Tag Archives: perfectionism

Maybe it’s time to fail.

Being back in school at the age of 34, I’m learning more than books and such; I’m learning how to try at something.

In my younger days, I never studied for school and often did my homework at the last possible second, but my grades were always above average.  Yes, that’s great, but I developed a nasty habit; when I was faced with any adversity, I’d simply quit.  Better to not try at all than to fail, right?  Totally…  I’m sure I never missed out on any character-building life experiences with that attitude.

Now I’m back, though, and I’ve decided to try. But that way lies madness…

I’ve aged into a ripe old perfectionist, which you know if you’ve been reading my blog at all.  This character trait has caused me just a little bit of anxiety, and that was before I decided to try at things.   Now, instead of being able to tell myself, “No one’s judging you! it’s all in your head!” I have instructors who are in fact judging me, and it’s not all in my head.

teacher-meme

So I give every assignment my best effort.  And apparently my “best effort” borders on the psychotic.

First, I start each assignment as early as possible, just to draw out the torture.  It might be “finished” within the first couple of days, but then I proofread. I proofread and proofread and proofread and proofread.  I re-read the assignment parameters and proofread some more.

When I finally convince myself that making any more changes would be excessive, I simply gaze upon the completed assignment.  Is it perfect?  It looks perfect.  It gives me an excited feeling inside…

Excited feeling? Why? Well, here’s the real secret: I want my instructor to look at my work and immediately know that this assignment is A MASTERPIECE.

Have you ever seen A Christmas Story?  Classic holiday movie about a kid named Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun.

Stay with me, here.

There is a scene (linked below) where Ralphie turns in “A Theme” to his teacher, and he’s sure it is the best theme his teacher will ever see.  He fantasises about her reaction to his work, which results in a grade of A++++++++++++…

I want that. I know it’s silly, and people don’t dress like that anymore, but I want that.  For every assignment I hand in ever. I want to know the instructor has never seen anything better.  It might even change their very outlook on teaching, on life, on the mysteries of death and the afterlife.

No, it doesn’t escape my notice that I share the same fantasy as a fictional 9-year-old boy. The heart wants what the heart wants.

So I gaze.  And I fantasise.

And I doubt.  And I second-guess.

And I proofread, because deep down I believe that perfection is possible.  If only I could choose the right word here, and use a semi-colon correctly there…

So how can I give myself a break?  How can I break the habit of thinking that perfection is actually possible?  How can I stop this need for excessive validation?

Perhaps I need to fail at something.  Fail, and not give up. (Oh, the horror of it…)

Obviously this is not an experiment to be taken lightly, nor one to be performed on my school work (I’ve got a GPA to maintain).  I can think of a few things I might try out, though… I’m not any good at painting, so I have some painting supplies languishing unused in my storage room.  Maybe it’s time to pull out the ol’ canvas and brush, even if the result is a total fail.

Maybe it’s time.

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8 Stops on the Social Anxiety Blog Roller Coaster

I haven’t posted in a long while, and there are several reasons why.  First, I’ll admit that without extrinsic motivation I’m about as likely to shift myself off the couch and away from Netflix documentaries as I am to suddenly decide that running a marathon is a fun way to spend time (I will never decide this, by the way).  Second, when not tuned in to the soothing narration of Sir David Attenborough, I’ve actually been really busy with college course work, as I now find myself living the student life again (but with less binge drinking and more actual reading of text books).

These are valid reasons to be a blog slacker (VALID REASONS, I SAY!), but it’s important to also note that writing a blog about social anxiety sent me into a downward spiral of mental health. Hurray for spirals?!  It turns out that dwelling on your inadequacies and fears will do that to a person.  Who knew? I think I’m in a healthy enough space to return to writing, though, and the idea for this piece has been waiting for almost two years.   So, without further ado, here are eight stops on the emotional roller coaster of writing a blog about social anxiety:

Roller Coaster Up

1. I have a fantastic idea!  If I type about it and share it with the world, I could gain renown as a funny and smart person and people will approve of my existence!

