Escape the perfect trap

Vivian Schulte, 29, puts cucumber slices on a kitchen scale, weighs them accurately, and records the results into a computer. Before eating yogurt or tofu, she will scan the barcode on the package to understand the precise content of fat, protein and carbohydrate.

Shu Qierte weighs 56 kg. Considering her height of 1.68 meters, this is a very healthy normal weight, but her goal is to achieve optimal body fat distribution. She enters data like this: organic curd, Edgar supermarket, 200 grams; blueberries, bulk, 100 grams; 40 minutes of jogging, 9.6 km/h… The software will give a corresponding evaluation.

This way of life, she persisted for half a year, and then was exhausted and interrupted. “I am too demanding of my body.” She said, “Think carefully, this is a game that is completely unnecessary to participate in. I may eventually lose the ability to perceive the true needs of the body. Moreover, it is difficult to achieve success Feeling, because you always need to do better.”

Shu Qierte has a doctorate in psychology, is also a fitness coach, and has a book on sports. Now, she no longer always counts, and no longer cares about the number of cucumbers and calories, or the 120 stairs from the mailbox to the door of the house. “I used to put too much pressure on myself,” she said. “Now my lifestyle has completely changed, and I feel very satisfied.”

The era of self-optimization
There are many people like Shu Qierte. They want to achieve their goals, achieve success, stay healthy, and have strong mobility. In the process, they all reap pain. Experts call this pursuit of perfection “self-optimization.” For such a popular attitude to life, some conservatives have only defined it as a “trend”, and some scientists have called the 21st century “the era of self-optimization.”

“A lot of people must participate in a variety of workplace projects, and they are constantly facing new challenges in life.” Sociologist Greta Wagner described the status quo. After studying how social competition affects people’s behavior, she concluded that today’s workplace requires employees who “have as many skills as possible and can respond flexibly to new challenges.” This is stressful.

People try to save time by optimizing themselves.

This pressure is not only reflected in work and partner relationships. Personalized society provides us with countless options. In recent years, the number of university majors, mobile phone bill packages, types of noodles, and educational methods have multiplied, and people have to choose more and more. Even some trivial daily choices are still seeking the best.

Strong desire to optimize myself: am I perfect enough?

“We have noticed that even taking a yoga or fitness class now is like participating in a competition, because like the next step in workplace planning, the best way to relax is also part of the plan.” Attention trainer Selma Polat-Men It can be said. Others believe that self-optimization means happiness, success, and development. People can rely on their own power to become more confident and wealthy, which is a kind of liberation.

It can be said that mankind is able to adapt to the changing environment precisely because of its constant pursuit of perfection. “Now, the trend of self-optimization has become more extreme than ever.” Philosophy professor Dagmar Finn concluded in his newly published book “Self-Optimization and Improvement”. “The perfection people pursue today is extremely diverse, which we couldn’t imagine 30 years ago.” Psychiatrist George Ukel said, “Some people just can’t make appointments with a popular nail studio. Service, weeping and weeping.”

Is this already morbid? Or is it still within the normal range? Why are people so persistently pursuing a more perfect self? How can we liberate from the huge pressure brought by this kind of competitiveness?

Many people, like nurses or fitness coaches, study body curves and measure their pulse, sleep cycle and mental state in their quiet state. Some Europeans store their body data in a microchip implanted under the skin, and send the values ​​to a software by radio, and based on these data streams, come up with a new formula for a better life. Books with titles like “Better Body, Better Brain-Completely Restart the Program in Four Weeks” are very popular. Thousands of personal trainers, life consultants and plastic surgeons promise to customers that they will make the greatest possible progress and change.

Germany performed a total of 922,000 plastic surgery last year, which is one of the countries with the largest number of cosmetic procedures in the world. Among them, the number of anti-wrinkle botulinum toxin injections is about 320,000, occupying the first place, more than 57400 times for upper eyelid lift, in addition to liposuction and lip repair, eye bags have disappeared from more and more faces Too. It is said that young and energetic people are more likely to get promoted and raise salaries than those who cannot manage their bodies. This logic is also part of the reason for self-optimizing thinking.

