If you’re a fan of Kanye West, one adjective always seems to scream out in articles about the legendary hip hop artist and entrepreneur: perfectionist.
The 37 year-old West has also been labeled outspoken and controversial but there’s no arguing with his impact on culture worldwide by virtue of his status as one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
Recently, the singer/songwriter/producer was again in the headlines following his glittering marriage to reality television personality Kim Kardashian. Curiously, the heated reports focused on the wedding photograph—West complained to the media his honeymoon was “ruined”: apparently four days were consumed by the couple painstakingly editing the “perfect wedding photo”.
A random search engine sample entering “Kanye West” brings numerous entries underlining the performer’s perfectionism. He reportedly kept engineers at work around the clock preparing an album, sleeping only in increments himself. He’s stormed off the stage at sold-out concerts when technical specifications weren’t up to his stringent standards. Entire tours were postponed in “an unrelenting quest for perfectionism”. West proudly admitted in interviews he’s “a stickler for details”.
For someone like West, might we find clues in his background? Sometimes, perfectionists offer the insight themselves that negligent or detached caregiving in their formative years made them feel only by being perfect can they achieve another’s love. West’s parents divorced when he was three; young children of divorce often blame themselves. One could also argue West’s reported perfectionist tendencies are a source of motivation, driving him to even greater heights.
For most of us, being called a perfectionist isn’t usually a compliment. Perfectionists are generally prickly, striving to overcome our basic human imperfections. It’s said they fear failure and try to prevent it by being in control. Perfectionists may appear arrogant and judgmental, thinking they know best and everyone should do it their way. Another term often used synonymously in psychology might be narcissism. Again, neither cuddly nor endearing.
The problems generally arise when a perfectionist begins to believe that perfection is possible or necessary. From a behavioral standpoint, when one’s perfectionism is rewarded, as with fame, money, accolades, the approach is likely to continue. The “lost four days” of the Kardashian/West honeymoon resulted in the most-viewed photograph ever on Instagram. At its worst, this relentless striving eventually evolves into an exhausting compulsion that can endanger romantic and family relationships, and one’s mental and physical health. Celebrity-watchers observe the megawatt duo and prognosticate certain combustion, sneering, “Just wait”.
It may come as no surprise to those who follow popular culture that West’s new wife, Kim Kardashian, describes herself as a perfectionist as well. “I don’t think I’m ever really comfortable”, she told an interviewer. In that regard, perhaps she’s the perfect partner to understand her mercurial new husband. But in the ultimate scheme of things, in the Christian world, there is only one perfectionist— a concept not lost on West. Ironically his latest album title? “Yeezus”. Now that’s a quest.