Pursuit of perfection takes a toll on artistes

Demi Lovato recently suffered a relapse, after a long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

American singer Demi Lovato’s recent relapse after a prolonged battle with drug and alcohol addiction draws our attention to the scary reality of the headspace of our adored entertainers.

With many musicians struggling with depression and anxiety and an alarming number resorting to suicide to end their suffering, ‘Club 27’ is not just a pop culture legend anymore, it is a psychological nightmare. The mental health of musicians, artists and other entertainers is a cause for concern that we cannot, as a society, ignore.

A life in the public eye is never easy. Social media has made it possible for anyone and everyone to follow every move of celebrities. Imagine living your life entirely under the watchful eyes of the entire world where every decision, every move is scrutinised and judged.

This is not limited to famous personalities; even up and coming or struggling artistes have a tendency to become depressed and anxious, especially about their art and career. The myth of the brooding poet is very real, but it is not to be romanticised.

The arts are a tough field because with creative expression comes vulnerability. When one decides to share their deepest feelings with the world, there is always a fear of judgement and misunderstanding. Most artists feel a need for perfectionism.

The pressure to meet the needs of the ever-changing industry also causes the artist to be obsessed with the fact that his end product is a marketable, sellable masterpiece that people will like.

With musicians, it is even more complex, because it is not just that song, it is also the stage presence, the persona and the whole package that needs to be ‘perfect’.

This can be destructive for the mental health of the artist.

Musicians, and generally artistes, have no fixed hours, no lunch breaks, no weekends and no designated sick leaves. They are prone to a lot of stress and fatigue that leave them at a higher risk for mental health problems.

As a society, we must be more supportive of our entertainers. Creators themselves need to remember that health always comes first. Perfection is subjective and sometime the best thing you can do for your art is to just let it go. And if ever you are going through something that cannot be dealt with alone, the answer is professional help.

(The author is a counselling psychologist at Mindscape, Indiranagar)

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