"If you can't do something perfectly, don't do anything at all." Isn't that what Flower's mom said in Bambi? No? Then what have I been [not] doing all these years??
I am a supreme master of putting things off. Were it an acceptable part of academe, I'd hold advanced degrees. Were it an Olympic sport, I'd be Michael Phelps. You want me to do something? I. Will. Not. Do It.
(Yes I will).
But I will go through a lot of inner turmoil before getting it done. And I will wait until the last possible second. Often, I'll feel dissatisfied with the result.
What's the deal?
I don't consider myself "Type A," and I don't call myself a "perfectionist." Those labels are used far too widely and often these days. (And often by people who would like others to see them as perfectionists, for whatever reason).
I just have an idea of how things should be in my head, and if the reality doesn't duplicate that image I become distressed and overwhelmed. The overwhelm leads to becoming frozen-- I can't do it, I won't do it, I need to run away and hide from it. That leads to feeling unproductive and lazy. Feeling unproductive and lazy makes me feel depressed. And downwards the spiral goes.
I can't remember when this all started, or rather, when I started noticing and putting a name to it. But I can tell you it has gotten much more severe in the last three and a half years since I left grad school and began my career. A huge part of the reason I am on leave right now to deal with anxiety is there is a part of me that legitimately believes that the work I do there will never be enough. Ever. And to some people, my work there won't ever be. They'll have complaints regardless.
Other coworkers can shrug that off. They can let it go. They can separate work from life and go home at the end of the day and have a reasonably good time with their friends and families.
I'm not at a point in my life yet where I'm strong enough to let that roll off my back and keep marching on. It pierces me to the core. I internalize it. It is about me. About my worth as a person. I replay it over and over and over again. I anticipate the negative comments that will be said. I come up with my own. It consumes me and the erosion of my confidence continues.
I suppose I've always been that way. But it's gotten so much worse. The other day I was doing the dishes and it was taking me such a long time because I had to make sure that each plate was completely clean, and then I started thinking about how when my boyfriend does the dishes, he probably doesn't do them as thoroughly, which means we're probably eating on dirty plates with bacteria and I'm going to get sick AND OH MY GOD STOP THINKING! By that point, I'm all overwhelmed and freaked out and I desperately want to not do the dishes at all because I just know I'm not going to be able to clean them thoroughly enough anyways.
Does that make sense? It doesn't to me either. It makes me miserable.
But it's my automatic go-to. So this is part of the loop that I have to throw a wrench into. I have to be able to accept small achievable things rather than balk at the fact that I cannot, at any given point, tackle and be in control of the whole picture.
Confession. I haven't been making my bed the last few weeks. A large part of that is due to the fact that I've been exhausted and have spending much more time in bed. But another part of it is because the rest of the room isn't completely organized and "finished" yet, so why should I even bother making the bed since my bedroom isn't going to look the way I want it to anyways?
God, even TYPING that makes me feel tired. I'm starting to understand how toxic and draining it is to think that way everyday. And how natural it is for me.
I wrote the other day that anxiety is like certainty. Anxiety is also the insurmountable-izing of the ordinary.
So my goal this week is to pull a Costanza and do the opposite of what I would normally do in a given situation. Head telling me not to do any laundry because I don't have enough quarters to do ALL of the laundry, and what's the point of doing SOME laundry when I'm not getting it all done at once? Then I'm off to the laundry room. With just sheets, towels and bedding. It is not all of the laundry. And that's okay.
Then what? I'm going to make my damn bed.