According to the latest data from the DAK Health Insurance Health Report, 730,000 German employees use stimulants such as Ritalin in order to achieve greater workplace success or remain energetic after get off work, even if doctors have not prescribed these drugs to them. Others will take drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, and even college students will take drugs to enhance their motivation to learn.

“Generally speaking, these drugs are no different from placebos in healthy people, and the slight increase in sobriety and concentration will soon disappear.” said psychiatrist Claus Lip. He repeatedly pointed out that these “brain drugs” have great side effects, including dizziness, irritability, dependence and sleep disorders, and may also induce mental disorders such as depression or mental illness.

Lipp warned that this trend of seeking the best would increase the risk of existing diseases. Although the number of psychiatric patients has not increased, continuous self-optimization may trigger or aggravate the fear state, depression stage, addiction level or aggressive behavior of people with this tendency. In addition, continuous performance pressure also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease or chronic pain. About 1/10 of Germans feel this kind of pressure, 40% of Germans always feel exhausted, and about half of primary and secondary school students think that the pressure on class is very high.

Not everyone will fall into a crisis because of this, after all, they put high demands on themselves and then work hard for them, which is very normal in life. Lipp said: “A moderate amount of stress and a certain degree of tension can enhance our concentration, thereby enhancing our ability to work and improving our work results.”

Self-arming in the digital world
In the West, since the Enlightenment in the 18th century, the idea that everyone has to be responsible for himself has penetrated into the hearts of the people. Now, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and refugee problems caused by climate change are disturbing, and concerns about the degradation of social status are also growing. University graduation is no longer a guarantee of a comfortable life. Even some elites in the workplace who have good job prospects will worry that competitors from other regions in the globalized world will make them lose their jobs.

Our lives are becoming more and more difficult to plan, so self-optimization also means self-arming. Older Germans can still remember those sudden disasters, bomb-ravaged nights and terrible hunger, and now people must pass various examinations and constantly self-doubt.

Psychology doctor Schulte said: “A fully digital world allows us to comment and compare anytime, anywhere.” She explores the consequences of this information flow in her new book. “Of course, it also has a completely positive effect,” she said. “For example, an electronic nutrition diary can help overweight people lose weight more effectively.” But more importantly, the information flow in the digital world has completely changed people’s self-perception. Warm discussion and publicity of achievements, countless beautiful photos that have been refined-compared with so many highlight moments of others, it is inevitable that your life needs improvement.

Everyone is pursuing better, more, and more beautiful. However, how good is good?

The 36-year-old Benjamin Wendhof worked in the architecture department of the Technical University of Cologne before, always working in front of a computer, eating, or falling asleep with a laptop on his knees. “I always stay online and search for materials for my projects.” He said, “At the same time, of course, I will also look around from time to time: What do other people think? How are they progressing? Where am I? But actually In the end, in the constant comparison, the huge pressure to achieve results makes me feel powerless.”

Later, he will write a doctoral dissertation on the theme of “creativity” and develop a theory that integrates art, brain research, philosophy and pedagogy. He said that being responsible for such research topics was an honor for him, but it also brought great pressure. Tormented by the fruitless days, he finally hesitated to find a doctor to prescribe Ritalin after a long time. After taking the medicine, he still felt exhausted, empty of heart, and had no interest in life. Six weeks later, he began to receive psychotherapy.

Now he changed his job and only worked half a day, but had to sell his motorcycle cheaply, and he couldn’t buy so many sports shoes, because the half salary could not keep him from his original lifestyle. He has regained his freedom, but at the same time he feels the decline of his social status.

