An issue that will always need attention
As a longtime fan, I was reading about the recent death of Keith Emerson (keyboard player for Emerson, Lake and Palmer), still feeling devastated by recent losses of a number of well-known people who have held a place in my life for many years. Of the numerous comments reflecting on this loss, the one that jumped out at me was a statement made by his girlfriend: “He was tormented with worry that he would’t be good enough… He didn’t want to let down his fans. He was a perfectionist and the thought he wouldn’t play perfectly made him depressed, nervous, and anxious.”
This comment touched my heart on so many levels, not least of which goes back to many years of classical training on piano which have been all but lost for lack of time and increasing issues of arthritis in my hands. More recently, and just as personally, the research and writing I did over the past three years on my latest book, The Perfection Deception, lends a certain sense of understanding to Emerson’s decision, as perfectionism has a strong correlation with depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of suicide.
From the outside, it will always look as thought he had other choices. But from the research (not to mention personal experience), I also know that those options can all but disappear in the panicked belief that “if it’s not perfect, it’s a complete failure.” There are alternatives, starting with the recognition that striving for perfectionism and equating our worth with our ability to achieve this insane goal is a disordered, destructive, and in some cases fatal form of thinking. (For more information, click here.)
I pray that anyone contemplating suicide will reach out for help, or at least wait another day. For Keith Emerson and others I’ve known more closely who ended their own lives, I wish for you the peace you were unable to find in life.