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For Those Who Are Perfectionistic...



A very important point for self-reflection. Has our youthful generation become overly conscious of ourselves, to a narcissistic degree of over self-importance? Is our demands for the ideal aesthetic, a customized and polished version of the individual, an obsession with ourselves as the ultimate adaptive social creature, leading us towards excess fragility and anxiety? Why this fixation and compulsion with making ourselves the perfect product?

Why this excessive idealism towards manufactured goals, and this unhealthy self-shaming when we can't achieve it? In this modern age, it feels like the gap between potential and reality is getting narrower. What was once unobtainable seems to be possible, as development and mass culture trickles down into even depraved hands. In relatively egalitarian Western societies, the individual is led to believe they are the master of their own narrative, as self-declared protagonists in a self-directed story, with an endless assortment of tools, facades, symbolisms, lifestyles, expression mediums, representations, and smokescreens available. The competitiveness to get the image "just right" is enormous, and the pressures that we put on each other and ourselves is crazy.

From an Islamic perspective, its in our nature to strive towards perfection, to become an ideal believer and human being, in the image of God's principles. It's natural to feel shame, guilt, and self-consciousness for our shortcomings and misdeeds, and a desire to conceal them (see discussions on veils in Islam). But the key difference is that Islam defines perfection as our base, God-created humanity, and not through the lens of trendy, built up illusions and enhancements, created by mankind as obfuscations. We were created perfect, and we must simply protect and uphold what's already in our natures. Our faces were born perfect, our speech was born perfect, our spirits were born perfect. No lifehacks, PR campaigns, plastic surgeries, role playing, focus grouping, or image building is necessary.

Peace will be felt when we submit to the real creator of our blueprint, of who we really are, rather than painfully burdening ourselves by usurping that role, and manufacturing a quintessential "perfect human", only narrowly useful in this very relative and disposable age. Which is why I believe that narcissism, perfectionism, and the increased self-importance of people is a sign of weakening faith, psychological stress, and social decay, because it questions and replaces the true created perfection of humankind with an artificial and contrived fantasy, often to serve self-interest, commercial needs, or both. 

In short, to Allah, we are perfect and normal as we already are. Leave the creation and shaping of man to him, we must simply live it as he has revealed. Do not put more pressure on yourself than necessary. There is no value in pushing and punishing yourself for failing to meet contrived standards of beauty, behavior, or accomplishment set by the media or whomever else. Love God unconditionally, love yourself as you are, and be yourself. Do not adhere to rigid orthodoxies or values that come from indifferent and corruptible sources. Do not set personal standards for yourself that are based on fantasy or an illusion. Don't let yourself believe you are deficient because you don't have the right trinkets or crack the perfect tooth smile at the camera. Any smile, with sincerity and goodwill, will be important and valued by those who matter. Believe in yourself.


A brief excerpt from an academic paper on this issue of perfectionism among the millennial generation:


Perfectionism & Millennials: How to Treat Perfectionism in Therapy

Posted on November 14, 2013 By Michael Brustein 0 comments

Millennials are often described as entitled with unrealistic expectations regarding their career. They have been referred to as lazy, hyper image-conscious, narcissistic and depressed about a life of mediocrity.  Are the labels and negative stereotypes given to Millennials perpetuated by envious baby boomers? Possibly.  Nonetheless there is some research coinciding with the typical Millennial labels that are thought-provoking.  For example, the majority of middle school girls polled in 2007 would rather be an assistant to a celebrity than a senator or a CEO.  According to a study conducted in 2009 by the Institute of National Health, college students had a 58% increase in narcissism in comparison students assessed in 1982 (Time, 5/20/2013).

I have seen a substantial portion of Millennial patients in my private practice.  My observation about Millennials is that some have narcissism, but they equally appear to be perfectionistic. Perfectionism is when individuals have excessive and rigid goals regarding either self-accomplishments or excessive social expectations of themselves or others.

Having high expectations is not necessarily maladaptive, but the self-punishment and fear of not meeting your own or other’s expectations can be.  Feeling like life is not worth living due to a failed interview or relationship can be an experience a perfectionist may encounter.  Perfectionism can lead to many disorders such as eating disorders, OCD, depression and social anxiety.  Several studies indicate that maladaptive perfectionism is associated with narcissism. A Millennial with caretakers who provide conditional love and have perfectionist tendencies can be prone to narcissism.

In spite of the amount of perfectionism I’ve seen with Millennials, very few articles and research have focused on exploring the connection between Millennials and perfectionism. In general there are few resources on how to treat perfectionists in the therapy situation and that is one reason why I wrote my book on treating perfectionism.