Enhance self-awareness through self-exploitation
Sociologist Wagner said that people’s autonomy in work today has greatly increased, but there are risks behind it. For many people, self-determination means working longer hours or even exploiting themselves. Wagner commented: “Employees are increasingly responsible for the company’s achievements, and their demands for stress resistance are becoming higher and higher. Employers exert heavy self-optimization pressure on employees in the name of concern.” When attending an interview, you have to explain how you will stay healthy in a high-pressure environment and ensure work efficiency.

Nowadays, many companies have yoga studios, hoping employees to become healthier and more efficient, or to provide attention training courses for employees to keep their inner peace through meditation and other methods. “We have to observe carefully what the goals of these courses are.” Attention trainer Polat Menke said, “The purpose of concentration training is not to eliminate injustice or extinguish employees’ anger toward workplace abuse through meditation, but more Know your true feelings well.”

Today, there are so many people who succumb to the trend of self-optimization. It is considered an achievement to not have to read work emails after 21:00. Tiredness and stomach pain at work are often overlooked. The addiction clinic opened by the psychiatrist Axel Schmidt also provides consulting services for business leaders. He said: “The spiral of self-optimization is about gaining affirmation, self-doubt and integration into the mainstream. People have exhausted their energy in this triangular area. We need the affirmation of others, and in the kindergarten we have learned to meet the expectations of others in order to be the best. Good affirmation.”

“Simply put, many people’s self-awareness is very weak.” Dr. Youkel added, “They try to enhance their own value through workplace achievements, wealth, or as perfect a body as possible.” According to psychoanalysis theory, the behind The reason is that people’s inner narcissism hopes to see their own value through the applause of others, so that people with weak self-awareness can also feel good about themselves, thereby loving themselves and accepting themselves.

The progress of civilization has taught mankind to use narcissism to obtain benefits. “Narcissism gave birth to great art, music and leadership personality,” Dr. Schmidt said. “But beyond applause and affirmation, we also need intimacy and happy moments that don’t value results. If one of these Some of them have developed very unevenly, so with only one storm, the foundation of his survival may be uprooted.”

Think more about your funeral
Like many personality traits, how a person’s sense of self-worth develops depends largely on his childhood experience. Unbalanced and insecure children will imagine that they are very powerful in order to balance their inner defects, but the result is that they will overestimate themselves and eventually build unrealistic self-awareness. In addition, due to lack of experience of being close to others, they are often difficult to be interested in others and cannot establish an intimate relationship. When a child realizes that he can only be affirmed by adults by meeting certain image characteristics, his sense of self-worth will fall into crisis. People who always need to meet the expectations of others may eventually lose their sense of self.

“Actually, until the last two years, I was still trying to optimize myself.” 24-year-old Clara Boyce recalled, “I often feel fear and frustration, but people around me told me that I must aim at the goal and stick to it. “Boys’s father is a doctor, his mother is a teacher, and her parents are very demanding of her. At 12, she almost stopped eating and went to school. People around told her that everything would be fine as long as she clenched her teeth.

“I’m flattering, nothing will happen.” Boyce repeated the psychotherapist’s words to himself. Her high school graduation is enough to go to college to study medicine, she should be proud, or as relaxed as her parents, but she can’t make any mistakes, can’t expose helplessness, she has doubts about herself. After 14 months, she interrupted university studies. For three years, she spent most of the time lying on the sofa, listening to music, overeating and rarely taking a shower. “I had hoped that someone would come to my room and give me some suggestions to make me care more about myself, rather than trying to achieve certain goals that look great,” Boyce said. Later, she was diagnosed with chronic depression by a doctor and started taking medication. After feeling better, she resumed her university studies.

The psychiatrist Schmidt believes that it is beneficial for everyone to switch perspectives. “What we want to pursue is not faster and better, but slower and more cautious. And, think more about your funeral, or at least think about your 80th birthday.” Psychiatrist Lipp said. At the end of life, how do you want others to evaluate yourself? Is this a perfect and satisfying person? Or is this a person who always plays happily with his children, is surrounded by friends when he is in trouble, can happily work, but prefers to walk with his wife or husband? In just a moment, you can understand what is the right choice.