reflective and honest post. I think you might like to have a conversation with Samiha, as she addressed the same paradigm.

    Here’s what I said to her:

    The ‘perfectionism’ paradigm. I honestly think it is one of the most toxic paradigms there is – but it is what is pedalled in our culture. The world and life is not perfect, and if we expect it to be, then we will always be disappointed. Maybe we should call it the disappointment paradigm!

    I have written about that here –

    and slighyl tangentally here
    (see last few paras especially)

    I think your self-awareness is such that you are already addressing it here – but I suspect that the ‘battle’ over this sort of thing is an ongoing one, as it is rather counter-cultural.

    Thank you for this post. You can see, I think, why this is such an important topic – more like PSE than TOK.

    In fact, can I take your blog and use it in one of mine – I would anonymise it and use quotes, not the whole thing. I think it’s such an important thing; and at the root of some of the wellbeing issues we see around the school.

    Well done.


    • Reply

      Hi Mr. Alchin,

      Thank you for your comment. Sure, you can use parts of the post if you like 🙂
      Thank you for linking your posts here, I will hopefully get around to reading them sometime this weekend.

  2. Samiha Reply

    I think this post is refreshingly honest and enlightening. As Mr. Alchin pointed out, I also addressed the same paradigm and understand your struggles.

    Love you <3

    • Reply

      Thank you for showing your support Samiha!

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