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Mentallectual: Bailey Smith

I have issues with perfectionism. It took me what felt like weeks to sit down and begin this sentence although I just graduated and have had more free time in the past week than I have in the past nine months. My perfectionism breeds anxiety, stress, and panic attacks that manifest into long nights alone, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, paralyzed… frozen both physically and mentally. I, along with so many others I know, fall into the cyclical trap of self-blame. We think it’s our fault that we don’t produce like we “should.” Popular sentiment places the blame on chemical imbalances in the brain. While mental health disorders represent a very serious and very obvious problem, they constitute only surface-level symptoms of a much larger issue looming behind the curtains. A system driven by the need for incessant production and operated by the wealthiest 1% mandates that the vast majority of the population endure lifestyles dominated by stress and un-fulfillment. Corporations judge everything through productivity and creatives find themselves in the same spot, only being able to gain access to resources and money in artistic spaces by proving they can consistently produce content with mass appeal. Creating consistent and well-rounded work that is loved by millions isn’t an inherently reprehensible goal, but such a metric for success compromises the nature of individualistic creation.

I look at my work in film, photography, music, and writing and rarely think I did something worth sharing with anyone in the world. I feel like a failure. I compare myself to others around me and their accomplishments and feel as if I am lacking something that I need in order to succeed. I hate not creating something everyday. 

This past year has forced me to reassess these thoughts. I see people trying to create with no stopping and it kills them. It kills me. 

I believe to keep ourselves healthy and in tune with what our mind needs that it’s okay to take a break from creating. From doing anything. Actually, it’s necessary. It’s necessary to step outside of yourself and start the process of refilling your mind and body with what it needs. Inspiration, rest, and fun. Fun without the act of production. 

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In my world, this is just laying in the sun by some water, listening to the wind, watching the trees move back and forth. It’s going for a run and imagining I am 7 years old again in an obstacle course jumping over trees and running away from my friends who are chasing me. It’s going for a drive alone with my windows down, breathing, and listening to a new album that makes me feel nostalgic for a time I never was. 

I implore you all to do the same thing when you feel the emptiness of constant production hanging over your heads and the feeling of unworthiness you’re given by our environment and system. 

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