Some of the challenges I experience working with perfectionists is their reluctance to show weakness and desire to portray a positive image.  This can cause perfectionists to conceal their concerns.  Wanting to be the perfect patient, they may praise the therapist and avoid their true feelings.  In other circumstances, a perfectionist’s extreme personal standards may parallel his or her expectations of a therapist.  The therapist is destined to fall short and not be good enough. In therapy with them it is often fascinating to explore how the dynamics they experience with me often parallel intimate relationships and career issues.  This is a topic that I explore in more depth in my book.

As therapists, supervisors and parents of Millennial perfectionists I believe we should strive to recognize their creativity and intelligence and help them hold on to their high goals, but be less punitive if they fall short and instead, help them accept themselves.




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    • Ma sha Allah, i cannot read urdu, but i have converted it by translator.
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Further, is it not the case that the common people among the Jews are like our common people for they [our common people] too follow their scholars, so if it is not permitted for them [the Jews] to accept from their scholars then is it not also impermissible for these [our common people] to accept what their scholars say? He عليه السلام said: Between our common people and our scholars and the laity among the Jews and their scholars there is a difference in one aspect and similarity in another aspect. As far as the similar aspect is concerned then just as Allah censured our common people for the blind following of their scholars He did the same in censuring their common people, but as for the divergent aspect then No [he did not censure it].   قال بيّن لي ذلك يا بن رسول اللَّه قال إنّ عوام اليهود كانوا قد عرفوا علمائهم بالكذب الصريح و بأكل الحرام و الرّشا و بتغيير الأحكام عن واجبها بالشفاعات و العنايات و المصانعات و عرفوهم بالتعصب الشديد الذي يفارقون به أديانهم و إنهم إذا تعصبوا أزالوا حقوق من تعصبوا عليه و اعطوا ما لا يستحقه من تعصبوا له من اموال غيرهم و ظلموهم من أجلهم و عرفوهم يقارفون المحرّمات و اضطروا بمعارف قلوبهم إلى أن من فعل ما يفعلونه فهو فاسق لا يجوز ان يصدق على اللَّه و لا على الوسائط بين الخلق و بين اللَّه فلذلك ذمّهم لما قلّدوا من قد عرفوا و من قد علموا أنّه لا يجوز قبول خبره و لا تصديقه في حكايته و لا العمل بما يؤديه إليهم The Narrator said: Explain it for me O the son of the messenger of Allah. He عليه السلام said: the common people among the Jews knew that their scholars used to lie outright, eat the forbidden wealth, were corrupt, changed the laws from what they should be based on intercession, favours and bribes. They also knew that their scholars were excessively partisan, that they used to split up their religion because of this rivalry and used to trample the rights of those they were against and give those they are partial towards what they do not deserve of the wealth of others, they used to oppress them [the enemies of their allies] to please their biases. They knew them to perpetrate the forbidden. They [the common people] knew it in their hearts [had intrinsic knowledge] that the one who does what they used to do is a Fasiq, and it is not acceptable to consider them truthful in what they attribute to Allah or to the intermediaries between the creation and Allah. That is why He censured them when they followed those they knew for a fact it was forbidden to accept their reports or consider them truthful in what they say, or to act based on what they instruct.   وكذلك عوام امتنا إذا عرفوا من فقهائهم الفسق الظاهر ، والعصبية الشديدة والتكالب على حطام الدنيا وحرامها ، وإهلاك من يتعصبون عليه إن كان لاصلاح أمره مستحقا ، وبالترفق بالبر والاحسان على من تعصبوا له ، وإن كان للاذلال والاهانة مستحقا فمن قلّد من عوامنا مثل هؤلاء الفقهاء، فهم مثل اليهود الذين ذمّهم الله تعالى بالتقليد لفسقة فقهائهم Likewise, the laity of our community, if they recognize signs of clear-cut Fisq from their scholars, extreme partisanship, their turning towards amassing the wealth of this world and its prohibited items, destroying the affair of the one they are biased against even though extending assistance to him is what is appropriate,  showing compassion, good-will and charity to the one they are biased towards even thought humiliating and chastising them is the appropriate response - then the one among our common people who follows such Fuqaha are like the Jews and those who are censured by Allah the Elevated because of their following of corrupt scholars. فأما من كان من الفقهاء صائناً لنفسه، حافظاً لدينه، مخالفاً لهواه، مطيعاً لأمر مولاه، فللعوام أن يقلدوه. وذلك لا يكون إلاّ بعض فقهاء الشيعة، لا جميعهم فان من يركب من القبائح و الفواحش مراكب فسقة فقهاء العامّة فلا تقبلوا منهم عنا شيئاً و لا كرامة لهم. As for the one among the Fuqaha who protects his soul, preserves his religion, opposes his caprice [desires], and obeys the command of his Master then it is upon the laity to follow him. There are only some of the Fuqaha of the Shia who are like this, not all. As for those who perpetrate the despicable and abominable acts the way the `Amma [proto-Sunni] scholars do then do not not accept from them about us anything and they are not to be honoured.