Consumerism Breeds Perfectionism

Perfectionism in our society is tied to consumerism. If you don’t DO anything but consume perfect images of others, of course you’ll be perfectionistic. I’m talking about the combination of consuming many things without ever doing them. Without exercising our own creativity, our own abilities.


Oh look! Let’s watch these privileged wealthy people judge a bunch of young dancers and tell them whether they can dance or not!

I remember in high school watching So You Think You Can Dance? and always wishing I could be a talented dancer like on that show. Being frustrated that I didn’t have that opportunity, but was just sitting there watching a show and accomplishing nothing. That’s why I came to hate TV. I didn’t get to do much as a youngster other than watch TV.

And I was a major perfectionist. My first week of college, I auditioned for a dance performance group at my university (experience not required). I quit in the middle of the pirouettes because I felt too embarrassed that I couldn’t do them at all – everyone else was able to at least get through them, even the ones who told me they’d never had any dance lessons in their lives.

Now that I do social dancing, I don’t consider myself a talented dancer, but I don’t care that I’m not a talented dancer. Because that’s not what dancing is about. To me, dancing is about physical activity, creativity, feeling the music, physical intimacy, human connection, having fun, community, relaxation, learning, self-expression, inspiration, beauty. Perfectionism doesn’t fulfill any of these universal human needs, but comes from a misguided attempt to fulfill them. Dancing, however, does.

And now I’m trying to get as many people dancing as possible! I think nearly everyone wants to dance, even if they don’t believe they can. It’s about being in harmony with the movement of your body and, in partner dancing, with another’s. And with the music – feeling all the emotions expressed by music, but in your whole body.

I do like performing, but not just to show off. I like performing because I want to inspire others to get involved in partner dance, especially same-sex partner dance. So I perform in my communities, where I can have an impact. I’ve done a couple blues dance performances in drag shows.

You can view my latest performance here:

I think most people can dance as well as this, and better. But not by watching So You Think You Can Dance? By the way, I dislike the title of that show. That show which has a lot of queer dancers, but refuses to acknowledge their sexual orientation in any way. I dislike the title because it suggests that only some people can dance—those who are extremely talented and good at showing off.

But human connection is not something you can really show off. Nor are any of those other human needs. The perfectionistic desire to show off tends to be contradictory to fulfilling our needs for connection, harmony, intimacy, etc. Those things must be lived by each and every one of us.

Now, if you want a dance that is particularly about intimacy, I can recommend blues dancing. 😉 I was surprised to find that this community is exceptionally queer friendly, more so than other dances I’ve tried (swing, salsa, tango). But now I think it makes perfect sense—it’s a small community that can be relatively self-selecting (most people come by invitation rather than by Google search, which is how I got into the other three dances). But I think it’s more than that: real intimacy breeds real understanding and acceptance.


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2 Responses to Consumerism Breeds Perfectionism

  1. I’m so interested in the link between consumerism and perfectionism and love your article!
    We seem to be constantly unsatisfied with our lives because the images and distractions of perfection. TV and retailers constantly give us something new and something more we need to buy and strive for. We’re never content because there’s always something else we need. And much of the time it’s unrealistic. We strive for an image that is not authentic to who we truly are and the life we truly desire. Many of us end up in debt chasing an idea of perfectionism.
    I know I am a perfectionist, part of my perfectionism I admire because it drives my creativity and eye for design and photography, but sometimes I think my OCD nature was fuelled by a desire to portray a certain image.
    Love your post, glad I came across it. I’m going to do some more research on the concept.


    • L. says:

      Hey, Jess! Thank you so much for your comments. Sorry it took me a while to approve your post – I haven’t been on WordPress in a while.

      Yes, your words resonate with me. Well-said.

      “We’re never content because there’s always something else we need. And much of the time it’s unrealistic.”

      Right. There’s nothing wrong with having needs and desires, but consumerism creates unrealistic desires by hyper-focusing on what sells, what the greatest number of people will desire, often by addiction, obsession, and whatever has the appearance of being easy.

      “I’m going to do some more research on the concept.”

      Honestly, I don’t think I did any research on this exact topic. But this is something I have thought about for a long time. A quick Google search shows me I am not the only one writing on this topic, so I’m going to look into what others are saying myself.

      This year I am focusing on vulnerability and authenticity, in contrast to how I began this blog. I am still something of a perfectionist, but I am seeking out life paths that steer me away from perfectionism.

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