Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Depressed Idealist

Let's be honest. Sometimes it is hard being an idealist.

Positives: Idealists are visionaries and usually fairly creative. We're persistent, energetic, and confident when it comes to projects we're excited about. We're good at mobilizing people (however annoying it may be to them) to bring about change. We can identify problems and come up with solutions while working on multiple projects simultaneously. We are always searching for personal growth. We want to change injustices at the root of the problem and do things that have never been done before until the problems are gone.

Negatives: The solutions don't always work. Sometimes we make things worse. We can encourage dependency without even being aware of it. It is easy to turn our aspirations for social good into a personal quest for glory. And the big reality check: We CAN'T singlehandedly fix all the problems in the world no matter how hard we try.

Here is where the depression comes in. Being an idealist comes with a certain degree of perfectionism, as well as an overwhelming sense of responsibility. With the responsibility aspect, at least for me, guilt is a major player in my life. I get emotionally involved with other people's/community's/nation's problems until I feel completely powerless to stop it - and to some degree responsible for not doing more to alleviate it. What if the solution I am working towards doesn't work perfectly (and it NEVER does - if there was a perfect solution we'd all be working on it, right?) What if I just see the problem over and over, see people dying of malaria and AIDS, and hear about people being raped, etc. What if nearly every organization I have been involved with ends up going into 'glory' mode or 'survival' mode, and I spend all my time building up an image instead of creating change? What if it is a waste of time and isn't really helping anyone? Do we give up? Is it better to not to think about these things and live our happy little lives, or think about them and not take action and be apathetic and too overwhelmed to try, or take action and not see the results we hope for and be disillusioned.

I'm disillusioned, but still an idealist and I don't think that is going to change. Maybe we just have to come to terms with the fact that our best is good enough, and that even if we don't make a change on the scale we've hoped for, at least we will have touched someone's life in some capacity, and that matters.

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