2. Are these words perfect?  I really need these words to be perfect, or people are going to hate me and disapprove of my very existence.  Let’s proofread them just once more.  Just once more.  Just once more.  Just once more. Just once more… Okay. PUBLISH.

3. Oh, God. Oh, God.  Oh, God. ohgodohgodohgod.  I’m going to eat a 2 pizzas now.

4. People are reading my words!  Not only are people reading my 4295460613_7cc1c96f1a_bwords, they’re also liking my words! Social validation!

5. Not enough people are reading my words.  I know this because I’m obsessively refreshing the stats page to keep track of every reader.  And why aren’t the people who are reading my words also commenting on my words?  Everyone hates my words.  Even the people who haven’t read them.  Especially them.

roller-coaster-1011434_960_7206. I probably insulted someone.  Someone is definitely mad at me.  Or disgusted with me.  Or feeling sorry for me.  Someone probably disagrees with me, which is the same as them being insulted, mad, disgusted, and sorry.  I wrote the wrong words.

7. Someone commented on my words!  Someone said, “I feel you,” and that means they approve of me as a person!   I put very little stock in my own opinion of myself and rely almost entirely on outside feedback, so this means I can feel like someone of worth for at least 5 minutes!

8.  Someone commented on my words… and they probably only said nice things to make me feel better about myself.  No one could like my stupid words for reals.

The roller coaster does a little loopedy-loop back to 4 through 8 a few times, until something else eventually pulls my interest away.

But that’s all in the past (she typed confidently).  My plan after I publish this blog post is to stay off the roller coaster entirely and just hang out on the platform of “Hey, I had an idea and I typed about it!”

 

“Why my profile picture isn’t a sunset”, or “Every Occasion is a Selfie Occasion!”

Obligatory New Year Greeting!

Actually, my blog today does have a “New Year’s Resolution” flavour, but it’s been percolating for a while and I want to stress that I don’t endorse the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. Being “the way I am” (a perfectionist with low self esteem but kinda high self esteem but I must be the worst but now I am confused so should probably eat all the cheesecake), I struggle pretty much every day, if not every minute, to be something better than I am; resolutions seem a) unnecessary and b) a chance to sink into a puddle of self-loathing by mid-January every single year.

Which brings us to profile pictures!

I tend to focus on Facebook as my social networking platform, which the language of this post may reflect, but many websites that require us to choose a username also require us to upload a photo that represents Who We Are. For example, wordpress requires bloggers to profile themselves with an image. Until today, mine was a picture of a $20 bill with googly eyes pasted on the Queen (which, to be clear, was awesome):

20 with googly eyes

Before typing today’s blog, I switched my profile to a picture of my actual face:

Can you spot the googly eyes?
Can you spot the googly eyes?

(Which is also awesome, according to my husband, my close friends, and my mother. Usually flattering sources, regardless of their reliability.)

So why the switch?

I recently had to face a hard fact:  for me, my online persona is the only persona that really matters (hyperbole alert – but let’s keep on topic here, ok?).  On Facebook, for instance, people are in touch with anywhere between 1 and 500 friends (I’m not qualified to comment on anyone’s experiences with over 500 “friends”).  In reality, many of these friends are bare acquaintances, or are people we haven’t actually seen in the flesh for 20 odd years; but we interact with a bare fraction of that number of people in our physical lives, so I argue that we can become much more concerned about how we present ourselves to the stranger-friends of the interweb than to the people we live and interact with in close quarters.

So, again, why the switch?  What does this obsession with the opinions of near-strangers have to do with my replacing pictures of inanimate objects*,

My actual wisdom teeth.  I decline comment on the colour integrity of the image.
My actual wisdom teeth. I decline comment on the colour integrity of the image.

pets*,

Serenity (named after the spaceship, not the state of mind).
Serenity (named after the spaceship, not the state of mind).

and photoshopped versions of myself

My very first profile picture.
My very first profile picture.

with pictures of something that actually represents my current physical  existence?

