Healthy Thinking: Process in Progress

By Ty Burns, Associate Director of Communications

Pressure exists from all angles. Parents expect things at first, but then the world expects much more as we age, and it’s hard to appease each demand with perfection. The phrase ‘the internet never forgets’ cannot inspire hope while social media reigns over our culture, and gym worship is everywhere.

According to the American Psychological Association, perfectionism is broadly defined as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations. Its multidimensional nature is hard to measure, but observation and study have led to several philosophies on how to address it.

‘Comparison is the thief of happiness’ is an old saying that could apply to the ACT approach to dealing with perfectionism. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is an action-oriented psychotherapy developed by psychologist and professor Steven C Hayes. Stemming from Hayes’ life experience with panic attacks, he searched to no longer run from himself. In a Psychology Today article, Hayes wrote, “Acceptance, mindfulness, and values are key psychological tools needed for that transformative shift.” 

Access to a licensed mental health professional is needed to receive ACT, but there are everyday practices to take away from its foundational lessons. 

  • Acceptance of private experiences (i.e., willingness to experience odd or uncomfortable thoughts, feelings or physical sensations in the service of response flexibility)
  • Cognitive defusion or emotional separation/distancing (i.e., observing one’s own uncomfortable thoughts without automatically taking them literally or attaching any particular value to them)
  • Being present (i.e., being able to direct attention flexibly and voluntarily to present external and internal events rather than automatically focusing on the past or future)
  • A perspective-taking sense of self (i.e., being in touch with a sense of ongoing awareness)
  • Identification of values that are personally important
  • Commitment to action for achieving the personal values identified 

In ACT, patients identify their values and use healthy thinking processes to align with them. These practices encourage thoughtfulness and forgiveness when dealing with the most sensitive parts of the self. 

At Phi Kappa Psi, you are accepted. The urge to be perfect is honorable in pursuing excellence, compassion and loyalty to comrades, but everyone makes mistakes. Every person is flawed. However, you are perfect in strengthening your character and deepening your integrity through trial and error.

Too often, boys and men are told to “man up” and discouraged from talking about their mental health. Let’s uplift the boys and men in our lives, especially those who are struggling, and empower them to speak up. Together, we can shift the culture around men’s mental health. 

If you think you or a loved-one may be experiencing signs of a mental illness, visit to take a free, quick and confidential screen for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and/or Alcohol or Substance Use problems.