It’s simple, really.  I’m trying to love myself for who and what I am now, not for what I was 60 lbs ago or 10 years ago; how is it possible to succeed in this task if I’m forever hiding my appearance from the people I post at several times a day?  I realized that I was becoming more and more ashamed of my appearance, and as that happened I was updating my profile picture less and less.  It was as if I didn’t really exist anymore, or like I was trying to lose my physical self and become an anonymous text bubble on the internet.  This practice was not conducive to building self-esteem and more robust mental health.

So “Every Occasion is a Selfie Occasion!” was born. first selfie

Whenever I think of it (often if I’ve just spent some time on my appearance, but not always), I take a selfie and make it my profile pic on facebook.   As much as possible at this point in my emotional development, these pictures represent ME, RIGHT NOW and show the world I’m not ashamed of myself or my appearance.  It can be nerve-wracking, as I’ve mentioned before that I have an inconvenient habit of treating compliments like criticisms (social anxiety! you dog, you!), but on the whole I’ve found it to be a positive experience.

If you currently have a sunset, or a grumpy cat meme, or an inspirational poster as a profile picture, I highly recommend you try celebrating some selfie occasions.  Let me know how it works out in comments.

 *For the record, I most definitely still see a place for pictures of inanimate objects and pets on my internet profile pages, just not as representations of myself.  My wisdom teeth deserve to be shown far and wide, and you curtail my kitten picture posting at your own peril. 

The Nervous Nelly

Welcome to Perfect Panic!  

You should read this blog if you are

OR…

  • someone who enjoys laughing at the misfortune of others.  Don’t worry… it’s okay to admit it.  If it weren’t for people like you, the Meet the Parents franchise would have flopped and there wouldn’t be so many videos like this on the internet. Or pictures like this one:

*My anxiety requires me to apologize in advance to any nice people who may have been offended by the above picture.

So you’re going to keep reading?  Great!

To up your reading pleasure, first watch some of this video of David Attenborough talking about the Elephant Shrew (Sengi).  Now imagine that Sir Attenborough is narrating this post.

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“The domesticated Nervous Nelly is characterized by its anxious behaviours.  If we were to insert a camera into its burrow, we might witness a scene rather like this one:

An adult female sits in a nest of blankets, engaged in typing behaviour on a laptop.  She’s been writing and re-writing the same email for about 25 minutes.  It will probably be another 10 minutes before she actually sends it, after which she will immediately regret not spending just a little more time proofreading.

The cell phone on a nearby table suddenly rings, and the subject begins ritual hyperventilation; she really needs to choose a ringtone that doesn’t make her feel quite so anxious.

Surprisingly, the Nelly doesn’t react by answering the call.  Instead, she picks up the phone and places one finger over the speaker, muffling the noise.

3547134847_16f67ff4be_o

Her keen eyes study the display, shifting back and forth between ‘Decline’ and ‘Answer’.

Really, there’s no way that she’s going to decline the call; that’s rude.

But answering the call is equally out of the question, because that would mean talking to a real human, and Nellies need more mental preparation for that sort of thing.  

She’ll just let it go to voice-mail.  But wait… Did she remember to change the greeting after she got back from vacation? She’s sure she did.  Or did she?  She totally did.  But if she didn’t… the caller is going to be very confused.  Drat.  Maybe she should answer-

The phone stops ringing, and  the voice-mail icon soon appears on the screen. As the sun sets in the west, the Nervous Nelly sets the phone aside and plans to listen to the message when it doesn’t seem quite so terrifying.”

summer_sunset___purple_and_gold_by_morriscat-d5krys6

In case you hadn’t guessed, the Nervous Nelly is ME.  *gasp!*

It is fairly typical for me to deal with calls to my cell phone exactly as Mr Attenborough described.   It’s a problem.  But I’m working on it…

Fun fact:  I spent about 3 hours* editing and obsessing over this post after it was, for all intents and purposes, complete.   I had emotions.  

*low estimate

Expect more posts filled with angst and hilarity.  Not all of my posts will be narrated by the great Attenborough, though – that was a special treat.